Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator at the "Towards a Transparent Economy in Egypt" Event in Cairo University

Mar 27, 2012

Dr. Heba Nassar, Cairo University
Dr. Hala El Said, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science and Chair of the Board of the Center for Economic Studies and Research (CEFRS)
Dr. Manal Metwally, Director of the Center
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me.  It is indeed always a pleasure to partner with Cairo University on such important and timely initiatives. Cairo University – its esteemed faculty and students – are very important development partners for the United Nations. We are also very pleased that the OECD, the UN Global Compact office in New York, and Siemens are joining with us today to discuss the topic of “Towards a Transparent Economy in Egypt.”

Corruption is one of the world's greatest challenges. It is a major obstacle to sustainable development, with a disproportionate impact on poor communities.  And it undermines the rule of law, which enables all citizens to compete equally to advance themselves and their families.

I think we should not take a narrow view in defining what is required for a transparent economy and the impediments to establishing a healthy, participative economy.  Monopolistic behaviour, onerous burocratic procedures, complicated wage structures, a grey area between the public and private sectors, and unqualified or appointed management, are all major issues which need to be addressed.  

As many of you know, one of the demands of the January 25th Revolution was for a more just and accountable state that systematically addresses the issues of impunity and corruption. Realizing the importance of fighting corruption, the United Nations is helping countries to combat it as part of our broader work to strengthen democracy and good governance. Of particular importance is the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2003. The UNCAC is a powerful tool. It introduces a comprehensive set of standards, measures and rules that all countries can apply to strengthen their legal and regulatory frameworks to fight corruption. It also calls for preventive measures and for the criminalization of the most prevalent forms of corruption in both public and private sectors.

Strengthening legal and regulatory frameworks to fight corruption is obviously important, but it is not sufficient. Establishing a culture of transparency and accountability which can be enforced by a competent, independent judiciary is vital to support a transparent economy.  

At present, UNDP is helping 103 countries to fight corruption through such measures as developing national anti-corruption laws, enforcing international conventions and establishing national integrity bodies for transparency and accountability. Here in Egypt, UNDP and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have been working with the Ministry of State for Administrative Development to enhance transparency in the public sector; with the Social Contract Center to conduct sectoral governance assessments; and with the Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center on corporate governance and the principles of the UN Global Compact. These efforts also featured partnerships with the Ministry of Justice as the entity entrusted with overseeing the National Anti-Corruption Coordination Committee.

An economy does not function in a vacuum.  For a transparent economy there must also be increased transparency throughout all sectors of society.  Egypt has changed since the revolution of February 2011.  In addition to the many that lost their lives and were injured, there was a revolution of ideas.  People believe that their leaders must be held accountable; that elected officials can be turned out of office if they fail in their duties, and that public property belongs to the public - not to those who administer it on behalf of the public.  

Establishing a transparent economy and society will take time.  But important work is already underway.  The new Parliament is debating some important issues including a Freedom of Information Law which, if adopted into law, would contribute to building the foundations of a more open, transparent society.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The transformation of the Egyptian economy into a transparent economy will not take place overnight. It will require commitment and solid building blocks accompanied by a gradual transformation of mentality and behavior.  The UN remains a committed partner to the people of Egypt. We will continue to play as full a role as possible in supporting national efforts to work towards a more transparent and more accountable society and economy – one that respects democratic principles, individual dignity, the rule of law and human rights.

The people of Egypt deserve no less.

Thank you.

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