CAIRO: In keeping with this year s United Nations Human Development Report and the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations network launched the UN Development Assistant Framework (UNDAF) in partnership with the Egyptian government. A memorandum of understanding was signed yesterday between UN Resident Coordinator Antonio Vigilante and Egypt s Minister of International Cooperation, Fayza Aboul Naga. The program is designed to function as a strategic planning tool for assistance to Egypt. A similar plan previously designed to serve a similar function expired last year. The new UNDAF will cover a five year period from 2006 to 2011. The ultimate objective of this framework in cooperation with the government of Egypt and the United Nations and its specialized agencies . is poverty alleviation, poverty reduction, said Aboul Naga following yesterday s signing. The fastest way to reach your economic goals is through human development. UNDAF focuses on three developmental priorities designed locally and collectively agreed upon by UN agencies together with the Egyptian government and civil society organizations. Additionally, the program then outlines a tool for monitoring and evaluating the progress of development and envisaged results. It s obvious that one leg without the other cannot work, noted Vigilante, whose five-year tenure in Egypt ends next week. We are all clear on where to go. The risk is that we fail in [implementing] for lack of speed or not addressing the problems in the right sequence and the proposed solution. Five strategic priorities have been listed as top priorities to be carried out through the duration of the program. The reduction of unemployment and underemployment top the list of problems all the parties involved hope to target over the coming five years.
In his bid for reelection last summer, President Hosni Mubarak repeatedly emphasized his dedication to alleviating Egypt s unemployment crisis, vowing to create more than four million jobs over his six-year term. According to the Egyptian government, the unemployment rate is approximately 9 percent, though independent figures estimate it to be more like 20 percent.
Other goals include a reduction in gender disparities which deprive women in Egypt of prospering from the same opportunities available to men. Last year, a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt last on a list of countries with gender disparities. Unemployment rates remain staggering among women, many of whom by tradition assume the role of homemaker and child bearer. Consequently, illiteracy rates prevail across the board; UNDP estimates that 45 percent of the population is illiterate, with 36 percent of men unable to read, as compared to 60 percent of women.
I think that if women do not participate more in the political and economic life of the country, some of these intentions will not be filled, because their participation is essential, insists Vigilante. I think if illiteracy is not eradicated at a faster pace, some of these intentions might be threatened.
The program also emphasizes the importance of greater human rights through the active participation of civil society groups, as well as average citizens. Through enhanced policy dialogue between the government and civil society organizations, Aboul Naga says she hopes UNDAF will promote the same fast paced reform that Egypt has experienced over the past two years.
Egypt changed tremendously in a short time, the minister notes. We have had massive reforms, in politics, the economy and in society; the Egyptian government is raising the standard of living for Egyptian citizens. It is very encouraging to see that the report is recognizing that Egypt will be able to meet all the MDG s.
UN officials estimate that UNDAF will require significant resources. Currently, the cost of the program is estimated between $300 and $350 million. According to Vigilante, the UN provides as much as $90 million to any agencies participating in the program. The remaining resources are obtained through UN fundraising partners.
Also, the [Egyptian] government in the past has expressed such commitment by contributing their own resources as well in a direct way attributable to the project that we jointly implement, he adds. I believe . we will progressively make these resources available.
UNDP credits the collaboration of a number of UN agencies in assisting in the implementation of this and many other programs in Egypt. Among them, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UNESCO, ILO, UNIFEM and the World Bank are credited for their assistance. In an effort to produce maximum results in development, UNDAF has developed specialized programs to target the individual areas most in need of improvement.