UNDEF funded and supported the organization of a conference in Cairo on 26-27 July on "Ways to Strengthen the Democratic Transformation of Egypt". The conference, held by The Cairo Institute for Human Right Studies in partnership with the Madrid-based think-tank FRIDE, drew more than 100 participants from Egyptian civil society, political parties and academic institutions as well as a number of foreign observers. Click here for the conference program in English and Arabic, as well as for papers presented by prominent Egyptian opinion leaders. The conference addressed in an open and informed manner the many challenges Egypt faces on its path to democracy, including the place of military and religious ideas in the future shape of the country's governance.
The mood of the conference over the two days veered from cautious optimism to concerned pessimism. Opinions varied over whether Egypt had experienced a true revolution or a coup d'etat (or perhaps a self-coup by the military, what is called in Latin America a golpe de estado). The activism of the military courts was a matter of deep concern with thousands of people having been arrested -- many for simply expressing criticism, often of the military. There were also doubts about both the legal basis of recent decisions and of the path towards elections and the return of authority to civilian hands. Further concerns were expressed about the capacity of the political parties to aggregate interests and to articulate policy positions. This was true on the liberal side of politics as well as the Islamic side where the Muslim Brotherhood was having difficulty holding a common line and was being challenged by Wahabist and Salafist groups. Yet most speakers also based their perspectives on the premise that Egypt had been fundamentally changed by the 25 January revolution/event. There could be no return to the Mubarak system but what would replace it remained the key issue of the current public discourse and ferment.The report of the conference concludes that in spite of many challenges, civil society is still determined to fight for the objectives of the revolution.