The United Nations stands ready to support Egypt’s political transition, the United Nation’s top political official has said, noting the world body understands that the process must be led by Egyptians.
“The UN fully respects and understands that Egypt’s transition must be done by and for Egyptians – this is and must be an Egyptian process,” the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said at a press conference in Cairo on Sunday at the end of a visit to Egypt. “The UN will be ready to support Egypt wherever that is useful and wherever our help is sought.”
Hosni Mubarak, who led Egypt as president for three decades, stepped down on 11 February after weeks of anti-government protests by crowds calling for greater democracy and respect of human rights.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had recently asked Mr. Pascoe to lead a high-level delegation to Egypt to speak with the government and a wide range of Egyptians in order to get a first-hand impression of the transition taking place and to explore how the UN can be of assistance. Other members of the delegation included the Executive Secretary of UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, Rima Khalaf, and an Assistant Secretary-General of the UN Development Programme, Amat Al Alim Asoswa. Their discussions were expected to cover possible UN assistance in a variety of fields, including on socio-economic issues, electoral assistance and human rights.
“We came here, first and foremost, to listen,” Mr. Pascoe said in his remarks to the press.
He added that transitions are not easy and need to be comprehensive, both economically and politically as both areas impact on each other. He also expressed appreciation for the spirit of dialogue encountered during meetings with Egyptian government ministers, noting that “they seemed open and interested in the role that the UN could play.”
“I should emphasize that we are hardly starting from scratch – we already have a significant programme here in Egypt and the real issue is how and where we adjust and expand it to meet the needs of the time,” Mr. Pascoe said.
In addition to meeting government officials, the delegation also had discussions with a wide range of representatives from civil society, including a group of about 20 young men and women – Egyptian youth played a major role in the anti-government protests which helped spark the transition.
“I must say I came away from those discussions with feeling that the future of Egypt is very promising indeed,” Mr. Pascoe said. “We were left in absolutely no doubt that Egyptians will continue the work they have started. We all feel that Egyptians have a right to be proud of the country as a whole and of their young people in particular.”
The delegation also discussed the regional situation, including Libya, with the Egyptian authorities and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa.