Egypt’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said has presented the third voluntary national report at the United Nations (UN) High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
This year’s forum was hosted by the UN headquarters in New York, and took place virtually via video conference.
Egypt submitted the report in the presence of: Ahmed Kamali, Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development; Elena Panova, Resident Representative of the UN in Egypt; Irene Jacob, Economist in the Resident Representative’s Office; Hazem Khairat, Director of the International Cooperation Office at the Ministry; Dr Mona Essam, Head of the Sustainable Development Unit at the Ministry; and Dr Reham Rizk, Director of the Modeling Unit in the Ministry.
El-Said confirmed that Egypt’s third voluntary national report comes as part of its comprehensive strategy for sustainable development, in the form of its Vision 2030, launched in 2016 through a participatory approach, with its economic, environmental, and social dimensions.
The minister added that, since 2018, Egypt has embarked on updating its vision, given the need to confront many challenges, including: water scarcity; population increase; as well as global and regional geopolitical developments. It includes the need to absorb the repercussions of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She added that the modernisation process took place in a participatory framework, with all development partners, in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
El-Said confirmed Egypt’s focus on localising the SDGs at the governorate level to address development gaps through evidence-based interventions.
She noted the issuance of the Citizen’s Plan for the first time in Egypt and the wider region, which deals with the implementation of the SDGs across the country. They also determine the country’s needs and development gaps, whilst setting a competitiveness index at the governorate level.
The minister also referred to the development of the financing equation for distributing investments at the governorate level, as well as to the interventions on the ground through the presidential “Decent Life” initiative. This is with a special focus on the poorest villages, with the participation of many development partners.
El-Said that the voluntary report is a national rather than governmental report, which served as the guiding principle on which the report was prepared.
The Egyptian Government held a series of virtual workshops with government agencies, the private sector, civil society, and development partners to prepare the report.
El-Said said that Egypt’s third national voluntary report covers all 17 SDGs, and includes challenges and gaps, as well as achievements and success factors.
The minister also reviewed a number of the report’s main objectives, including the first SDG related to the eradication of poverty.
She said that Egypt recently witnessed, for the first time since 1999, a decrease in poverty rates to 29.7% in fiscal year (FY) 2019/20, compared to 32.5% in FY 2017/18. This reflects the success of the Egyptian Government’s economic reform programme and the accompanying success of social protection policies and programmes.
El-Said referred to the government’s efforts to increase public investment in human capital, and ensure the provision of basic services.
This also saw efforts to expand and strengthen social protection networks, including the Solidarity and Dignity Programme, and launch the “Decent Life” initiative. The latter initiative aims to raise the standard of living for about 57 million Egyptians, equivalent to more than half population.
On the third goal related to good health, El-Said affirmed Egypt’s commitment to ensuring good health and well-being for all its citizens and developing the resilience of its health care sector against public health crises.
She referred to the government’s efforts in the field of health care, which included the launch of the “100 Million Health Initiative” in 2018 to eliminate the Hepatitis C and detect non-communicable diseases. The success of the initiative was evident in a 98% decrease in Hepatitis C cases.
El-Said explained the pivotal role of civil society in supporting the improvement of health and well-being in Egypt. This is through many preventive and curative initiatives that spanned before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the eighth goal related to work and growth, the minister said there was an acceleration in GDP growth in FY 2018/19, which peaked at 5.6%, after it recorded its lowest level ever at 1.8% in 2011.
This was in addition to the decrease in the unemployment rate even during the COVID-19 pandemic, recording 7.2% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, before increasing to 9.6% in the early stages of the pandemic.
The minister also referred to the government’s efforts in this regard, stressing the government’s focus on financial inclusion as a priority, through supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
She explained that the Egyptian Government has benefited from effective partnerships with the private sector, especially through the recently established sovereign fund.
El-Said touched on the 13th goal related to climate action, indicating that Egypt has made further progress in mitigating the effects of climate change. This has been by strengthening policies and institutional frameworks over the past few years, noting the launch of the “Guide to Environmental Sustainability Standards”, to increase the proportion of public investments to 50% by FY 2024/25.
The minister continued talking about the measures taken by the government in this regard by launching the first Egyptian green bonds, worth $750m. The government has also prepared the “national strategy for climate change” that will be launched in late 2021, as well as the “national strategy for hydrogen”.
El-Said also referred to the 16th goal related to peace, justice, and strong institutions, explaining that Egypt achieved in 2019 high levels in many governance indicators.
The minister also said that the government has made significant efforts in this regard, including submitting the report of the African Peer Review Mechanism to Egypt. This is in addition to establishing the National Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (NIGSD) and the National Anti-Corruption Academy, which aim to build capacities in the areas of good governance and sustainability.
El-Said addressed the challenges that impede the implementation of the SDGs, saying that these challenges included the digital divide between males and females. These will be addressed by the government giving priority to the information and communication technology (ICT) sector as part of the second phase of structural reforms, as well as increasing women’s participation in the workforce.
This represents a major challenge that burdens many of the SDGs, El-Said said, adding that to meet this challenge, it is necessary to take into account the economic, social, and cultural determinants inherent in decisions that concern women.
The minister continued the discussion about the challenges, referring to the environmental challenges, stressing the importance of green projects and green recovery.
After her speech, El-Said stressed Egypt’s commitment to continue taking great steps to implement the SDGs, adding that two important motivators can accelerate the pace, which are the dissemination of digitisation, and the expansion of partnerships.
El-Said stressed that no government can move forward alone, as this is a common commitment that can only be achieved through the participation of all development partners. She followed up on the gradual progress in achieving the sustainable development goals that build the momentum that is more needed to achieve a more prosperous future for the people of Egypt.