In fiscal year (FY) 2008, U.S. foreign economic assistance to Egypt was valued at $415 million, which included specific programs to promote democracy (valued at $55 million). On average, for the 10 years since 1999, USAID/Egypt has provided $24 million to implementers to conduct democracy and governance programs. Although the mission’s funding for democracy and governance programs averaged $24 million annually, USAID/Egypt’s funding spiraled upward as much as 97 percent in 2004, with a drastic increase in FYs 2006–2008. Since FY 2004, USAID/Egypt has designed democracy and governance programs valued at $181 million to be conducted until the end of FY 2012.
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Based on the programs reviewed, the impact of USAID/Egypt’s democracy and governance activities was limited in strengthening democracy and governance in Egypt. Furthermore, in separate recently published reports, independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ranked Egypt unfavorably in indexes of media freedom, corruption, civil liberties, political rights, and democracy. Egypt’s ranking in these indexes remained unchanged or declined for the past 2 years. The overall impact of USAID/Egypt’s programs in democracy and governance was unnoticeable in indexes describing the country’s democratic environment.
A major contributing factor to the limited achievements for some of these programs resulted from a lack of support from the Government of Egypt. According to a mission official, the Government of Egypt has resisted USAID/Egypt’s democracy and governance program and has suspended the activities of many U.S. NGOs because Egyptian officials thought these organizations were too aggressive. Notwithstanding the Egyptian government’s negative actions, U.S. decisionmakers did not terminate the democracy and government program.
USAID/Egypt has used two types of instruments to administer its democracy and governance activities: a bilateral agreement and a direct grants program. Under the bilateral agreement, USAID and the Government of Egypt agreed to implement programs in the three major areas of rule of law and human rights, good governance, and civil society programs (Figure 3). Using the direct grants program, USAID/Egypt has awarded grants and cooperative agreements to NGOs and other civil society organizations without prior approval from the Egyptian government.
USAID/Egypt’s Office of Democracy and Governance developed programs with the objective of strengthening democracy and governance in rule of law and human rights, good governance, and civil society. Activities within the three major areas reviewed include commodities, technical assistance, training, or resource transfers designed to contribute to achieving the following objectives:
Rule of Law and Human Rights – strengthen the administration of justice and access to justice for women and disadvantaged groups.
Good Governance – promote a more accountable and responsive local government.
Civil Society – promote greater independence and professionalism in media and strengthen the organizational capabilities of civil society organizations while directly supporting their programs in areas such as political reform, elections monitoring, and civic education.
In the past, USAID/Egypt used a bilateral program with the Government of Egypt to conduct its democracy and governance programs. However, the mission modified its approach in 2005 to add a direct grants program after Congress allowed USAID/Egypt to have more control over its funding.
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Although the Civil Society Direct Grants Program achieved its greatest success in conducting democracy and governance activities, the program had a limited impact on strengthening democracy and governance in Egypt. While the grantee programs reviewed achieved more than half of their planned activities, the impact of these activities was limited because of political circumstances, government resistance, and the grantees’ lack of experience. Some examples include the following:
A grantee received $1.2 million, in part to provide training on principles of democratic governance and civic participation to at least 600 teachers and 30,000 middle, high school, and university students in four regions of Egypt. However, the grantee managed to train only 330 teachers and about 2,000 students, less than 8 percent of the target.