POMED Media Mention: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Devex report on international aid to Egypt quotes interview with POMED Executive Director Steven McInerney.

Pete Troilo
Devex • August 20, 2012
“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

“Despite all the chaos and all the disturbances going on, I believe the future is for us, for the young people,” Egyptian human rights activist and blogger Dalia Ziada told Devex last summer.

Ziada was among the tens of thousands that converged upon Cairo’s Tahrir Square only months before. In the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power, nearly 90 percent of Egyptians believed that his ouster would leave their country better off.

“Egypt needs pretty serious aid in quite a number of different sectors,” says Project on Middle East Democracy Executive Director Stephen McInerney in an interview with Devex, naming health and education among key areas of investment for donors.

McInerney, a member of the bipartisan Egypt Working Group which includes prominent policymakers and thinkers on U.S.-Egypt relations, also asserts, “There’s a threat of a real economic collapse in Egypt and that would be more likely if serious aid is not given to relieve their budget and foreign reserve issues.”

The transitional Egyptian government’s crackdown against foreign-funded democracy groups, including four U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations, had led some Congressional leaders to warn of cutbacks to U.S. aid to Egypt. Nonetheless, most analysts agree that U.S. strategic imperatives, which include maintaining Cairo’s role as mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process, as well as securing continued access to the Suez Canal, will likely keep both U.S. military and development aid to Egypt intact for the foreseeable future. According to McInerney, the “default expectation” in Washington is that U.S. development assistance to Egypt will remain at about $250 million each year.

As USAID and other aid agencies encourage implementers to reach out to local civil society, McInerney cautions that international aid groups –especially democracy promoters – should continue to tread carefully when pursuing engagement with Egyptian development groups.

“There’s sort of this uncertain moment where people are still wary of being targeted for having foreign ties,” says McInerney.

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