The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs held its annual Conference on 18th January 2016, at the Egyptian Diplomatic Club in Cairo. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, accompanied by Minister of Culture Helmy Al Namnam, opened the Congress held this year titled "Egypt and the challenges of terrorism", being one of the main challenges Egypt is facing as it proceeds to economic recovery, security and stability.
At the beginning of the meeting, ECFA Chairman Ambassador Dr. Mounir Zahran explained that the Conference three sessions included strategies against terrorism, the dimensions of the terrorism phenomenon and Egypt's national security and the challenges of terrorism.
The participating experts and specialists affirmed in the sessions their support for the Egyptian state and its cohesiveness and unity of components in order to eradicate terrorism and to enable the government to implement its economic, social and cultural development and achieve stability and security which are essential to realizing the goals of development.
The first session of the Conference was held under the title of "Terrorism: Concepts and Counter Strategy ". It was moderated by Ambassador Abdel Rouf El-Reedy, and was addressed by five speakers. The second session, entitled "Dimensions of the Terrorism Phenomenon", was chaired by Dr. Mustafa El-Fiki and addressed by four speakers. The third session entitled "Egypt's National Security and the Challenges of Terrorism", which was headed by Major General Murad Muwafi and hosted four speakers. The closing session was moderated by Dr. Ali Eldin Hilal.
The discussions at ECFA’s Annual Conference focused on the phenomenon of terrorism- in all its domestic and international political, economic, and legal dimensions – and as one of the most important challenges facing Egypt. Meanwhile, the regional Middle East and Africa dimensions are adding to the magnitude of the challenges Egypt is facing, especially in terms of the region’s security. On the western side there are the repercussions of the situations in Libya, the Sahel and the Sahara and of the security vacuum created by the situation in Mali. On Egypt’s eastern side, Sinai in particular is posing a serious threat to Egypt's national security, not only in terms of terrorism itself but also in what is associated with it, such as arms smuggling and human trafficking.
The ECFA conference condemned all acts of terrorism targeting state institutions, individuals’ property and the nation’s historical and cultural sites. The conference affirmed its total rejection of all forms of support for terrorist organizations and processes, including financial support and the provision of safe havens to the instigators and perpetrators of terrorism. It further emphasized the local, regional and international dimensions of the terrorist phenomenon, which has become global, and is not linked to a specific region, culture or society. It has become a clear threat to world peace and security at the regional and international levels. Its eradication has become an international demand in light of the threat it is posing to the very concept of the modern state in a bid to serve extremist ideologies that take religion as a cover to carry out brutal acts that put people’s destiny in jeopardy, hence the need for international and regional coordination within the framework of the international legitimacy resolutions.
The participants emphasized the Arab 1997 anti-terror terms of reference, as embodied in the 1977 Arab Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the 1998 Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, and the resolutions of the Arab League Council and the Arab Summit, especially of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit on Preserving Arab National Security in the Face of Current Challenges. In this respect, special importance was attached to activating joint Arab action at the political, security, defense, judicial and media levels, and to the need for working to dry up the intellectual sources and funding of terrorism, and for addressing the causes and circumstances that led to the outbreak of these extremist terrorist phenomena. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of promoting understanding, tolerance and dialogue among civilizations, cultures, peoples and religions.
With regard to dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism, the ECFA’s Conference underlined the need for a holistic non- selective approach that does not pick up certain organizations and turn a blind eye to others, especially as all of these organizations fall within the same ideological framework. In this connection, it was stressed that coining new designations for terrorism, such as "violent extremism" or the classification of terrorist organizations in a way that has allowed many of them to escape international prosecution, which would simply postpone the required overall confrontation without which terrorism is bound to hit all regions in the world, with no exception.
The Conference culminated in the following recommendations:
- The importance of promoting efforts for economic and social development, raising living standards and reducing the poverty.
- The importance of boosting education from early stages in order to inculcate in young people ideals, values and respect for law in order to save them from falling prey to terrorist organizations.
- Addressing the social problems resulting from the disintegration of the Egyptian family as a result of the migration of the family heads in search of work to improve the family income while leaving their families behind. Consequently, insufficient attention is being paid to the proper upbringing of the young ones in the absence of their parents. Deviation from sound upbringing has facilitated the recruitment of some of them by terrorist organizations.
- Rationalization of religious discourse, to avoid extremist interpretations by terrorist groups to serve their organizations’ purposes. Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Al-Awqaf (Endowments) need to double their efforts to that end.
- The establishment of a national observatory in Egypt for an early monitoring of the terrorist organizations’ advocacy and movements, a detection of acts of sabotage and an early response as much as possible, as other countries have done. In this respect Egypt can benefit from the Egyptian Center for Social and Criminal Studies.
- Rationalization of the media, through outreach programs for vigilance to any media attempt to take advantage of the human rights and basic freedoms climate in a manner that would serve terrorist organizations. The media should not be driven by scoops before validation. Its motto should be: “Not everything that is known should be said; not everything said was witnessed; not everything witnessed is due to be released now; and not everything due for release should be said.”
- With reference to the importance of Egypt’s role from the beginning of 2016 with its assumption of the Security Council non-permanent membership for two years and its chairmanship of the Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee; ECFA Conference attaches great importance to it in promoting international efforts to combat terrorism.
For more details, look at: Amb. Dr. Ezzat Saad (ed.), Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) annual conference , entitled “Egypt and the Challenge of Terrorism”,(January,18th,2016), (Cairo, 2016).