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Egypt’s Sisi: Globalization Yields ‘Poverty, Inequality, and Undermining of the Social Contract’

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s address to the United Nations General Assembly was focused on economic issues, with a surprisingly strong critique of globalism.

Sisi argued that “developing countries are not afforded a sufficient opportunity to achieve sustainable development; they require a conducive international environment which provides them with a larger share of international trade, finance mechanisms, and transfer of technology, as well as influx of investments and debt settlement, in addition to the necessity of a conducive national environment for development.”

“Egypt also stresses the importance of harnessing the global monetary system to establish a fair global economic system, one that provides equal opportunities for development and contributes to minimizing the gap between developed and developing countries,” Sisi added.

He spoke at some length about Egypt’s support for the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, saying efforts to confront climate change “must take into consideration equity and the right to development, as well as adherence to the principles of international law, the importance of universal benefit, refraining from harm, enhancing cooperation, and the participation of different countries in the prospective projects, in accordance with the rules that regulate international financial institutions headed by the World Bank.”

Sisi segued into his assault on globalism, which is an interesting contrast, since climate-change treaties are nothing if not exercises in globalism:

The world has become a global village as a result of the positive impact of the communications technology revolution, as well as the freedom of capital flow and investments and global trade. However, we continue to see another side to globalization, one that has produced a number of social and economic challenges.

Globalization has been linked to a rise in poverty, the expansion of the inequality gap, and the undermining of the social contract in a number of developing countries, and these factors combined have exerted pressure on the institutional cohesion of these countries.

Perhaps these challenges and pressures constitute the biggest incentive for the international community to work diligently to provide state institutions in all countries with the best possible means to undertake the responsibilities and meet the needs and aspirations of their peoples.

Sisi praised the success of the Egyptian people at “enforcing their will to achieve stability, to protect the state and its institutions, and even to safeguard the society from fragmentation and chaos,” celebrated its progress on human rights – including “paving the way for women to occupy 15% of seats in the House of Representatives and expanding the representation of youth within it” – and “implementing giant national projects” to improve the national infrastructure.

He returned to the theme of Egyptian stability, in a passage that seems intended to get international critics to ease up on his government, which is often denounced as authoritarian:

While the Middle East continues to suffer from bloody conflicts, Egypt has managed to preserve its stability in the midst of a highly unstable region, thanks to the solidity of its institutions and its people’s awareness of their great cultural heritage. The international community must acknowledge and support this fact, to the benefit of the region and the world at large, so that Egypt may continue to act as an anchor of stability in the Middle East, sparing no efforts in carrying out its natural role by working with regional and international parties to restore security and stability in the region.

Sisi talked about the “agonizing situation in Syria,” promoting Egypt’s willingness to take in half a million refugees from the conflict, “treating them as Egyptians in terms of providing healthcare, education, and housing.”

He called for an “immediate and comprehensive halt to all hostile acts across all of Syria,” and praised the ceasefire agreement between Russia and the United States as a positive step in that direction. Sisi expressed his support for a “political solution” that would end the bloodshed and chaos while preserving “the territorial integrity and security of Syria and its state institutions.”

He described the Arab-Israeli conflict as “the core of regional instability in the Middle East,” which he proposed to resolve by ending “the Israeli occupation through negotiations and progress in the peace process, in order to reach a final settlement and sustainable and just peace on the basis of the two-state solution.”

“We thus welcome current efforts based on a genuine desire to improve the situation in the Palestinian territories, as the Palestinian people continue to suffer in a state of affairs that must be rectified, with a focus on ending the occupation and reclaiming the rights of the Palestinian people via a peace agreement consistent with the resolutions of international legitimacy, one that guarantees the Palestinians’ right to their own state and achieves security for Israel within the context of normal relations in its region,” the Egyptian president said.

He regretted the situation in Libya, which he said had “direct implications on Egyptian national security,” and expressed support for Libya’s National Unity Government.

Sisi then called for lifting the arms embargo against Libya, declaring “there is no place for terrorism and militias in Libya; the time has come to restore the institutions of the Libyan state.”

This would seem to be a declaration that the Libyan unity government is strong and reliable enough to be armed against the Islamic State invaders and the warlord gangs ruling much of the country. Western powers have been reluctant to drop weapons into Libya for fear that the government would lose control of them.

Sisi called for the restoration of the legitimate government of Yemen, by way of U.N.-brokered peace negotiations, and said Egypt would continue providing humanitarian assistance to Yemenis caught in the conflict.

He went on to reject “foreign interference in Arab affairs,” denounced “attempts to foment sectarian strife in the Arab world,” and called for pan-Arab unity. He spoke at length about Egypt’s involvement in Africa, mentioning unrest in Somalia and the crisis in South Sudan.

Sisi devoted the final passages of his speech to “the phenomenon of terrorism, and the hostility towards the right to life it represents,” which he said have “become an urgent threat to international peace and security.”

Terrorism constitutes a threat to the entity of the state, in favor of an extremist ideology that utilizes religion as a veil from behind which to conduct monstrous acts and menace the destinies of peoples. This necessitates intensive regional and international cooperation. Egypt has always been keen to stress that the endeavor to defeat terrorism will never achieve its ends unless we address the roots of the phenomenon, confront terrorist groups with decisiveness, and refute the extremist ideologies that give birth to terrorism and its proponents.

Egypt calls upon the international community to take all possible measures to prevent terrorism from exploiting advances in information technology, which have contributed to endowing the phenomena of terrorism and ideological extremism with dangerous new dimensions that have grained them global reach. It is essential to end the broadcasting of channels and the hosting of websites that incite violence and extremism

He went on to urge the United Nations and its Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to “give greater attention to addressing the cultural aspects of development and peacemaking, and the elimination of destructive ideologies, including via access to knowledge, transfer of technology, and confronting extremist ideologies.”

“It is mankind’s obligation to reclaim the essence of our humanity, sharing knowledge and technology without monopoly, and uniting in the face of challenges,” Sisi declared.

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