Cablegate: Recent Meetings of Embassy's Institutions Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Charge chaired meetings of the
Embassy's Institutions of Democracy Working Group (IDWG) on
June 21 and July 5, which were attended by USAID Deputy
Director, USAID D&G staff, A/PAO and PA staff, ECPO Counselor
and ECPO staff. The meetings included discussion of the June
20 visit to Egypt by Secretary Rice; GOE proposals for D&G
activities; a USAID update on direct funding of civil society
activities; and a discussion of reform projects proposed by
the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The meetings also included a
review of the June 28 Democracy and Governance Consultative
Group meeting, as well as follow-up discussion on the hurdles
MEPI grantees and prospective applicants may be facing from
Egypt's Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs (MISA) in
applying for grants and receiving permission to begin
activities. End summary.

2. (SBU) In the June 21 meeting, after ECPO briefed the
IDWG on the just-completed visit by Secretary Rice to Egypt,
USAID briefed the group on recent discussions with the
Ministry of International Cooperation (MIC) about additional
possible avenues for U.S. D&G funding. The GOE had urged
USAID to consider supporting the existing GOE campaign to
provide all citizens with ID cards, as a means, over the
medium term, to boost voter registration. The IDWG discussed
the near-term utility of such a campaign, especially in light
of the NDP's apparent unwillingness to re-open voter
registration in 2005. The IDWG agreed that supporting voter
registration was a desirable goal, but urged USAID to seek
more detail from the GOE regarding the linkages between
provision of ID documents and voter registration.

3. (SBU) Also in the June 21 meeting, USAID briefed the
IDWG on the status of pending grants for democracy promotion
activities, in response to the Annual Program Statement
(APS). USAID advised that grants to the National Democratic
Institute (NDI), International Committee for Journalists
(ICJ), and the Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO) had been
approved in principle and were subject to final financial and
other due diligence reviews. USAID also noted that it would
soon decide which contractor (either the International
Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) or Development
Associates (DA)) to award the planned contract for elections
technical assistance.

4. (SBU) The IDWG then discussed plans to ensure obligation
of 632(a) funds before the end of the FY2005, and debated the
potential for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) to play a
significant role in support of political reform, both in
Egypt and across the Arab region. The IDWG agreed that USAID
would consider BA proposals in support of Egyptian civil
society while MEPI should be encouraged to work with the BA's
Arab reform project.

5. (SBU) In the July 5 IDWG meeting, USAID briefed the IDWG
on the fourth meeting of the Democracy and Governance
Consultative Group (CG), on June 28th. At the CG meeting,
MIC's Ambassador Badr distributed a June 26th letter from
USAID to the MIC advising that USAID would soon be signing
the grants for NDI, ICJ, and a coalition of NGOs, as well as
a contract with the International Foundation for Election
Systems (IFES). (Note: the grants and contract are all to
support the upcoming presidential and parliamentary
elections. The general areas for USAID elections support as
well as USAID's intention to sign a set of grants by the end
of June had been discussed in the previous CG meeting. End
note). The CG agreed that the agenda for the meeting would
be to continue to discuss USAID's proposed areas for
elections assistance, to consider whether proposed assistance
was permitted given the provisions of Egypt's NGO law, and,
at Ambassador Badr's urging, consideration of the specific
grants described in the letter. USAID's Deputy Director
noted that consideration of specific grants fell outside the
purview of the CG. The discussion turned to the general
description of USAID's planned support to elections,
following on the discussion of the prior week.

6. (SBU) Other topics discussed at the CG meeting included
the potential role of domestic elections observers and the
sensitivities of the topic in Egypt. The group debated the
language in the NGO law regarding political activities, with
the GOE representatives arguing that the law sharply
restricts NGO political activities, and the NGO
representatives arguing that it is less restrictive. In
response to concerns about USAID's plan to move forward with
the specific grants and contract, USAID emphasized that it is
unreasonable to expect a group not already registered with
MISA to seek registration in advance of seeking a grant.
Organizations not already registered would be expected to
start the process once their grant was approved. USAID also
clarified that the U.S. definition of an NGO may be broader
than the Egyptian definition. USAID firmly maintained that
its activities involve development work in the area of
elections and democracy building, not in any way affecting or
influencing political outcomes.

7. (SBU) Following the review of the June 28th CG meeting,
the IDWG briefly discussed recent reports from MEPI grantees
and prospective applicants that suggest MISA is seeking to
hinder implementation of MEPI projects in Egypt. In
response, the Charge noted that there have been no formal,
written rejections to date and emphasized the need to "move
ahead until we're stopped."

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