Egypt Watch

Al-Sisi’s youth conferences cost a lot but achieve little

The third Global Forum for World Youth and the Eighth for Egyptian Youth was recently held in Sharm el-Sheikh amid widespread criticism that they cost the state budget a lot and achieve very little for the people.

Some have also pointed out that the recommendations put forward in the conferences are not implemented, and if they are, they are only implemented in a limited way. 

The World Youth Forum launched its third edition on Saturday, which ran from 14 to 17 December in Sharm el-Sheikh, to discuss food security, environment, climate, artificial intelligence, the Union for the Mediterranean, women’s empowerment, art, and cinema.

In a recent paper on the cost of these conferences, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information said that the first conference cost the Egyptians EGP 5 million, while the second conference reached a cost of EGP 3.5 million. This does not include what was spent on insurance officials and attendees, which amounts to nearly EGP 2 million each.

The network added: “There is no information available on the amount of spending in the rest of the conferences, except that, according to the number of attendees [at] the second conference, we can approve the amount of EGP 5 million as an average approximate number for the rest of the conferences, given that no official information is available, that is, about EGP 40 million for [the eight conferences.]”

The Arab Network said that the sources of funding include Commercial International Bank CIB – Bank United Bank, and Telecom Egypt, in addition to Talaat Moustafa Properties, and media channels such as DMC.

On the achievements of these conferences, the network said: “It can be said that youth conferences have not achieved their stated goal, which is to open a free communication channel with Egyptian youth, and if it is possible to judge through the development of these conferences and the stability of a specific pattern for them, it is logical to say that they achieved an unspoken goal… an open channel that allows al-Sisi to deliver his messages away from the official discourse restrictions.”

The network added: “This conference, which was prepared and held suddenly and quickly and continued for one day [which was unusual], was a reflection of the president’s need to send specific messages urgently, in response to accusations of corruption raised recently and spread through social media.”

Al-Sisi promised during the recent conferences to implement eight recommendations, which have not been implemented, including a promise to form a committee to study proposals to amend the law. 

It was also recommended that the government cooperate with Al-Azhar, the church, and the concerned authorities in the country to hold a community dialogue with specialists, experts, and intellectuals, in addition to youth groups to develop a national working paper, which represents a comprehensive strategy to consolidate the values, principles and ethics to correct religious discourse, but this did not happen.

Al-Sisi also conducted a comprehensive community dialogue to develop education attended by all specialists and experts, in order to develop a paper for addressing problems within the education sector outside traditional solutions. The only action taken after this was that al-Sisi came out during the Prophet’s birth celebration to announce that the development of the educational system needs a long time.

Al-Sisi also decided to invite the youth political parties and forces to develop programmes and policies that contribute to the dissemination of a culture of volunteering. This also did not happen.

It was also decided that a committee would be formed to examine the case to release young political detainees. Despite the release of people on the first list through a presidential pardon, until now people on the second list have not been released.  It was said that the first list was issued to preserve the educational future of students, but some of these students were dismissed permanently by their universities and the authorities did nothing to get them back.

Observers say that these conferences try to imitate the youth organisation of the socialist conferences created by the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, in the early sixties.

However, the fact that these conferences are held repeatedly confirms that they have no real return except a full paid journey for those who participate in them, especially since al-Sisi is fond of Nasser and wants to repeat what he experienced in terms of the media and politics, and more than that, al-Sisi believes that his rhetorical capabilities, public rhetoric, and charisma exceed Abdel Nasser.

Therefore, “al-Sisi wishes to establish through these conferences (a vanguard organisation) along the lines of the Nasserist Vanguard Organisation, whose cadres will support al-Sisi in controlling the joints of the state.”

But despite all of these expensive conferences, al-Sisi seems far from achieving a similar organisation, because the Egyptian regime is still thinking in the mentality of the 1960s, while the world is different now.