This is a summary of discussions that took place at a workshop in March 2012 in Mansoura, the largest city in the Egyptian Delta. Bringing together a group of activists, political party representatives, business people and academics, the discussion centred on what Egypt's political transition means for the Delta. The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule.
The following were identified as priority areas of concern in Mansoura and the Egyptian Delta:
Decentralization and the new parliament
There is a high distrust of the new parliament’s motives and capacity to deliver for the majority of Egyptians, as well as frustration with Egypt’s strongly centralized model of government.
There is a strong desire for local councils to have more powers, but the more general distrust of authority meant that participants saw citizen oversight and monitoring of local councils as a high priority
Local development and socio-economic rights
Participants saw economic and development issues in their governorate as a top priority, including how to make best use of their land resources to raise everyone’s income and standard of living.
One of the biggest obstacles to local economic growth was said to be the poor transportation routes to the city. Corruption and uneven distribution of resources were also key concerns, as well as the amount of red tape involved when trying to set up new projects or businesses.
Questions were raised about who has the capacity and political will to deliver on social justice and socio-economic rights in the Delta, and what kind of programmes would lead to more equitable redistribution of services and resources.
Raising political awareness and political participation
There is a need to raise awareness among the Delta population about political participation, rights and methods for achieving change.
The high turnout and involvement in the recent elections in Mansoura were seen as extremely positive, and participants believed that the city could provide opportunities to pioneer new forms of outreach and engagement.