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NEWS: Protests for democracy continue in Egypt


CBC reports this morning that, “President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, said Tuesday he would not run in the presidential election scheduled for September,” but unprecedented large-scale protests demanding democracy continue on the streets there and at the Egyptian embassy and consulates here in Canada. Egypt has been governed under Emergency Law almost continuously since 1967 and since 1981 the country has been ruled autocratically by Mubarak. Postmedia News reports that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under pressure to take a stronger stand against his Egyptian counterpart in the wake of massive anti-government protests in the streets of Cairo that have left about 125 people dead and prompted several countries, including Canada, to airlift their citizens out of harm’s way. …Harper said Canada is seeking a transition toward the ‘basic values of freedom, democracy, human rights and justice’ and discourages ‘violence, instability and extremism.’ …The first legislative session of the year kicked off Monday with questions about Canada’s approach to the crisis in Egypt, with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff demanding to know whether the Conservatives are ‘speaking up’ for democratic values, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. NDP Leader Jack Layton later described Canada’s approach to the situation in Egypt as ‘tepid’.” As noted in a media release, “Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian military to respect the rights of protesters as Cairo demonstrators held their biggest protest yet amid ongoing nationwide unrest. Amnesty International also called for the restoration of internet services after Noor, the one remaining provider in Egypt, was cut off yesterday.”  Fox News reports that, “Amnesty International is holding a rally outside the Egyptian Embassy in Washington to call for a peaceful response to demonstrations in Egypt.” On January 31, the International Trade Union Confederation “announced its strong support for the Egyptian opposition’s call for a general strike in favour of democracy and fundamental rights today. The opposition’s move follows yesterday’s general-strike call by the country’s newly established independent trade union centre.” And Avaaz.org has a petition that states, “We stand with the people of Egypt in their demand for freedom and basic rights, an end to the crackdown and internet blackout, and immediate democratic reform. We call on our governments to join us in our solidarity with the Egyptian people.” To sign that petition, please go to https://secure.avaaz.org/en/democracy_for_egypt/?fp. THE RIGHT TO WATER IN EGYPT In Egypt, access to drinking water is at 99 percent in urban areas and 82 percent in rural areas, but 40 percent of Cairo’s inhabitants do not get water for more than three hours a day. Additionally, only about 36 percent of the population is connected to a sewage system. Partly because of this low sanitation coverage – and the poor drinking water quality and treatment  systems – about 17,000 children die each year from diarrhea. Private sector participation in operating water and sanitation systems has so far been limited mainly to Build-Operate-Transfer arrangements for large facilities, but the Mubarak government supports private sector participation and privatization of water services. The United Nations report on the July 28, 2010 General Assembly vote on the recognition of water and sanitation as human rights notes that, “The representative of Egypt said he had voted in favour based on the understanding that the resolution did not create new rights or sub-categories of rights, other than those contained in internationally agreed human rights instruments. States had the obligation of ensuring the full enjoyment of basic human rights, he said, adding that doing so depended on the varying capacities of States, and that such a task was not expected to be achieved overnight. Acknowledging the need to set aside controversial questions of international water sources and transboundary water, he expressed regret that the resolution had been put to a vote. The Government of Egypt was mindful that certain human rights obligations relating to access to safe water and sanitation had yet to be studied. Hopefully, the resolution would bring such questions to the fore and add impetus to the Geneva process, with a view to achieving consensus.”