PIMCO CEO: Egypt needs stronger outside support
Egypt can deliver on its revolution. But building a new society also requires better and stronger support from its friends and allies.
In my first trip to Egypt since the fall of the Mubarak regime four months ago, I found a vibrant society dealing with the realities of deep national transformations and facing challenging headwinds. Based on interactions with a cross-section of society involved in building a "new Egypt," I came away with the hope that proper coordination and determination can deliver the revolution's central objective of a "better Egypt" for future generations; but the country also needs better and stronger support from outside.Skip to next paragraph
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Today's Egypt is an exciting place. Political debates rage. New political parties form. Institutions are restructured. The media is hyper active. And most important, Egyptian society is still energized by its ability to overcome fear and repression, and to take direct responsibility for a brighter future. This speaks to what New York Times columnist Tom Friedman characterized as a revolution “in Egypt, by Egypt, for Egypt.” It is most evident in the community service that has taken hold in Egypt.
Volunteers are adopting villages and city slums to make a difference on the ground. Individuals, such as the inspiring Google executive Wael Ghonim, are setting up new nongovernmental organizations to help the poor. And visionaries, such as Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, are leading national projects to improve access to scientific education.
Why civil society engagement matters
In short, an newly engaged Egyptian civil society feels empowered and responsible to deliver a better tomorrow. This engagement is critical for the country’s future in three important ways.
First, it facilitates a gradual shift in balance, away from just pursuing those responsible for past failures and toward focusing more on the future. Once the perpetrators of past crimes are brought to justice, Egypt will get closer to the type of “truth and reconciliation” that was critical to South Africa’s smooth break with apartheid in the 1990s – thus delivering what Nelson Mandela brilliantly characterized as the ability “to forgive but not forget.” And the sooner Egypt draws a domestically-credible line under the old regime and looks to the future, the greater the probability of reducing capital flight and getting money flowing back into the country.
Second, it is a daily reminder to Egyptians that revolutions are not discrete events. They are transformational processes that take time and involve many steps. Indeed, the most visible part of a revolution (that of overthrowing the old regime) is a necessary and courageous step; but it needs to be reinforced with steadfast commitment to bold forward-looking initiatives.