Cablegate: An Update On Mepi Funding in Egypt: Regional

Published: Thu 11 Aug 2005 04:07 PM
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) On July 16-20, MEPI Regional Director Peter
Mulrean visited Alexandria and Cairo to meet with current and
prospective MEPI grantees. In Cairo, two of the five Civil
Society (CS) grantees described difficulty in obtaining
approval from Egypt's Ministry of Insurance and Social
Affairs (MISA) to receive MEPI funding; and the Ibn Khaldun
Center, another CS grantee, had still not received its first
tranche of funding from Washington. However, that a number
of other grantees are already operating successfully is
evidence that the continued fine-tuning of the MEPI grant
management process, along with frequent visits to grantees by
MEPI staff, is gradually helping to improve the MEPI image in
Egypt. End summary.
2. (SBU) In Alexandria, Mulrean finalized small MEPI grants
for the Egypt Cognitive Center and Creative Child (ECC)
($13,300); the Future Businesswomen's Association (FBA)
($24,830); and the Sustainable Development Association (SDA)
($25,500). These organizations did not expect problems in
receiving MEPI funding or in project implementation, and each
expressed willingness to publicize MEPI funding as part of
their projects. ECC's project focuses on educational reform
and developing alternatives to mandatory private lessons in
Egypt's public education system; FBA's activities focus on
women's participation in local governance; and SDA will
conduct two model U.N. programs and produce video educational
materials on its activities.
3. (SBU) Mulrean also met with Alexandria Bibliotheca
Director Ismail Serageldin and special advisor Bernard Salome
to discuss potential for cooperation between the library and
MEPI. They discussed the Bibliotheca's $3.5 million USAID
proposal for support of the Arab Reform Forum and the Arab
InfoMall, designed as an online forum for civil society
organizations to communicate with, and provide support to,
one another. (Comment: It is too early to tell whether the
Bibliotheca's proposed activities might be better funded
under a MEPI grant. End comment.)
Cairo Civil Society Grants
4. (SBU) In Cairo, Mulrean met with the five civil society
MEPI grantees, three of which are currently experiencing
problems in receiving funding. Ibn Khaldun Center (IKC)
funding had been delayed because required materials for IKC
to request a drawdown of funds from Washington had not yet
arrived. (By August 3, however, NEA/PI reported that IKC had
received $40,000 in funding after a July 28 wire transfer.)
Additionally, both the Egyptian Association for the Support
of Democracy (EASD) and Egyptian Association for Developing
and Disseminating Legal Awareness (EADDLA) are awaiting MISA
approval to receive funding. The legally-mandated 60-day
waiting period for receiving MISA permission to begin
activities has expired without MISA comment. (Note: The
Embassy will proceed to inform MISA that the U.S.
Government's interpretation of the NGO Law is that expiration
of the waiting period absent a MISA response constitutes
approval to receive MEPI funding. End note.)
5. (SBU) New Horizon Association for Social Development (NH)
and United Group (UG) are proceeding with implementation of
their projects. Nady Kamel, Chief of Trustees, discussed
NH's Empowering Youth in Old Cairo project, which involves
educating 1000 youth on political participation. NH has
received permission from MISA to withdraw MEPI funds. Negad
El Borai, head of the UG, described having a positive overall
reaction to UG's activities from the public, political
parties, and the media following the initial negative press
following the launching of MEPI civil society projects.
(Comment: UG has the status of a civil company, not an NGO;
therefore, legally, it does not require MISA permission to
receive MEPI funding. UG's activities may be the most
political of the MEPI civil society grantees' projects
because they are focused on legal and technical training of
political party members and because UG's effective management
and well-developed programs have a history of effectiveness.
End Comment.)
Standing Program Announcement (SPA) Grantees
6. (SBU) Mulrean met with Egyptian NGO Service Center
(ENGOSC)/South East Consortium for International Development
(SECID) and Center for Development and Population Activities
(CEDPA), both MEPI SPA grantees. Shareef Ghoneim, ENGOSC CEO
and Nihad Rageh, New Initiative for Leadership in Egypt
(NILE) Project Director reported that the NILE project was
progressing as scheduled. In Alexandria, Mulrean observed a
CEDPA training session on election monitoring and evaluating
for representatives from the CEDPA NGO network and the
National Council for Women's Rights. In Cairo, CEDPA
Director Amel Gamalin said the organization was very pleased
with progress, noting that three of the four governorates
involved were highly supportive. Implementation in Beni
Suef, however, is proceeding slowly, partly due to a lack of
strong leadership and rivalries among different parties.
Media Outreach
7. (SBU) Mulrean also participated in media roundtables in
Alexandria and Cairo each involving a dozen journalists from
various Egyptian newspapers and international news services.
Mulrean provided an overview of MEPI activities in Egypt and
countered misinformation about MEPI civil society grants and
NDI's ongoing activities. Mulrean also gave a 20-minute
radio interview to the Egyptian National Radio English
program. PAO also issued a press release on behalf of MEPI
and CEDPA announcing the CEDPA-sponsored Alexandria training
Plans to Audit the Civil Society Grantees
8. (SBU) Mulrean relayed to each of the Civil Society
grantees MEPI's decision to audit their use of funds, to
ensure fiscal responsibility of these more politically
sensitive grants. All grantees agreed to participate.
Embassy Cairo has received estimates from Egypt-based
American auditing firms and in the meantime has made a
preliminary inspection of the United Group's financial
9. (SBU) While media outreach efforts to counter
misinformation about MEPI civil society grants have been
partially successful, MEPI's ongoing challenges in Egypt are
to explain itself to a general population largely ignorant of
MEPI programs and to an educated class having great
difficulty in differentiating between MEPI funding and other
U.S. programs, including USAID assistance, and the
Ambassador's Self-Help Fund. MISA's lengthy delays in
approving the funding and activities of several programs is
evidence of this attitude. Bureaucratic and technical
delays, perhaps complicated by the necessary requirement to
base fund transfers to grantees on successful auditing
reviews, have not played well with local MEPI supporters.
However, that a number of grantees either expect no hurdles
or are already operating successfully -- even in the
politically sensitive environment of the pending September 7
presidential elections -- is evidence that continued
fine-tuning of the MEPI grant management process, along with
frequent visits to grantees by MEPI staff, is gradually
helping improve MEPI's image in Egypt. End comment.
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