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Posted at 1:58 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Egypt's revolution will not be organized

By Sarah Lovenheim

If Hosni Mubarak falls, what's next?

Nobody can expect that a well-functioning, democratic government will suddenly emerge and operate flawlessly in Egypt. A government created hastily could be as oppressive as the current regime. Experts say it will take at least six to eight months for a civil society to come together that can provide the foundation for a longer-lasting democratic system.

If Mubarak resigns, "There needs to be enough time, so that civil society and non-Islamic political parties can come forward and give the Egyptian people a choice that is not the Muslim Brotherhood," former national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Friday.

But the United States, which has endeavored to promote civil society in non-democratic regimes under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has given short shrift to Egypt.

Five months after President Obama's 2009 hallmark speech in Cairo - his introduction to the Arab world - the State Department launched a project called Civil Society 2.0, which aims to harness technology to help build the foundations of a civil society in non-democratic regimes.

But rather than direct the program to the world's most-populated Arab country in the Middle East, its first stop was Morocco. It has since been extended to other nations, including Pakistan, Haiti and Chile.

In Pakistan, for instance, a U.S.-sponsored social network called Humari Awaz, meaning Our Voice, is a forum for young Pakistanis to discuss how to stand up to violent extremism. So far, tens of millions of messages have been exchanged.

Yet curiously, Egypt - a country very much in need of political reforms - has been ignored. And in fact, where the U.S. government has directed funds, it has sometimes gone too far to support Mubarak's regime.

"[O]nly a small proportion of USAID's democracy and governance (D&G) funds are spent on independent Egyptian groups and an even smaller proportion to groups that do not receive approval from the Egyptian government," said a 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service. "The vast majority of USAID D&G assistance goes to Government of Egypt-approved consensual, government-to-government projects."

One U.S. program, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, focuses on supporting Egyptian efforts to promote government transparency, opportunity and fundamental human rights. But the organizations it supports mostly have fewer than 100 members, and so its impact appears marginal.

Another program, a U.S.-sponsored network for businesswomen, the Egypt-based Association for Women's Total Advancement and Development, reported membership of roughly 70.

Part of the reason for supporting such small, disparate groups may be that U.S. civil society efforts in Egypt have been awfully underfunded, dropping from $32 million at the start of the Obama administration to $7 million in 2010, according to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

By contrast, the United States invested $700 million to bring the project to Morocco, for instance.

But if the Mubarak regime is ultimately toppled by the Egyptian people, spending resources to foster civil society in Egypt will be of utmost importance.

Meanwhile, Egyptians continue to protest for freedom:

By Sarah Lovenheim  | February 1, 2011; 1:58 PM ET
Categories:  Lovenheim  
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The problem with our policy on Egypt is that it is only concerned with protecting Israel's interests. That is the cause of its insufficiency, and wil be the primary source of its failures.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 1, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

The problem with our policy on Egypt is that it is only concerned with protecting Israel's interests. That is the cause of its insufficiency, and wil be the primary source of its failures.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 1, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

In order for these programs to be implemented, the governments in place have to consent. You can't expect it to be otherwise. So while Morocco welcomed these initiatives, made tremendous efforts to evolve and tried to make the best of the help, Egypt just didn't bother. That could explain why Egypt is burning and Morocco is calm and zen. However, Egypt has always received much more aid from the US, but it went apparently to the military and security apparatus.

Posted by: nakshatra | February 2, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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