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Editorial: Social contract revisited
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 10 - 2008

Social contract revisited
By Seheir Kansouh-Habib
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which world leaders pledged commitment at the Millennium Summit of September 2000, are alarmingly threatened by the current world food crisis, compounded by a no less alarming economic crisis and the consequences of global warming. The threat is particularly acute with regards to the first of the eight agreed MDGs: targeting hunger and cutting poverty in half.
Three years ago, it was reported that the number of people worldwide categorised as extremely poor had fallen below the one billion threshold for the first time. Now, as an immediate result of skyrocketing world food price increases, the number of poor has risen so dramatically that the World Food Programme announced that millions who did not suffer acute hunger a few months ago are doing so now. According to the World Bank, 33 countries are especially hit hard.
This issue of Beyond probes the situation in Egypt as a consequence of the food crisis, compounded by underlying problems, and brings forward the views of experts and the solutions they propose for mitigating consequent hardships and for minimising future risks. Considered to be of great value, the views of youth -- now a regular feature of Beyond -- are also present. The fresh perspective of those whose dreams and future, if challenges and problems go unaddressed, will be hardest hit balances well the calm repose of more seasoned experts.
A key underlying theme of this issue concerns the nature of the "social contract" that modern political culture establishes between the people and the government, and in particular the "new social contract" the Egyptian government has pledged to conclude with the Egyptian people. How does the Egyptian government interpret this contract? What does it imply in terms of rights and duties? What mechanisms are necessary to implementing it, and what checks and balances does its terms contain? Who will oversee implementation, and what measures will exist to ensure compliance and continued relevance?
We don't claim to provide conclusive answers. But we do hope to have contributed meaningfully to the ongoing -- and pressing -- national debate on the present and future of Egypt.

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