Recent events in Egypt have instigated much discussion about the causes of the January 25 revolution and the ongoing demonstrations and labor unrest. Both within Egypt and around the world, commentators have noted the deep connection between the uprisings and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions. Moreover, as images of tear gas canisters marked "Made in the U.S.A." that were thrown at peaceful protestors in Tahrir Square made their way around the world, commentators and experts have also directed greater scrutiny at U.S. foreign policy and, in particular, at the United States foreign aid program in Egypt and its failure to contribute to poverty alleviation in Egypt. Against the backdrop of these discussions, our Comment provides a brief overview of three interrelated problems: U.S. foreign aid, labor and workers' rights in Egypt, and disparities in the Egyptian education system. Each of these factors helped entrench poverty in Egypt. Each contributed to the consolidation of power in, and was used as an instrument by, a regime that failed to respect or to promote Egyptians' right to be free from poverty. The recent events provide an opportunity to bring into focus the consequences of egregious violations of individuals' economic rights - the rights to an adequate standard of living, to work, to education, and to economic opportunities - and the centrality of those rights to the creation and maintenance of a healthy society. The remarkable and moving revolutions that have brought Egyptians this far in their struggle for liberation will ultimately be successful only if the root causes of systematic marginalization - poverty, lack of access to economic opportunity, and political meddling that entrenches inequality - are addressed alongside other political and civil reforms. At this pivotal moment in Egyptian history, it is imperative that systemic problems entrenching social and economic inequality are addressed, in addition to abuses of civil and political rights by the Mubarak regime that served to stagnate politics, instill fear in the population, and deter resistance. American foreign aid policy provided political cover and financial support for internal labor and education policies that consolidated economic disparity, upon which the coercive police state relied. This Comment aims to briefly assess how irresponsibly allocated foreign aid, inequalities in education, and misguided labor and economic policies entrenched the regime's power by increasing economic disparity in Egypt over the course of thirty years. Our brief comments are intended to serve as a platform for further discussion of how foreign policy, education policy, and labor policy can be formulated going forward. Part I discusses the legal and political mechanisms in the U.S. that allowed for the provision of foreign aid to a regime that systematically abused its citizens' civil, political, economic, and social rights. Part II discusses the labor activism that was initiated as a response to the regime's self-serving economic policy and challenged the legitimacy of state control of public worker organizations. Part III discusses the ways in which the education system exacerbated the problems created by foreign aid and poor labor conditions, in part by leaving students unprepared for the demands of the labor market. Moreover, severe disparities in the education system helped entrench existing poverty and inequality and contributed to the unsustainable economic conditions that existed in Egypt.
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