At Thursday’s General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street in New York, a resolution was passed to allocate $29,000 to pay to send approximately 20 “OWS Ambassadors” to act as international observers in the Egyptian elections.
The Movement Building group of OWS brought this up to the GA after being contacted by a representative of a coalition of Egyptian civil society monitors, inviting the NY occupation to send representatives to help observe the elections.
@LibertySqGA’s Twitter detailed the request as it was explained last night:
#OWS, we are very moved by the warm welcome we received from you when we visited New York svrl wks ago.” #nycga #ows
@ LibertySqGA: Egyptians are vry proud to have bn the inspiration for yr movement and wish you the best in achieving yr goals.”
@LibertySqGA”In the spirit of international solidarity,” request we go visit&observe their parliamentary elections! Also tht we send invite to networks.
The $29,000 in funds will cover airfare, hostel accommodation, as well as some food and transportation for the volunteers while they’re in Egypt. In addition to that, the New York occupation plans to reach out to the entire OWS network for volunteers who want to “self-fund” their trip, which will cost them about $1,500 out of pocket.
Their plan, as outlined in the proposal from Thursday night’s General Assembly, is available in full here. Details on logistics are still slim, but it appears as thought it won’t be Occupy Wall Street picking the final list of volunteers, but rather a their “counterparties” in Egypt having the final say.
“Through consultation with our Egyptian counterparts it was determined that the OWS delegation should be comprised of 2-4 ambassadors from six relevant committees under the sponsorship of the Movement Building Committee. These committees were selected due to their relevance and general skill sets,” says the group’s draft proposal.
So, what are they looking for when it comes to volunteers? The draft proposal outlined the skills they want the volunteers to have:
- Knowledge of the Middle East or Arabic skills
- Cultural sensitivity and commitment to the task at hand minus individual political agendas
- Experience dealing with global media
- Willingness to accept risk
- Skill-sharing potential across relevant committees
- Gender and racial diversity
While we don’t yet know what this means for Occupy Wall Street, it’s certainly a bold move — and one that could play out in several ways once they land in Egypt.
“It sounds like a brilliant move, in terms of Egyptian politics,” says Dr. Nathan Brown, professor of political science at George Washington University, and expert on Egyptian government and politics.
“Here’s the problem. Election monitoring in Egypt has always been a big issue. The country under the authoritarian regime has always been hostile to any kind of international monitoring role. After the revolution, essentially what the Egyptians brought in was a system of judicial monitoring of the elections. The judges themselves are not really interested in any international monitoring, and military rulers have been hostile to it as well,” says Dr. Borwn.
Strong nationalist sentiment within Egypt will also play a role, but could be a positive one.
“The world monitoring, in Arabic, can also mean”oversight” or “control.” “Monitors” sound like people who are coming in to take over. Now, there’s some sort of nationalist pride that can be set off — Egyptians may see it as, well, we’re teaching the Americans for a change. It can play into that very easily,” says Dr. Brown. “It’s a good political move because its an effective way to have a retort to the nationalist argument against monitoring.”
As far as the purpose of international monitors at the elections, they may not be able to play a huge role, but can still have an effect. “They can probably do a lot of seeing and watching the general atmosphere, but as far as being inside the polling places, there won’t be a lot of role for them. What groups of international monitors do, though, is provide a very effective cover for domestic monitoring efforts,” Dr. Brown explained.
- Megan Robertson is a digital producer for DylanRatigan.com.