AUC professor Medhat Hassanein selected to serve on UNDP commission

Published June 6th, 2010 - 10:39 GMT

Medhat Hassanein, professor of banking and finance at The American University in Cairo (AUC), and Egypt's former minister of finance, has been selected to serve on the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, a committee formed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Chaired by Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. secretary of state and permanent representative to the United Nations, and Hernando de Soto, president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, the committee includes prominent politicians, former heads of state and advocates. The commission is divided into four working groups, with each area engaging academics, business people, educators and other members of civil society to understand impediments that low income individuals often face when seeking to advance their rights and interests through judiciary channels.

The committee recently released volume one of its report, "Making the Law Work for Everyone," which discusses how the underclass in societies across the globe is systematically marginalized. Volume one offers recommendations in four key areas: property rights, labor rights, business rights, and rule of law and access to justice. Volume two will include the findings and recommendations of the business rights working group, which was chaired by Hassanein.

As the leader of the working group for business, Hassanein advocated for legal and financial policy reforms that would allow informal businesses to operate as more productive and profitable enterprises. This includes providing access to basic infrastructure such as water and electricity, the right to occupy a workspace, the ability to vend and more importantly, help navigating financial institutions and the banking system to acquire necessary economic tools and support. "Although there are many poverty alleviation programs, we have not addressed adequately the issue of giving the poor access to credit, capital and other means to participate in the economy," Hassanein explained.

In its report, the group proposes bottom up solutions that are affordable, realistic and can be applied to local contexts around the world through a process of policy formation, constituency building, resource mobilization and implementation monitoring. In 2008, the commission presented its findings to the United Nations General Assembly, which adopted its recommendations and incorporated them as part of the Millennium Development Goals. A second UN resolution in 2009 encouraged member countries to explore ways to legally empower the poor. 

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