Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Civil society strategy

The government has issued a report detailing its stance towards NGOs, Mohamed Abdel-Baky reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Following two weeks of criticism over its decision to re-open a four year-old investigation into the foreign funding of NGOs the government has issued a report outlining it policy towards civil society.

Prepared by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and issued by the prime minister’s office, the report highlights that 90 per cent of NGO foreign funding requests received in 2015 were approved.  The 627 foreign funding grants accepted came from 260 foreign donors and were allocated to 425 local NGOs.

The decision to reopen the NGO investigation provoked a wave of domestic and international condemnation, a reaction compounded when the general prosecutor issued a media gag on the court case.

The government did not infringe the reporting ban and avoided any mention of the foreign funding case. Instead, it set out to explain the government’s efforts to create a legal and bureaucratic framework to regulate the work of civil society.

“We need to acknowledge that regulating civil society is unknown territory for the state. It will take time and effort from all sides to reach a formula that provides NGOs with the space they need to work,” says MP Mohamed Anwar Esmat Al-Sadat.

All NGO professionals support government attempts to organise the work of civil society, he added, though they also oppose state interference into NGOs internal affairs.

“There is a thin line separating organising and interfering. It is necessary for the state to act as regulator but also for it to leave a free space in which civil society can act to make Egypt better. The amount of freedom accorded NGOs is in direct proportion to their success the world over.” 

In his preface to the report Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the government believes in the “importance of the role of civil society organisations and their contribution to the achievement of social and economic development”.

“Concerned ministries and bodies are in full coordination to develop a framework for the work of the civil institutions and ensure they perform their roles within the law.”

The report recounted how the Ministry of Social Solidarity had tried to include as many NGOs as possible in the process of drafting a NGO new law: “The ministry had a dialogue with more than 600 civil society organisations across the country to discuss the new law. A committee of experts was also formed to review draft laws proposed in 2012, 2013 and 2014. After this lengthy process we finally submitted a draft law to the prime minister for review.”

The report added that when the Ministry of Social Solidarity called on 62 NGOs to register under law No. 84 of 2002 only six organisations responded.

The report provides a detailed outline of the government’s strategy to develop the role civil society plays and ensure its work is both legal and serves the national interest,  the prime minister’s spokesman Hossam Al- Kawesh told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He said the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s strategy was four pronged, including “legislation, funding, capacity building and developing information databases”.

Al- Kawesh conformed that the Ministry of Social Solidarity approved 627 requests by NGOs to receive foreign funding in 2015, adding the time period required to obtain approval had been shortened from six to three months. The ministry had also funded 3,287 local NGOs itself, to the tune of LE 85million.

The report drew attention to the lack of coordination between foreign donors in Egypt. To combat this a panel of experts had been established within the Ministry of Social Solidarity to assess projects and programmes implemented by international organisations in Egypt and ensure they do not overlap.

The report also announced the setting up of a capacity building training centre for NGOs which will provide training in all aspects of project management as well as any technical support requested by civil society organisations, and a database system to facilitate networking and provide a profile of individual NGOs, including details of budgets, beneficiaries and grants.

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