Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1164, (12 - 18 September 2013)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1164, (12 - 18 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

For 40,000 NGOs

A new law is being drafted by the government with the help of activists, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Over the past week, civil society activists have been holding several meetings to discuss an NGO draft law proposed by the high committee formed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Al-Boraai has been working closely with NGO activists to put together a final version of the law and submit it to the prime minister next month.
“This draft law will not be passed before civil society leaders approve it and will undergo all the necessary amendments they deem important for the future of civil society,” said Al-Boraai in a press conference.
Over the weekend civil society representatives as well as human rights activists agreed that amendments should be included in the draft law. NGOs believe that the new draft must allow the establishment of civil society organisations promptly after notifying the government without any restrictions or waiting for the approval of the security apparatus as is done with the current law.
They also demanded an article obliging the government to dedicate resources and policies to enhance civil society organisations to be a third pillar of the society along with the government and the private sector.
“Civil organisations must be positioned within the plan of the state as a partner in development,” said Hafez Abu Seada, the director of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, who attended the NGO meeting to discuss the draft law.
In addition, NGO activists stressed that the government should not interfere in the work of NGOs and that the supervision over the work of civil society organisations should be through the general assembly of the organisation. It is obligatory that the assembly publish a financial report about the tasks undertaken and the organisation’s sources of funding.
Prohibiting the dissolving of NGOs by the government and only through a court ruling was also among the recommendations.
“The Ministry of Solidarity’s initial draft entails an article that provides the court or the NGO’s general assembly the right to dissolve an NGO,” said Abu Seada.
According to official statistics, Egypt has over 40,000 local NGOs mainly working on charity, political and economic development.
Abu Seada noted these recommendations while others have been submitted to the Ministry of Social Solidarity which is currently working to prepare the final version of the law.
He added that every article of the law should be designed to guarantee the freedom of association and promote a bigger role of civil society in “building the new Egypt”.
The current law No 84/2002 which was in place during the Hosni Mubarak regime, gives enormous discretionary powers to the Ministry of Social Solidarity over NGOs and includes many restrictions on establishment and registration of the organisations. The law prohibits NGO engagement in “political activities” — which has been used to limit NGO advocacy activity. Additionally, the law also makes it almost impossible for non-Egyptian NGOs to open offices in Egypt.
According to the initial draft prepared by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the new law will allow non-Egyptian NGOs to open local offices in Egypt after they get the approval of a governmental committee composed of three representatives from the Ministry of International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social Solidarity within 60 days of the request. The previous law did not give a specific deadline for the government to respond to any request submitted by foreign organisations to operate in Egypt. The new draft law banned the government from interfering in financial and administrative affairs of any NGO.
The most controversial issue is expected to be related to the foreign funding of local NGOs. However, Al-Boraai downplayed the importance of the issue by saying that the ministry is working with NGOs to include transparent rules for Egyptian civil society to receive foreign funding.
“We cannot deny that some NGOs have used foreign funding to serve other agendas in Egypt, but not all the foreign funding has bad intentions and the new law will include a set of rules that organises this issue,” he said.
Some of these rules, according to Mohamed Zaree, an activist and member of the Ministry of Solidarity Committee which prepared the draft law, give the government the right to notify NGOs of any violations related to receiving foreign funding and that the NGOs must respond within 15 days of the government inquiry.
“In case the NGO administration fails to respond to the inquiry, the government will file a complaint to the Administrative Court to take the necessary measures against the NGO for breaking the law,” Zaree said.  
In July 2011 the Egyptian government launched an investigation into the foreign funding of NGOs which led to a series of raids on international and local civil society groups in December of that year. Forty-three employees of international organisations were tried on charges of operating without official registration and obtaining foreign funding without government permission.

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