Free NGOs In Egypt – الحرية لغير الحكومية

Free NGOs In Egypt –  الحرية لغير الحكومية

Civil society is the state’s partner in the process of development, and to play its role freedoms are necessary. The parliament approves the NGOs draft law, with a majority of two thirds. The parliament approves NGOs law. The parliament approves NGOs law. Political parties and civil society organizations disapprove of new NGOs law. The conundrum of postponing NGOs law in the Parliament After 6 months of being approved by the parliament, the President enacts the NGOs law. The Egyptian civil society has a major importance, due to providing social, developmental, medical and educational services to a great sector of the Egyptian society. This is the role of civil society, it discusses issues that societies and states do not want to discuss. Civil society, particularly non-governmental organizations, play a main role in any democratic society, whether it is human rights organizations, developmental organizations or service organizations. This is why civil society is present in all countries around the world, to provide certain services when the state cannot. And civil society is capable of playing this role, being closer to citizens than the government is. Civil society in Egypt is regulated by the NGOs law. Since 1951, there have been continuous discussions about the most convenient law, which would free civil society and empower its role. The social mobility in the Egyptian society during the last few years had the civil society and those interested in civil work have high expectations regarding their freedoms. After June 30th 2013, when Ahmed El Borai was the head of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, a committee was formed to draft the law known as “El Borai Draft Law”. Such a law requires a social dialogue. As I previously mentioned, the law drafted by the “Civil Work Committee” when I was head of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, was discussed during 30 meetings with civil society organizations. Together with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, We had reached a draft law that was capable of balancing between the freedom of civil society and the government’s need of transparency, and monitoring civil society. However, the parliament presented another draft law and approved it. The new NGOs law presented by the parliament, which has been approved in the blink of an eye, is probably one of the worst laws regulating civil society in the history of Egypt. One of the adversities of this new draft law is the lack of transparency; we were surprised to find a new draft law. We could say that the new NGOs law was enacted overnight, we were surprised by a new law, neither a social dialogue has been conducted, nor civil society organizations were given the chance to make their remarks. The new NGOs law has been enacted at a time when citizens are suffering due to the rise in prices. Supposedly, under such circumstances, civil society organizations are given more freedoms; to play the role the state is incapable of playing. The new NGOs law is disappointing, and adds even more obstacles than the previous law. Some of the articles included in the new law strip the constitution of the protection it provides to NGOs. The party who drafted the law completely ignored the constitution. I am assuming that if they had referred to the constitution, then it was to completely contradict it. This draft law preempts almost all rights included in the current legislations and in the law the government had drafted. The law ignored several important issues, such as all international agreements, and evaded the constitution regarding the notice required for the foundation of CS organizations. The article 75 of the constitution mentions the requirement of giving notice to found an organization. However, the procedures included in the new law, particularly article 4, grant the Ministry of Social Solidarity more authority, changing the requirement of giving notice to registration. The new law requires the formation of a committee with representatives of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, General Intelligence, National Security Agencies, and the Administrative Control Authority, which are all monitoring authorities. The purpose behind the formation of the coordination committee, mentioned in article 48, is not only monitoring funding, but also monitoring the activities carried out by civil society organizations. The responsibility of this authority is monitoring all local funding notices, which empowers the state’s security grip and its control over the civil society. This law is based on a security sense, not a developmental sense, neither a political one. This law increases the financial burden of civil society organizations. In article 4, the fees for founding an organization have increased from 100 Egyptian Pounds to 1000 EGP. Criminal sanctions included in the new NGOs law are unreasonable and do not suit the mentioned contraventions. Article 63 increases financial penalties to reach a maximum of a million EGP. Restrictions and obstacles are added to every detail of the foundation and work of a civil society organization. This turns Egypt into an unwelcoming environment of civil work, and of every international cooperation mentioned in international conventions. There is no doubt that all these restrictions will force members of civil society to leave behind civil work, to avoid the new NGOs law, which for the first time includes a penalty of imprisonment. This law is the start of terminating civil work. This law does not see civil society organizations as the state’s partner; it sees them as an enemy, and tries to restrain them. We could say that civil society is being strangled. The purpose behind this law is to terminate civil work, and to restrain charity and developmental organizations, which Egypt needs now more than ever to play the role the state has stopped playing. My last remark regarding this law is that it includes more than 15 points contradicting the 2014 constitution. Hence, an appeal has to be lodged against it. People who work now in civil society would rather quit civil work than getting imprisoned or having to pay a million EGP. This is very dangerous, having already mentioned the importance of civil work in Egypt. And I think this law is an obstacle for civil work.

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