The United States State Department has expressed concern over the draft NGO law that was submitted to the Shura Council last Wednesday.
Speaking at a daily press briefing in Washington DC on Thursday, the spokesperson for the State Department, Jen Psaki, pointed to “legislative restrictions… on the activities of NGOs would damage [not only] Egypt’s international image but also the ability of NGOs to provide the necessary assistance to the people in the country”.
Psaki also pointed out that the US has “had longstanding concerns regarding the restrictive nature of previous drafts”, adding that “we have urged the government in consultations with civil society to revise the draft in accordance with Egypt’s international obligations”.
Presidential advisor Nermeen Mohamed told AFP that the law would limit government authority over NGOs. The Assistant to the President for Political Affairs, Pakinam El-Sharkawy, said that “the insistence of some to attack the draft NGO law presented by the President to the Shura Council, without seeing it, reflects the most dangerous barrier we are experiencing now”. She called for Egyptians to unify and to “participate in a positive and objective community dialogue” about the law.
The draft of the NGO law has drawn much criticism both domestically and internationally. On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the draft as “an assault on independent groups”. The rights group acknowledged that there are some improvements from precious drafts but also highlighted a number of issues with the draft that it believes to be restrictive. It believes that if passed the law would “give the government excessive power over civil society groups”, as it would have the power to interfere in the internal matters of organisations. HRW also criticised the provisions for foreign funding of NGOs, describing it as “extraordinarily restrictive”.
The NGO law has been criticised by the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights as well as a number of international organisations including Freedom House, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, Amnesty International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. All believe that the law will restrict the activities of civil society organisations in Egypt.