President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ratified on Monday the new Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) Law, which will replace the Law no. 84 of 2002, six months after its approval in parliament.
The parliament approved last November the NGOs Law, drafted by the head of the parliament’s Social Solidarity Committee, Abdel Hady Al-Kasby, which contradicted another bill submitted by the government.
However, the NGO Law stipulates that it must contain bylaws before it could be applied or implemented, which will be decided by the cabinet within two months. The Social Solidarity Committee will continue communication with the cabinet to finalise this issue.
Laws approved in parliament should be sent to the president for final review in accordance with constitutional Article 123, which gives the president the right to reject or amend any law.
The law gives one year for civil organisation from the date of the issuance of the bylaws to adjust their conditions with the new law articles; otherwise, it will be closed, according to the Social Solidarity Committee’s member Mohamed Abu Hamed.
Around 47,000 local associations and 100 foreign workers in Egypt are required to work under the new law, which is dedicated to regulate the work of civil society organisations. The law was approved despite facing criticism from civil society members, who believed that the new law would eliminate civil work as it includes restrictive articles.
NGOs made multiple calls to the Ministry of Social Solidarity to issue a law in order to regulate the work of security forces and to limit the crackdown on their headquarters. During the few recent years, a number of NGO workers faced a series of punishment such as travel bans, closure orders, and being accused in NGO’s foreign funding case.
Several prominent NGO members are accused of illegally receiving foreign funds and are threatened to have their assets frozen following court sessions, due to an alleged lack of communication between their organisations and the ministry over funding. Therefore, the new law stipulated in Article 70 on forming a body to be dedicated for monitoring foreign funding sent to Egyptian organisations.
The new law requests more procedures from NGOs, such as those related to their registration, paperwork, and starting capital, all of which are viewed by civil society workers as complication for the facility of their work and enables the interference of security agencies.
For instance, articles related to starting an NGO stipulate that individuals should submit an official document on the NGO’s work, including its location. A fee of EGP 10,000 should be paid to start the NGO and be presented along with the criminal records of its founders and financial disclosures. Executive regulations may require that more documentation be submitted.
This contradicts Article 75 of the constitution, which gives NGOs the right to establish themselves based solely on notification. The amount of money required for establishing an NGO was high, which was viewed by the civil society as complicating the process.
Moreover, there are also restrictions related to NGOs’ work nature, as there are articles that stipulate that NGOs must provide surveys or field research to the security apparatus for approval before publishing it to the public.
Nonetheless, several members of parliament expressed optimism for the law, asserting that it will enable NGOs will become more effective in offer community service and development.