Egypt's Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali has announced that the committee entitled with amending the NGO law of 2017 has decided to draw up a new draft law instead of amending the 2017 law.
In a statement on Saturday, Wali said that the new draft law meets the concerns and proposals of civil society in accordance with the Egyptian constitution, international agreements and Egypt's commitment to encourage civil society action.
The minister said that the cabinet meeting on 3 April had approved the draft law's outlines, which stipulate that NGOs can be founded upon notifying authorities. The law also sets up a supervisory body to monitor the work of NGOs operating in the country.
The draft law permits foreigners who have permanent or temporary residence in Egypt to be members of NGOs or their boards of directors, at a limit of 25 percent of overall members.
The new draft law allows associations to open branches outside of Egypt and grants them the right to receive financing, grants or donations from Egyptian or foreign individuals or entities authorised to operate in Egypt.
The law also allows NGOs to use their surplus revenues in investing in other production and service projects, and establish or contribute to the establishment of charitable companies and funds.
The draft law also authorises NGOs to carry out one or more activities for a certain period of time as specified by the entitled minister.
The ministry stressed that the draft law includes no freedom-depriving penalties for violations and exempts NGOs from registration fees in contracts of which they are part. The law also exempts NGOs from real estate taxes in buildings where they operate.
Changes to NGO Law 70/2017 were being made at the request of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi who, on 5 November, told the World Youth Forum that the law was “restrictive and reflects a skeptical view of NGO activities.”
El-Sisi suggested a committee be formed to hold hearing sessions on the NGO law and that state authorities move to submit an amended version to parliament.
The NGO law, passed in November 2016 and ratified by El-Sisi in May 2017, triggered criticism in some foreign countries and among civil society advocates in Egypt.
Opponents called for a new law to be drafted to replace the old one, which they described as repressive and undermining to the activities of NGOs.