Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – began discussing a new NGO law on Sunday.
The law, drafted by the cabinet and referred to parliament on 26 June, was first discussed by parliament’s social solidarity committee in four meetings last week (on 7, 8, 9 and 11 July).
A report prepared by committee said the new law goes in line with Article 75 of the constitution, which states that citizens have the right to form NGOs on a democratic basis, and that they shall be licensed upon notification.
“The law also goes in line with Article 22 of the international convention on civil and political rights which Egypt has signed,” said the report.
The report said that the 98-article law aims to reinforce the pioneering and concrete role of NGOs as a partner to the state in achieving sustainable development goals and plans.
“The law also seeks to encourage the formation of local and foreign NGOs which are currently licensed to perform in Egypt and which work to achieve public interests,” said the report.
The report said the law is not just an amendment of the current legislation (law 70/2017), but should be considered a completely new law.
The current law, drafted by the social solidarity committee and passed by parliament in November 2016, has faced sharp criticism from local and foreign circles. Critics have called for a new law to replace the parliament-drafted one, which they described as highly restrictive and leads to the undermining of activities of the NGOs in Egypt.
The report said, “after the current NGO law (70/2017) was passed in November 2016, a number of developments have taken place on the local and foreign fronts, all asking for the law to be redrafted in line with international and local considerations.”
The report said that the new law includes nine articles related to the licensing of NGOs.
“Besides, it comprises 10 chapters including 98 articles regulating the performance of NGOs,” said the report.
The first five chapters of the law deal with the objective of the new legislation and definitions; the formation of NGOs; the suspension of NGO activities and the dissolution of its boards; the performance of civil society associations; and foreign NGOs.
The second half tackles the roles of the Central Unit of NGOs and Civil Work affiliated with the Ministry of Social Solidarity; the fund of NGOs and civil society organisations; the general federation of NGOs; volunteering; and penalties.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs in a morning plenary session on Sunday that when he read the new government-drafted NGO law, he saw that it represents a big progressive leap forward.
“The new law is free of any freedom-restricting articles, not to mention that other articles achieve the demands of NGOs and civil society organisations,” said Abdel-Aal.
“I was about to adjourn parliament last week, but when I read the new NGO law and its positive objectives, I decided to postpone parliament’s summer recess so that we can discuss and vote on the new NGO law,” said Abdel-Aal.