Within the context of Egypt’s ongoing crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Aboul-Naga on Tuesday met with parliament’s human rights committee. At the meeting, Aboul-Naga asserted that the US government had provided NGOs operating in Egypt without permission with some $175 million between April and June of last year, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
Aboul-Naga also reportedly said that Egypt’s primary concern was the foreign funding of NGOs within the rubric of Washington’s longstanding economic assistance program to Egypt. Egypt has received substantial military and economic assistance from the US – with the former dwarfing the latter – ever since it signed the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
Aboul-Naga also reportedly said that, along with the US, some Arab governments had also funded NGOs with operations in Egypt, although no investigations had been conducted in this regard.
During negotiations with the US government, Aboul-Naga reportedly agreed that no prior approval for funding was required as long as the NGO in question was legal and the funding did not exceed $20 million a year.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Aboul-Naga asserted that the Egyptian government was not opposed to civil society, but stressed that all NGOs operating in the country must adhere to Egyptian law.
Egypt currently hosts some 23,000 NGOs, of which 4,500 were registered in 2011. Of the latter, 80 are foreign including 23 US-based organisations.
Several Egyptian rights activists also attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Egypt this week charged 43 civil society employees with violating laws regulating the operation of NGOs. Those facing charges include US, European and Egyptian nationals.
Obama administration officials and US lawmakers, meanwhile, have criticised Egypt’s plans to prosecute the civil-society workers and a spate of December raids on NGO offices in Cairo.
An Egyptian military delegation visiting Washington this week cancelled a meeting with US senators after being called home due to the foreign-funding dispute.