Draft law: Foreign NGOs and funding still require permits
Ahram Online, Wednesday 3 Oct 2012
A new NGO law has been drafted to replace the one currently in force, bringing some additional freedoms for local NGOs, while keeping foreign NGOs and funding under government scrutiny

The Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs has drafted a new NGOs law to organise and regulate the activities of old and new NGOs working in Egypt, according to Al-Ahram daily.

According to the new draft law, local NGOs will not need licensing from the ministry and will be recognised by notifying the ministry officially, whereas foreign NGOs will still need to be registered and take permission from the ministry to pursue their specified activities.

Unlike the old NGOs law, the new draft law allows NGOs to engage in political and human rights related activities, including surveys and political education, though they are banned from supporting or funding political parties or political candidates.

The new draft law also dropped the right to dissolve an NGO based on an administrative decision, leaving the matter to the judiciary alone. The new NGO law still does not allow foreign funding of Egyptian NGOs without direct permission from the government. A government committee will be formed to facilitate the process for NGOs to gain government permission to receive foreign funding, though acceptance of requests will be conditional on legal stipulations.

According to the new draft law, NGO finances are to be supervised by the Central Audit Organisation, whether the NGO receives local or foreign funding.

The new NGO law allows for penalising founders of NGOs proved to be involved in banned activities, anyone who cooperates with or works in a foreign NGO in Egypt without receiving permission from the government, or anyone who conducts surveys or field research without having gained government permission. The sentence in such cases will be jail of no less than a year, and/or LE100,000 fine.

The new draft law also suggests a solution for legalising unofficial groups and movements in Egypt, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, through working on finding a new definition for "civil activity" that would include more groups than those recognised by the current NGO law.

According to Mohamed El-Demderash, legal consultant to the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs, there will be more discussion on the draft law before it is sent to a new parliament to get final approval.

The current NGO law, which was approved and drafted during the Mubarak era, was heavily criticised for limiting the work of both local and foreign NGOs in Egypt. After the 2011 revolution, there were demands for a new NGO law that would regulate the work of NGOs, local and foreign, especially after the infamous NGO case and trial at the beginning of the year that continues in the courts.

Egyptian and foreign NGO workers were arrested late 2011 and accused of illegally receiving foreign funds from foreign governments in a case that caused controversy inside and outside Egypt, in particular straining US-Egyptian relations.