File Photo: Egypt's Parliament (Reuters)
The Social Solidarity Committee in Egypt parliament’s is scheduled to discuss on Monday and Tuesday a new draft of the law regulating the performance of NGOs (70/2017).
Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, head of the committee and chairman of the parliamentary majority “Support Egypt” coalition, told reporters Monday morning that the amended law will be discussed in two afternoon meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
Al-Qasabi said the law was redrafted by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and was referred to parliament last week. “If everything went OK with the new NGO law, it could be discussed and passed by parliament on Wednesday or Thursday,” said El-Qasabi.
The current NGO law, drafted by Al-Qasabi’s Social Solidarity Committee, and passed by parliament in November 2016, was ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in May 2017. It, however, triggered sharp criticism from civil society organisations operating inside and outside Egypt. It also drew criticism from foreign countries, particularly among some US congress members such as Lindsey Graham.
Opponents called for a new law to replace the parliament-drafted one, which they describe as highly restrictive and leads to the undermining of activities of the NGOs in Egypt.
As a result, President Sisi asked officials of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, during the World Youth Forum in November 2018, to hold a national dialogue on the law and to discuss a new one.
Following a series of national dialogue meetings between January and April in 2019, the main outlines of the new NGO law were approved by the Cabinet in a meeting on 3 April. Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali told reporters that the new law differs to a large extent from the one drafted and passed by parliament.
Wali said 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 Egypt and gives 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.
Wali also stressed that the draft law does not include freedom-depriving penalties for violations and exempts NGOs from registration fees in contracts which they are part of. “The law also exempts NGOs from real estate taxes in buildings where they operate,” said Wali.
Many expect that if passed by the Social Solidarity Committee on Tuesday, the law could be discussed and passed by parliament in a plenary session on Wednesday or Thursday.