The Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva organised on Thursday a panel discussion attended by the ministers of social solidarity and international cooperation to discuss the legal framework governing civil work in Egypt.
Ambassador Ahmed Ihab Gamal El-Din, the permanent representative of Egypt to the UN, attended the meeting.
The panel discussion addressed Law 149/2019 regulating the work of civil society in Egypt and which replaced the widely-criticised 2017 law.
The latter was criticised for imposing tight restrictions on civil society groups.
The new law “reflects the belief in the partnership of this important sector to the Egyptian state in various development efforts,” an official statement following the discussion read.
This includes the vital role of civil society organisations in “promoting and protecting human rights, spreading the culture of human rights in society, confronting extremist ideologies, and spreading the culture of volunteer work,” the statement added.
During the discussion, Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine El-Qabbaj highlighted the importance of the presence of civil society in international partnerships the ministry launches.
She said the amended law and its recently issued executive regulations reflect the state’s commitment to support the civil sector, the statement read.
This support is translated into guaranteeing the right to establishing non-governmental organisations (NGOs} and institutions by promoting their financial and organisational capabilities, as well as allowing the sector to engage in activities in various fields, El-Qabbaj said.
She noted that the law and its executive regulations grant the sector numerous benefits and exemptions that enable it to play its desired role.
In addition, the law does not entail any custodial penalties for violating any of its provisions, she added.
El-Qabbaj vowed to provide all means of support to civil society groups and to contribute to strengthening NGOs’ organisational and financial capabilities.
She said the ministry established an open channel through the hotline and website to communicate with various entities to respond to various points that may be viewed as controversial or to obstacles arising in the coming period.
The ministry also published a booklet that includes questions and answers to all inquiries about the executive regulations of the new law.
Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat affirmed her ministry’s keenness to continue its efforts in facilitating approvals and supporting procedures for relevant international agreements.
She said the ministry also continues coordination with the social solidarity ministry to create an effective dialogue, based upon transparency, with international partners regarding the reforms that have been made in this field.
Mona Zulfiqar, member of the National Council for Human Rights; Alaa Shalaby, head of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights; Nihad Abul-Qumsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women Rights; and human rights lawyer Negad Al-Burai attended the discussion.
The attendees discussed the advantages and guarantees provided by the new law compared to the old one.
They also reviewed the concerns regarding the implementation of the executive regulations, especially with regard to financing, grants, licensing procedures and adjustment of the legal status of various organisations and entities.
Attending the discussion, MP Mohamed Abdel-Aziz highlighted the importance of parliament’s role in monitoring the government's full implementation of the law and its executive regulations.
Ambassador Gamal El-Din said the new law seeks to remove any obstacles, address the problems and issues associated with implementing the old law and open a new page of constructive partnership between the government and civil society.
Amid wide criticism, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2018 mandated the premier to form a governmental committee to formulate a vision to treat the deficiencies of the old law.
The committee held numerous sessions to listen to different views in this regard, and received a number of proposals on how best to enhance the work of the civil sector.
These consultations involved local and foreign NGOs, the National Council for Human Rights, human rights organisations, a number of foreign embassies accredited in Cairo, jurists, and politicians.
The new bill was passed by the House of Representatives in a plenary session on 15 July 2019. The president ratified the bill on 19 August of the same year.