Egypt's Senate gives final approval of amendments to NGOs law

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 27 Mar 2022

The Senate – Egypt's consultative upper house – approved Sunday a legislative amendment to the law regulating the operation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).


Speaker of the Senate Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razeq said "what next is that the House of Representatives shall be notified of the Senate's final approval of the amendment, as stipulated by Article 249 of the constitution."

"Let me indicate that the Senate discussed this amendment upon a request from the House and now it is up to the Senate's secretariat-general to notify the House of the Senate's approval," said Abdel-Razeq.

Mohamed Magdi Farid, deputy chairman of the Senate's Human Rights Committee, indicated that Article Two of the NGOs Law 149/2019 was amended by the government in January to give a one-year extension for NGOs to legalise their status in the country.

"As a result, the amended Article Two of the law was referred to the House and the Senate to open a discussion and take a vote on it," said Farid, adding that the amended Article Two shall now state that "all civil society organisations, institutions, unions, foreign NGOs, and regional organisations and entities which exercise civil work in line with the definition stated by the NGOs Law 149/2019 and which have not yet adjusted their conditions in line with article two of this law shall be allowed to adjust their conditions within six months from the date of this law going into effect, and that this period shall be extended for another six months only upon a decision from the minister in charge of NGOs and civil work and after getting the cabinet's approval."

Farid explained that this means that Article Two of the law shall be amended to open the extension of the legal adjustment period allowed for NGOs for another year, starting 12 January 2022 and concluding 12 January 2023.

In 2021, the cabinet issued regulations granting NGOs in Egypt a year to comply with the Law 149/2019. However, the cabinet, upon a request by Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), decided on 11 January to extend the one-year grace period for another year.

Farid said "the additional year will give NGOs enough time to adjust their legal conditions as required by the law and that the extension is also meant to give sufficient time to adjust the conditions of the NGOs."

He added "implementation of the law on the ground showed that many NGOs were unable to hold their extraordinary general assembly due to the anti-coronavirus protective measures, to familiarise themselves with the electronic system legalising and regulating their status, and to accommodate all the organisational procedures that must be met."

"Article 7 of the law's executive bylaws stipulate these NGOs hold their general assemblies and because they were not able to hold these assemblies they were about to face the threat of dissolution, and as a result article two was amended to give more time for NGOs to adjust their conditions," said Farid.

A report by the Senate's Human Rights Committee said "the Committee welcomes the one-year extension for NGOs to play their role in society in line with the new law."

It pointed out that "the amendment also reflects President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's call during the World Youth Forum last January to declare 2022 as ‘the Year of Civil Society.’"

The report concluded that the NCHR said the extension was necessary to affirm the authorities' positive interaction with the council's calls and the state's greater openness to enhance the role of NGOs and their contribution to community service."

The NCHR said in a statement in January that the cabinet’s decision gives the opportunity to over 20,000 NGOs and civil society organisations to legalise their status, adding that only 31,000 NGOs out of 54,000 were able to settle their legal status before the initial deadline of 12 January.

Some governorates only saw 35 percent of their operating NGOs able to legalise their status, it added.

Senator Tarek Abdel-Aziz revealed that the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya includes 300 NGOs, only 40 percent of which were able to adjust their legal conditions to go in line with the law. "I hope the new amendment will help eliminate all obstacles standing in the way of the remaining 60 percent NGOs in this governorate to be legalised," said Abdel-Aziz.

Once approved by the Senate, the amendment will be referred to the House of Representatives to be discussed and endorsed.

The amendment must also be ratified by President El-Sisi in order to go into law.

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