Egypt presidential aide blasts critics of Morsi-proposed NGO bill

Ahram Online , Friday 31 May 2013

Presidential advisor Pakinam El-Sharkawy calls criticisms of new NGO bill 'irrational,' urges draft law's detractors to engage in 'positive' dialogue

Pakinam El-Sharqawy, President Mohamed Morsi's advisor for political affairs, has censured critics of a new draft law aimed at regulating NGO activity proposed earlier this week by the presidency.

"Those who are criticising the draft law without reading it reveal how a lack of faith can impair one's ability to properly understand the current state of affairs and makes one captive to fear and negativity," El-Sharqawy said via Twitter on Thursday, brushing off criticism of the law by rights advocates as "irrational."

"We will not succeed in fulfilling our revolution until we break the barrier of fear between one another," she added.

El-Sharqawy called on the public to examine the draft law and engage "positively" in dialogue, adding that Egypt was in need of a "legislative revolution" that could not take place "except with open hearts and minds."

The presidency tabled the new version of the law earlier this week in an effort to ease concerns about earlier drafts that had been met with criticism by the US and EU for the restrictions they would have set on civic activism.

The new draft, too, however, was likewise met with disapproval by civil society activists and organisations, including international watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch, for its part, said the new draft was "hostile to the very notion of independent civil society," while Amnesty described it as "a death blow" to Egyptian civil society.

According to its detractors, the draft law does not allow civil society groups to operate locally until they obtain a "certificate of registration" from Egypt's social solidarity ministry – as had been the case under ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Rights activists also say that Article 70 of the draft, which sets fines of up to LE100,000 (roughly $14,200) for a range of violations, is liable to abuse by the government.

Those violations include receiving or transferring foreign funds without approval from an interagency government committee (steering committee); the allocation of funds for purposes not specified in NGOs' charters; and the establishment of armed militias.

Moreover, critics point out, all NGOs operating in Egypt would be required to obtain permission from the government's monitoring committee for every aspect of their respective projects, funding and relationships with international associations.

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