NGOs get more time

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 5 Apr 2022

Parliament approved a legislative amendment to the law regulating the operation of non-governmental organisations.

NGOs get more time
NGOs get more time

On 30 March, following two weeks of debate, the House of Representatives approved a legislative amendment to Law 149/2019 regulating the performance of NGOs. The amendment, approved by the Senate on 27 March, now awaits ratification by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The House initially passed an amended NGOs law in July 2019 after a previous version of the law, issued in 2017, was criticised for imposing restrictions on the work of tens of thousands of NGOs.

Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, chairman of the House’s Social Solidarity Committee, told MPs that while the executive regulations of Law 149/2019 gave NGOs a one-year grace period to adjust their legal situation, many NGOs had found the grace period too short, not least because restrictive measures during the coronavirus pandemic had made it impossible for them to hold general assemblies. In addition, said Al- Qasabi, many NGOs found the electronic system legalising their status too complex.

As a result, the National Council for Human Rights had proposed the grace period be extended by 12 months.

 “The latest amendment to Law 149/2019 provides a new timeframe for NGOs to regulate their status,” said Al-Qasabi. “Article 2 now allows an addition six months for them to register, and contains a provision that this period can be further extended at the discretion of the minister overseeing the work of NGOs, and with cabinet approval.”

MP Talaat Abdel-Qawi, chairman of the General Federation of NGOs and Civil Society Organisations, pointed out that “only around 25,000 NGOs out of 52,000 were able to settle their legal status before the initial deadline of 12 January, 2022,” while Senator Tarek Abdel-Aziz said that in some governorates barely a third of organisations had managed to complete the necessary procedures.

Abdel-Qawi added that the complicated electronic registration system required by the Ministry of Social Solidarity had proved particularly burdensome, and that he hoped the extension would allow organisations to complete the process.

He also proposed that Article 43 of Law 149/2019 be amended to clearly stipulate payments to NGO board members in return for their attending meetings, a suggestion approved by MPs.

The proposed one-year grace period was rejected by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaa Fouad in favour of the renewable six-month period, as drafted by the government.

Several MPs voiced concerns that the law opens the door to unregulated foreign funding of NGOs. Wafdist MP and journalist Mohamed Abdel-Alim warned that stricter supervision was needed of NGOs that obtained funding from the United States and the European Union, claiming “in the past this kind of foreign money and funding spread like a cancer in Egypt, and aimed to manipulate internal political conditions.”

Al-Qasabi responded by saying the Ministry of Social Solidarity was able to determine “whether foreign funding comes from good or evil sources”.

Abdel-Qawi explained that in order to secure approval for foreign funding from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, NGOs must answer three questions: where does funding come from, to which association or institution is the funding directed, and for what activities will it be used?

Regarding the first question, Abdel-Qawi said foreign organisations that grant funding to Egyptian NGOs must be on an approved list, and the recipient organisation must have no history of financial or administrative malpractice.

“NGOs operating in Egypt are strictly prohibited from commercial activities that aim to generate profit and cannot be engaged in political activities or the funding of political parties or any other entity engaged in political activities,” said Abdel-Qawi. He added that no more than 10 per cent of NGOs operating in Egypt are recipients of foreign funding.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: