Our experiences with the new Egyptian NGO law

Sent On: 
Sat, 2014-09-20
Newsletter Number: 

Our experiences with the new Egyptian NGO law

AWR, Cairo, September 20, 2014


AWR researcher, Yosra El Gendi, recently wrote an article on the disagreement between Egyptian NGOs and the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the agreement to hold a dialogue on the newly proposed NGO law. For years, the Egyptian government has been trying to regulate NGOs in Egypt. However, there continues to be a large number of unregistered civil society groups, who have chosen to remain unregistered as to avoid the scrutiny of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.


Source: wikimedia commons


Opposition to the new draft law comes on various grounds. First, human rights NGOs deem the new law unconstitutional and in contradiction to article 75 of the 2014 Constitution, which guarantees citizens the freedom to form associations, and ability to acquire legal personas by submitting a notice. However, the new draft law extends this formation to 60 days following the submission of a notice. Opponents, in particular, argue against the establishment of a ‘Coordinating Committee,’ which will comprise of eight government bodies, including representatives from the Interior Ministry and Intelligence Services.


In response to these arguements, representatives from the Ministry of Social Solidarity explained the need for the Coordination Committee in a forum meeting at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Studies on August 27. They argued that the Coordination Committee is meant to facilitate the work of NGOs by bringing all parties and bodies that give NGOs approval to the same table. This, they claim, will reduce the time taken to obtain the approval from all parties, including that of foreign funding.


The Center for Arab-West Understanding underwent a lengthy process to be recognized as an NGO in 2008 in accordance with Law 84(2002). After that in 2009, the Center also needed to go through a complicated and lengthy application to obtain a permit to receive funding from a foreign donor. This funding, however, unfortunately fell through due to the complications in the process. Since then, the Center has never experienced any interference from the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Thus, it is certainly possible for an NGO to operate in Egypt, but one needs to be aware of the many bureaucratic and legal procedures that need to be adhered to and followed.


It is good that Egyptian NGOs and the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity are going to discuss the new NGO law. NGOs must abide by the law and, of course, the government must ensure that NGOs do not violate it.


The current NGO law does not permit organisations to seek goals which could possibly "threaten national unity," "violate public order and morals" or engage in “political activities.” The issue is that these terms lack specific definitions, and thus provide the Ministry with the power to selectively apply the law to cases considered to threaten public order. Clarification and specification would be greatly beneficial to ensure predictability in the law’s application and clarify the parameters of activities within which NGOs can operate.

For the full text of Yosra’s report please see here.


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report