In response to the ongoing debate over the need to amend or replace the NGO law, I’ve decided to propose a new bill, which can be read in full here. My aim is that civil society should take initiative to form its own ideas and perspectives, instead of waiting for the government’s proposal and then reacting negatively or positively to it. Although the articles proposed here may not ultimately be adopted, they, more importantly, offer an alternative bill aimed at encouraging, rather than restricting, civil society work.
The bill I am proposing is intended to be simple and easy to understand and apply. It contains the following key points:
- Reinstating an incorporation framework for establishing NGOs, which is granted by Egypt’s Constitution, while retaining the administrative authority’s right to override the establishment of an NGO by submitting a claim to a competent court. This can only be done in cases of incomplete submission of required documents or data, or violations of the provisions of the law.
- Expanding the scope of NGOs to include all non-profit activities, aside from those prohibited by law, including political, electoral and trade union-related activities, as well as armed and violent activities and ones that incite hatred and discrimination.
- Allowing NGOs to own assets and carry out commercial activities in order to expand their resources and achieve financial sustainability, as long as the profits are not distributed among their members.
- Introducing a provision regulating the establishment of civil entities seeking to achieve social objectives that are time-limited, such as civil campaigns and initiatives, in accordance with international law.
- The adoption of several provisions aiming to facilitate the administrative management of NGOs and reduce the bureaucratic obstacles that hamper civil society work and needlessly increase its costs.
- Granting NGOs access to funding from Egyptian organizations and individuals without restrictions. Foreign funding, however, must be approved by the authorities, provided that their failure to respond within one month of submission constitutes an approval of the funding request.
- Binding NGOs to modern and rigorous standards of auditing, accountability and disclosure, as well as financial control, so as to achieve full transparency and integrity in civil society work.
- Enabling mergers and acquisitions between NGOs, and allowing them to manage the civil assets and organizations of the state to achieve efficiency and benefit from the accumulated experience of the Egyptian civil sector.
- Streamlining the licensing process for branches of foreign organizations, as well as the preconditions for establishing qualitative and regional unions, whose membership is optional, and the management of a fund to support civil society work.
- Imposing administrative measures to be carried out by the authorities against the organizations that violate the provisions of the law, commensurate with the magnitude and significance of such violations, as well as financial penalties against the perpetrators of the crimes stipulated in the law, while ensuring that this does not constitute the deprivation of liberty, given to the continued validity of penalties stipulated in other laws.
I hope that the proposed bill will contribute to enriching the much-needed community dialogue around civil society work and the way to regulate it and, as such, invite you to interact with it.