FILE: Talaat Abdelqawi, president of the General Federation of NGOs
CAIRO - 16 January 2019: Talaat Abdel Qawi, president of the General Federation of NGOs, confirmed that the final draft law on civil society organizations will be finalized in March, to be sent to the government and then the Parliament.
The federation held four conferences on the level of Egyptian governorates to hear the comments of non-governmental organizations on the draft law, Abdel Qawi said.
In an interview with Egypt Today, Abdel Qawi said that the amended law will stipulate that NGOs can be established only through notifying without additional procedures. The administrative body can then resort to the judiciary to stop the registration of an NGO within 30 days.
The amendments will also include exemptions of 50 percent of utility bills for the NGOs, Abdel Qawi said. They will also have the right, according to the law, to conduct scientific research after the approval of Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Concerning funding, Abdel Qawi revealed that a new funding mechanism will be followed to ensure transparent access to funding. He added that the fund will be accepted within 30 days instead of 60, after the NGO explains where the fund comes from, where it goes to, and how it is spent.
In case the NGO did not receive official response after answering the three questions, it means the fund is accepted, according to Abdel Qawi. However, the Ministry of Social Solidarity and concerned authorities will supervise the funds.
Abdel Qawi also revealed that penalties of violating administrative laws will be limited to paying a fine instead of imprisonment in the amended law.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly decided naming a number of civil society organizations to be "of public benefit," according to media reports on Wednesday, Dec. 19. The decree protects the named non-governmental organizations from confiscating all or part of their funds.
In November 2018, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi agreed to form an official committee to discuss a law issued in 2017 governing the operation of foreign NGOs in Egypt, as a prelude to possible amending.
During his participation at the second edition of the World Youth Forum, the Egyptian leader said the law might be amended after several studies and discussions took place regarding its articles.
In June 2017, President Sisi signed law no. 70/2017 on NGOs and their operation in Egypt, as an annulment to the previous law no. 84/2002, after being passed by two-thirds of the Parliament in Nov. 2016.
The government had been working for years on a new law regulating NGOs in a bid to preserve the country’s security by monitoring NGOs, their activities and the funding they receive.
Provisions obliging NGOs to inform authorities before collecting and spending donations will bog them down and stifle their work, NGO workers say.
Under the new law, donations exceeding LE 10,000 must be pre-approved, while failure to inform authorities could result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to LE 1 million.
The law also gives the government power over deciding who can establish an NGO and for what purpose. It obliges groups to stick to the “state’s development plan.”
The law also bans domestic and foreign groups from engaging in political activities or anything that harms national security, public order, public morals or public health.
Minister of Social Solidarity Wali announced in November that the value of foreign grants to NGOs in Egypt recorded more than LE 376 million ($21 million) in October, adding that they were approved by Egyptian authorities, in accordance with the law, and that spending will be observed.
Wali explained that 55 foreign entities provided 151 grants to 112 NGOs in Egypt working in the fields of development, charity, and micro-finance.
The grants were directed to programs targeting childcare, elimination of homeless children phenomenon and violence against children, healthcare, rural development, poverty and unemployment reduction, environment preservation, recycling and ending violence against women.
Furthermore, some funds were channeled into providing care for the disabled, education and building schools.