Egyptian Parliament approves NGO bill , Answers Allegations
Egypt, Politics, 5/27/1999
Here follows is an official Egyptian government statement regarding a new draft law governing Non-governmental Organizations:
The People's Assembly approved in principle on Tuesday a bill designed to regulate the activities of some 15,000 registered NGOs. One week earlier, the bill was well-received when it came up for debate at the Assembly's Religious and Social Affairs Committee, which endorsed it in principle on first reading.
But in Tuesday's plenary session, the bill faced criticism, with independent and opposition deputies giving the debate a blatantly political dimension.
Addressing the Assembly, Minister of Social Affairs Mervat Tellawi, insisted that the bill represents a democratic leap forward because it opens up new kinds of activities for NGOs to tap. "In terms of human rights, it should be noted that during the Cold War, the Soviet Union focused on socioeconomic rights, while the United States gave priority to civil and political rights. As a result, many international human rights organizations were formed, but this was at the expense of social rights. No sooner did the Cold War era come to an end than these organizations began to expand their activities.
They acted to give priority not only to the rights of certain groups, such as political detainees, but also to the daily life and interests of ordinary citizens. In Egypt, we are not against human rights. The number of human rights agreements signed by Egypt is higher than that signed by the United States.
In drafting this law, we were careful that political and syndicate activities should not be mixed with voluntary action. We insisted that NGOs should be kept away from partisan action. Political parties are the legal channel for all those who seek to exercise political activities," said Tellawi.
Within this context, Tellawi added, the new bill, which is designed to replace a highly restrictive 35-year-old legislation, is primarily aimed at giving NGOs a greater role in national development efforts. "We want these organizations to be the government's partners in achieving comprehensive development. This is why we have eliminated to a large extent the administrative authority's control over NGOs and gave them judicial protection against dissolution." said Tellawi.
Meanwhile, another official statement said (the full text follows):
≥Recently, a campaign of ungrounded allegations has been conducted against a new NGO draft law, approved by the State Council, the Cabinet and currently under debate at the People's Assembly. The campaign is spearheaded by the Egyptian Human Rights Organizations (EHRO), or so they call themselves. Several arguments, all untrue, have been used in the campaign.
Following are EHRO reservations:
* The law has been drafted in complete secrecy.
* NGOs were denied participation in discussions conducted over the draft.
* The draft places a number of political and other activities deemed a threat to national unity and to law and order under restriction.
* According to the provisions of the draft, the state is entitled to objecting to the membership of a nominee to an NGO's board of directors, and to appointing a government representative on the board.
* The draft makes the receiving by an NGO of funds from abroad conditional upon government permission.
* In drafting the law, the government has not given any consideration to NGO reservations.
Although MISA has, on several occasions and through both the local and foreign press as well as through the media, made the conditions clear which prompted a change of the law, and has delineated the steps taken by way of drafting the new document, it deems it necessary, at this time, to make another attempt at clarifying the matter so that full answers are given in connection with those allegation.
First: On NGOs being denied participation in the drafting of the law claimed to have been devised in complete secrecy:
It may be appropriate here, and before expounding what steps have been taken in that respect, to note that NGO draft opposers have themselves answered their allegation when they expressed their dissatisfaction over the government's failure to take into consideration their reservations, reported a year ago, in connection with the draft.
Steps adopted by MISA in preparing the draft:
* On December 30, 1997, 400 NGO representatives were invited by MISA to discuss what provisions the draft should incorporate.
* Views were exchanged over draft principles, philosophy and details with experts, representatives of NGOs and human rights organizations, the General Federation, private citizens and others.
* Two drafting committees were formed: an expanded committee the members of which included thinkers and scholars, university professors and legalists, representatives from NGOs and human rights organizations; and a smaller committee which included professors of Law and executives.
* 13 NGO representatives sat on the drafting committee together with representatives from human rights committees.
* Extensive meetings were held in Cairo, Alexandria, Minya and other governorates to brainstorm on the objectives, the principles and the rules likely to advance voluntary work in Egypt.
* Each time, MISA was careful to introduce modifications to the draft in compliance with NGO views.
Second: On the draft banning certain political and other activities threatening national unity and law and order in Egypt:
The State is entitled to protect its political system and its national unity; i.e. the State's regime. Since political activities are governed by the Law on Political Parties, MISA has considered it appropriate that an NGO Law does not concern itself with political practices to avoid legislative overlap. On the other hand, it is imperative that activities threatening national unity and compromising law and order in the country be banned. However, these activities are dealt with under the penal code. It is inconceivable that a state would allow its own regime to be undermined.
Third: On the right of the Administrative Body to objecting to the membership of a nominee to an NGO's board of directors and to appointing a government representative on the board.
There is no such right provided for under the new law. In fact, the role of Administrative Body has been contracted in 22 articles of the draft.
Fourth: On the precondition that NGO should obtain the permission of the Administrative Body prior to receiving funds from abroad:
As provided for under Law No. 32 of 1964, the new law preconditions the obtaining by an NGO of funding from foreign quarters on permission granted by the Administrative Body. This should by no means be deemed a constraint on NGO activities. On the contrary, the provision seeks to achieve transparency and a fair distribution of foreign funding. It also proposes to have MISA fully enabled to ascertain that these funds are actually used to serve the purposes for which they have been originally obtained.
* To bolster and consolidate voluntary activities.
* To have NGOs stand as partners of the State in the field of integrated development.
* To strike a balance between NGOs' freedom and national commitments; between NGOs' rights and obligations; between State entitlements, on the one hand, and those of NGOs and individuals on the other.
* To grant voluntary activities greater freedom by reducing Administrative Body interference.
Draft Prominent Features:
* The draft has provided for the free creation of NGOs, and the confirmation of their legal personality once approved.
* The right to NGOs' property ownership without prior Administrative Body approval has been granted.
* The right provided for under Law No. 32 of 1964 of NGOs' entitlement to unlimited amounts of cash has been retained.
* Under the new draft, an NGO has the right carry out its activities outside the governorate within which it is registered without prior Administrative Body approval.
* The draft has retained customs duties exemptions, and reduced electricity, water and gas prices provided for under Law No. 32 of 1964.
* Disputes arising between an NGO and the Administrative body shall be settled in a court of law. The draft has, further, introduced an arbitration system whereby an arbitration committee would look into the case before referral to the courts.
* Greater freedom is granted in respect of establishing federations; the General Federation is also assigned a more significant role in advancing voluntary activities.
* NGOs are free to join or accede to societies and/or organizations based abroad.≤
Cairo: Discussion of civil organization law starts today
Shehab calls on Arab organizations to take up issue of Kuwaiti captives
Egyptian parliament starts discussing a new law for the civil associations
Please add a link on your webiste pointing to ArabicNews.com and bookmark ArabicNews.com & subscribe to our daily email news bulletin.
| Advertise on ArabicNews.com. MyFlowers.com sold more than $2700 of flowers in one month advertising on ArabicNews.com! Make your company, and products a success. Special rate for new and small business. Inquire!Advertising Info