El Sadat Commenting on the Final Approval of the Civil Society Organizations Law

Anwar El Sadat, board member of the "General Federation for NGOs", expressed some observations on the new NGO bill that was approved by the President. 

El Sadat stated that this bill should have taken sufficient discussion time through opening up a societal dialogue for all stakeholders and partners, including donor agencies, to avoid the current negative domestic and international reactions.

El Sadat added that the issue of foreign funding was clearly the dominating factor in preparing the bill, in addition to the difficult experiences of revolutions and violence in the past years. Therefore, any proposed bill should be neutral and constitutional to guarantee the security of the country and at the same respect international treaties Egypt is party to. He further stated that he believes that legislation process must abide by strict rules and a great sense of responsibility as it does not only affect the present, but the future as well. Indeed, EL Sadat believes that these rules and norms were not respected in the process of discussing and approving the law and even the government concerns were not taken into account versus Security demands. 

El Sadat suggests that if foreign funding remains a source of doubts and accusations (even though all projects are done under the scrutiny of the government), then why doesn't the government cancel it altogether? If the government does not need this foreign fund, then donor countries have other locations that need and would welcome these funds. Instead of foreign funding, El Sadat suggests other sources and mechanisms for financing civil activities. These sources include religious donations (zakat) and endowment, in addition to corporate contributions in the form of corporate social responsibility. In addition, semi official funds such as Tahia Masr Fund, the International Cooperation Ministry grants, businessmen donations are also examples of possible financing sources. Then, all these sources could be pooled into a unified NGO Fund, which in turn will review and accept project proposals focusing on raising awareness, training, political education and advocacy. This way, we remove all doubts surrounding foreign aid and claims that these funds are politically employed against the safety and security of our country. 

As for NGOs that build hospitals and schools and focus on issues of education, health and people with disabilities, and other civil society actors in rural and Upper Egypt, they need to be encouraged and supported. They truly play an undeniable role in providing basic services that the government is absent from and unable to provide. However, the proposed bill has articles that include long waiting times for establishing NGOs and long processes for funding based on domestic or international donations, and includes measures that creates a lot of obstacles and punitive actions against members of these NGOs. These measures create an environment of fear and concern among employees and volunteers and reduces their motivation and innovation.

We need to critically and rationally think about what we want for the future of Egypt's civil society. 


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