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Monday, 18 January 2021

The latest on the NGO Act

The long-awaited executive regulations for the NGOs Act are now the law of the land less than two months after getting the green light from the Madbouly Cabinet. The regs come into effect just days before the Biden administration takes over the White House, which pundits have suggested could mean more scrutiny of Egypt’s human rights record. Civil society and making room for NGOs to operate legally has been a persistent strain on the US-Egypt relationship since the 2013 NGO trial.

Refresher on the legislation: The NGOs Act, which President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ratified in August 2019, replaces the controversial Law No.70 of 2017, which had generated criticism in Egypt and abroad for its curtailing of civil society. The law grants more space for foreign involvement in civil society, including allowing up to 25% of organizations’ board of directors to be foreign residents (up from 10% under the old law), allowing foreign NGOs to operate in the country, and allowing local organizations to open offices in other countries and receive donor funds. The new law still forbids NGOs from participating in political activities, but has eased penalties on violators of the law by scrapping prison sentences.

So, what’s in the regs? In addition to laying out the new limits on foreign involvement in NGOs, the regulations require organizations to set up at least one account within the same bank to receive all of their funding, while allowing organizations with annual revenues or expenditures north of EGP 5 mn to set up accounts in different banks. The regulations also require NGOs to provide a host of data to register with the authorities, including information on its founders and its planned activities. Organizations are being given one year to comply with the regs. Read them in full here.

Also on the legislative front:

  • Street car park attendants (aka a “sayes”) now need to submit driving licenses and prove they don’t abuse substances, among other things, to be permitted to work on the country’s streets under the executive regulations to a law regulating street parking passed last year.
  • We’ll be paying an extra EGP 5 for sport and plane tickets and college and club membership applications to support a state fund to compensate martyrs and wounded soldiers under amendments given House approval yesterday.
  • The House Legislative Committee approved the Bankruptcy Act and draft legislation to regulate special judicial mediation for out-of-court trade and civil dispute settlements.
  • The House Manpower Committee is looking into the planned liquidation of state-owned Egyptian Iron & Steel.

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