Egyptian NGOs are Struggling

Sent On: 
Wed, 2018-09-26
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Our intern Megan Molitor wrote a paper about NGOs struggling to carry out their work in Egypt. These struggles have become particularly intense since president al-Sīsī signed the new NGO law 70 on May 24, 2017. The president’s signature followed the approval of the bill in a record time of two days for 89 articles. This definitely shows the loyalty of the Parliament towards president al-Sīsī.


The reasons for this can be explained: then general al-Sīsī deposed then president Mursī after massive demonstrations against him and other demonstrations in favor of him clashed, plunging the country into chaos. President Mursī was replaced by interim president ʿĀdlī Manṣūr who in turn, following presidential elections, was replaced by president al-Sīsī. The great majority of Egyptians do not want to return to the chaos of the days of President Mursī. Since many NGOs (in particular those focused on human rights) had political objectives, some Islamist and others leftist, which opposed government policies, this resulted in restrictions on NGOs.


“The new law nevertheless, stirred a lot of debates among Egyptian activists and journalists. Local and international NGOs raised a global outcry,” Molitor writes. “Human rights defenders are intimidated and harassed by authorities. Sanctions for using foreign funding can be heavy. On May 24, 2018, the director of the Egypt Program for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Muḥammad Zāriʿ, was released on bail of 30,000 EGP for receiving foreign funding and using these funds to promote activities that the authorities perceived as “against national security,” Amnesty International wrote. Amnesty International also wrote that, over the past few years, Egyptian authorities banned 24 human rights defenders and NGO staff from traveling abroad, and froze the assets of seven rights organizations and 10 human rights defenders.


The Center for Arab-West Understanding (CAWU) had never encountered any problems in operating its internship program, due to the fact that interns are unpaid volunteers and thus no finance is involved. However, once fundraising is involved, CAWU also feels the restrictions. That makes CAWU deeply dependent on our company, the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation (CIDT). A senior Egyptian government official informed me that this situation with Egyptian NGOs is not going to remain as it is, explaining that in the past, government regulations pertaining to NGOs have been chaotic and therefore changes are bound to come.


An important discussion is taking place within the government regarding NGOs. Of course, regulations are needed, but not to the extent that almost no NGO can carry out its tasks. A balance needs to be found. Clarity is needed. We hope that changes will end years of uncertainty and restrictions for Egypt’s NGOs.


Megan’s paper provides a good overview of the current status of NGOs in Egypt, including that of our own NGO, the Center for Arab-West Understanding. To read her paper, please click here.


Cairo, September 26, 2018


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report