The right to establish civil associations:
CSOs play a major role and are considered vital partners to the government in the development process. The Egyptian Associations Law is regarded as one of the major obstacles to freedom of association in Egypt. The law has been widely criticized for providing a framework for security authorities control over civil society. Moreover, the law restricts activities of associations and exposes them to be dissolved by administrative order.
This is in addition to duplicity of licensing authority in case the association‘s activity related to more than a specific ministry, duplicity of regulators (Ministry of Social Solidarity, governors, Central auditing agency, security systems), the government’s power to block individuals from competing in board elections, dissolve organizations without need for a judicial order, and inspect any NGO or any association at any time without a prior notice.
There are also other restrictions that hinder the freedom of NGOs‘ work such as restrictions on receiving funds from foreign organizations that are licensed to operate in Egypt, and restrictions on organizing festivals and exhibitions. Also, the administrative authority may exceed the legal period specified by the law for giving a grant approval so that forcing the associations to return the amount of funding or postponing the implementation of the targeted activities. Other challenges to freedom of associations are expanding on the concept of “Regulations which prohibit participation in political activities” and the absence of unified accounting standards for NGOs’ work.
In view of the above, the coalition calls for the following:
1- The state shall amend some provisions of civil associations’ law 84 for year 2002 or issue a new law that removes restrictions on civil work which include dissolving associations, limiting their activities or tracking and prosecuting NGO workers.
- The state shall engage civil society in modifying or preparing a new law on Civil Associations which has already happened in the last few months when Civil Society Committee Representatives participate in the preparation of the new draft civil associations’ law.
- The state shall allow CSOs to file suits or join existing lawsuits for defending economic, social and cultural rights.
4- The state shall stop unjustified campaigns against human rights organizations and not consider their activities within the prohibited political activities. These activities may include building coalitions for influencing policies and legislation, promoting the right of political participation and helping citizens register for the elections.
- The state shall exempt civil associations from all dues and taxes which include exempting products and services of the association from general sales tax. This step may encourage the development projects of associations and motivate them to participate in the development process.
- The state shall require all civil Associations that receive foreign funding or government support to publish their budget indicating current assets and liabilities for increasing transparency and accountability.
- The state shall spread culture of volunteering and civil work. Also the state must stop charging NGO workers with treason.