CAIRO: The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) in cooperation with the Ministry of Solidarity held Sunday a workshop to discuss amendments to Law 84 of 2002 addressing civil society organizations and NGOs.
“Law 84 of 2002 is not appropriate anymore for a country looking for a real democratic system,” said Mohamed Fayeq, head of the NCHR, at the opening of the workshop.
All civil society organizations were under the control of the country and the government has the right to dissolve the organization or to seize its money according to Law 84 of 2002 that was issued in 2002 during the era of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Ghada Waly, minister of solidarity and manpower, said while addressing the workshop that the civil society laws have to be issued from the coming Parliament, but they need a public discussion between all civil associations to establish a vision of the law.
“Until the new law is issued, the ministry of solidarity will continue working with Law 84 of 2002,” Waly said addressing the meeting.
In his comments, Fayeq said that article 75 of the 2014 Constitution addressing civil society organization laws gives the right for citizens to form NGOs and civil society associations with notification only, and the administrative bodies don’t have the right to interfere in the associations’ affairs, dissolving them, or dissolving their boards of directors unless there is a judicial ruling issued.
Howaida Adly, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said, “A controversy has existed over the civil association law since the late 90s,” and that the relationship between the country and those associations is adversarial, unlike what it should become.
Adly added during the discussion that all parties need to have a dialogue for a serious conversation to discuss the law “and those parties include national security, the Solidarity Ministry and civil society organizations.”
She said that there are some foreign organizations and NGOs that are of concern to the country, and that is the reason for the dialogue, as it must be in the law to emphasize the freedom of the associations’ work, it also must have a system of accountability.
“So both sides have a supervisory and developmental roll,” Adly added.
Meanwhile, lawyer and human rights activist Mohamed Zarae said that although the 2014 Constitution Affirms that civil organizations could be established by notification, the Solidarity Ministry is still working with Law 84 until the parliament issues the amended one, “so the government and the Ministry of Solidarity still interfere in all associations’ details, and those associations don’t have the real freedom to work.”
Within the same context, former Minister of Solidarity Ahmed Al-Borae said, “The civil society in Egypt attempts to draft a law guaranteeing freedom of civil society around a basic idea of the maximum freedom that could be granted to these associations and their compatibility with the community.”
He explained that one of the main reasons for the difference on forming associations is how to form it either with notification or permission, and the second reason is the possibility of receiving funding, in addition to the eligibility of these associations under the judiciary.
Borae added that the authority that should monitor the civil society associations should be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not the Solidarity Ministry, and that change would ease monitoring the funds that come to these associations.
Ayman Abdel Wahab, a political expert, said that funding is considered a big issue in dealing with civil associations. “Although funding has sometimes a negative impact on the human rights file, these organizations have no other alternative for funding,” he said.
He added that civil society organizations and NGOs are dependent on 100 percent of their funding from both Arabic and international sources, which must be discussed in more workshops.
“In the law draft we must consider that funding helped in some cases in politicization through funding specific associations that help in the political scene,” Abdel Wahab said.
“Communication between the NCHR and civil organizations must have mechanisms and the council should become the umbrella that provides funding and support, which will not be achieved without a government and community dialogue,” he added.
Waly said that since the January 25 Revolution, there was a law draft every year on working on amending Law 84, and there are differences between the groups who worked on these three drafts, “so we will be ongoing with discussions until the final draft is presented to the government.”