40K NGOs registered as deadline approaches: Ministry of Social Solidarity
Minister of Solidarity Ghada Waly - YOUM7/Dina Romeiah

CAIRO: Some 832 million EGP ($116.2 million) in foreign funds have been allowed into local NGO accounts since July 2013, and 40,000 NGOs have been licensed, Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly told Al-Youm channel Thursday.

The NGOs presented documents to the ministry on the entity providing the funds and the venues in which they would be spent, Waly said, adding that the ministry needs to increase the number and raise the efficiency of its employees to “oversee” the activities of these associations.

A registration deadline set by the Ministry of Social Solidarity for civil society organizations ends in November. The government is also set to adopt a bill regulating NGOs; it has received harsh criticism by Egyptian activists and civil society organizations for doing so.

Receiving or requesting funds or weapons from a foreign country or organization, or a local private organization to harm national interests, is a crime punishable by life in prison and a heavy fine, according to an amendment to the Penal Code passed by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in September.

It is a capital offense if the defendant is a public official, a civil servant, of a public parliamentary status or if the crime was committed in time of war or for purposes related to terrorism.

The proposed bill on NGOs turns civil society into a “quasi-government” entity, 23 human rights organizations said in a July letter to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.

If any NGO remains unregistered within a year after the enactment of the bill, it will be dissolved, and foreign funding may only be allowed after approval from the government. The bill was criticized for “attacking freedom of expression” and of “delaying funds” by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights.

Egypt’s criticism of its own civil society organizations has been almost ongoing since the January 25 Revolution in 2011. Egyptian NGOs have encountered “treason” accusations for receiving funds from foreign entities. They have at times shot back, pointing out Egyptian businessmen’s failure to come forward with their own funding offers.

Over 1,000 non-governmental charities, mostly Islamic, were seized in December on the grounds that they used donations to fund the Muslim Brotherhood.

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