CAIRO: Egypt “failed” to give strong assurances at the U.N. Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that it would commit to promote civil society per international conventions, global corruption monitor NGO Transparency International said in a Sunday statement.
As Monday is the deadline for Egypt-based NGOs to register with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, Transparency International called for the cancellation of the deadline in order for Egypt to live up to the U.N. Conventions Against Corruption, to which Egypt is a signatory. The convention obligates states to include the civil society in the fight against corruption.
“Civil society must be allowed to flourish rather than be restricted as it goes about its important work as a voice for accountability, particularly at a time of instability,” said José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International.
The controversial NGO registration law received comments from the UPR earlier in November.
“This regressive move runs counter to the public commitment made by President el-Sisi [sic] in creating an enabling environment for civil society’s participation in monitoring and holding public officials to account,” Ugaz added.
Transparency International also said the draft Civil Society Organization Law proposed by the Ministry of Solidarity “restricts” the space for civil society and “interferes” with its independence.
NGOs in Egypt have resisted the adoption of the law for months, saying it would turn the civil society into a “quasi-government” sector. As many NGOs have registered, others refused to register and some have already closed down to avoid compromising their independence.
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.
Egyptian NGOs primarily depend on foreign funding, and they might fall under a Penal Code amendment passed in September if the funding goes without government scrutiny. 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 the amendment.