Egypt enacts law to regulate civil society, continues crackdown on foreign funded NGOs

The Egypt has enacted a law to regulate civil society organisations, requiring them to seek permission from “a state appointed administrative entity” to carry out their operations. The administrative entity will have the power to determine whether an NGO’s work is in line with the Government’s development and social welfare plans. Civil society groups will be required to report on information about their funding, activities and programmes and seek permission from the authorities for activities, including conducting surveys. NGOs will require government permission before working with foreign organisations. Non-compliance with some provisions of the law can result in criminal prosecution. The law is likely to result in the closure of several CSOs, despite growing need for essential services delivered by them, including education and health care.

In a parallel but related development, the Cairo Criminal Court passed an interim order for freezing assets of Nazra for Feminist Studies, a  women’s human rights organisation, in the ten year old case “NGO foreign funding”. Several cases that had been instituted against pro-democracy NGOs in 2011 post the Arab Spring. Some of these cases  lying dormant were revived by the Cairo Criminal Court in 2016 at the instance of the state, illustrate the global trend in authoritarianism that seeks to stifle independent voices and information on human rights.