3 factors determine how NGOs can obtain foreign funding: Talaat Abdel Kawy

Hossam Mounir
17 Min Read
Talaat Abdel Kawy

Talaat Abdel Kawy, President of the General Federation of NGOs and a member of the House of Representatives, confirmed that there are controls for NGOs in Egypt to obtain foreign funding.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Abdelkawy explained that any NGO needs to answer three basic questions to obtain foreign funding approval from the Ministry of Solidarity. Where does the funding come from, and to which association or institution will it go? and in what will it be used?

He added that if the foreign organization that will grant funding is on Egypt’s white list, the Egyptian NGO or institution that will receive the funding does not have financial or administrative violations, and the funding will be used in activities that are not prohibited and serve the state, then the approval will be granted.

He pointed out that between 5 to 10% of the total NGOs and foundations operating in Egypt receive foreign funding, and the value of the funds varies from year to year.

How do you view Egypt’s civil work?

Civil work in Egypt has an honourable history and that goes back ages. The first civil work was done through the Greek Society in Alexandria in 1823, after which the formation of civil associations and institutions continued.

There are great edifices built in Egypt thanks to civil associations and institutions, such as Cairo University, Al-Mabara and Al Mouwasat Hospitals.

What are the laws that govern the work of NGOs in Egypt?

Civil work is regulated by laws and regulations, starting with Law No. 230 of 1964, which was amended by Law No. 100 of 2002, which was also amended by Law No. 70 of 2017, until we have now concluded with Law No. 149 of 2019.

Civil work in Egypt is also stipulated in Article 75 of the Egyptian Constitution, which states that “Citizens have the right to form non-governmental organizations and institutions on a democratic basis, which shall acquire legal personality upon notification. They shall be allowed to engage in activities freely. Administrative agencies shall not interfere in the affairs of such organizations, dissolve them, their board of directors, or their board of trustees except by a judicial ruling.

The establishment or continuation of non-governmental organizations and

institutions whose structure and activities are operated and conducted in secret, or which possess a military or quasi-military character are forbidden, as regulated by law.”

Talaat Abdel Kawy

What is the difference between an institution and an NGO according to the law and the establishment system?

The law regulating civil work has a chapter on those definitions, as it clarifies that the non-governmental institution is a civil organization that is formed by at least 10 founders, and it has a headquarters, statute, and bylaw, and has activities to achieve.

As for NGOs, they can be established by one or more founders, and it has a board of trustees, a budget, and it has a legal personality.

There are also foreign NGOs that operate in Egypt and practice their activities according to Egyptian laws.

There is also the regional federation of NGOs, which includes 15 members of NGOs in one governorate, and there is the Specific Federation of NGOs, which includes 15 members of societies that work in one field of specialization, and there is the General Federation, which represents the umbrella of civil work in Egypt, and includes 27 members of the boards of directors of specific and regional federations.

There is also a central unit affiliated to the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which is responsible for supervising NGOs, as well as a fund for supporting NGOs, headed by the Minister of Social Solidarity, and the membership of several NGOs, institutions, regional and specific federations and the General Federation.

What are the activities carried out by institutions and NGOs of civil work in Egypt?

Civil society is non-profit, yet they partner with the state in the economic and social development plan.

Institutions and NGOs work in all aspects of life, for example, in the field of health, they provide treatment services in hospitals, centres and clinics, as well as preventive health services, family planning, reproductive health, elderly care, and maternity and childhood services.

In the field of education, NGOs and foundations work in the services of nurseries, schools and universities.

In the field of community development, these NGOs and institutions are extended in villages. They also work in the field of caring for prisoners and their families. In the field of environmental protection from pollution, support for people with disabilities, human rights, and consumer protection.

What is the percentage of the contribution of NGOs in provision of these services?

According to the latest research conducted in Greater Cairo, NGOs contribute approximately 30% of the health services provided to citizens.

Perhaps this is almost the only activity that can be measured now, but with the new law that regulates the work of NGOs, we will be able to assess the size of their contributions.

Are there activities that NGOs are prohibited from working with?

Yes, some activities are prohibited to civil society, such as practising commercial activities that aim to make a profit for its members.

It is also prohibited for NGOs to obtain foreign funding without the approval of the administrative authority, to engage in any political, partisan or union activities, and to grant educational or professional certificates unless they have a cooperation relationship with the Supreme Council of Universities. They cannot also conduct field research or questionnaire except with the approval of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

It is also prohibited for NGOs and institutions to engage in any activities contrary to the purpose of their establishment that was predetermined when obtaining the license, as well as the formation of secret societies or formations of a secret, military or paramilitary nature, or the practice of activities that would disturb public order or public morals.

How are the accounts of these NGOs and institutions managed?

Institutions and NGOs have an annual budget starting from the first of July to the end of June, and they are obligated to open a bank account in one of the banks subject to the supervision of the Central Bank of Egypt. 

The law grants NGOs the right to invest their surplus revenues in a manner that guarantees an adequate financial resource or to re-employ them in their productive or charitable projects to support their activities after the approval of the competent minister. 

NGOs can also practice non-banking financial activities after obtaining a license from the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) and notifying the administrative authority of that.

The new law defines the controls for dealing with these NGOs and institutions in the event of violations, as the imprisonment penalty was abolished and only financial fines remained, which in some violations range from EGP 100,000 to EGP 1m and could be from EGP 50,000 to EGP 500,000. There are also administrative penalties, such as dissolution of the association or dismissal of the board of directors.

The new NGOs law set a one year grace period from the date of issuance of its executive regulations to adjust their status, and that year actually began from 10 January 2021 and ends on 10 January 2022, and therefore all NGOs, institutions and regional federations must adjust their status no later than 10 January 2022.

How many NGOs and institutions are operating in Egypt? And how many of them have adjusted their status per the new law?

The number of NGOs and institutions in Egypt registered per Law 84 is about 52,000, around 17,500 have already reconciled their statuses in the first phase, and we are currently in the second phase, which is nearing completion.

How many NGOs and institutions are fully active?

The beginning of the new law gave NGOs a one-year grace period from the date of its establishment to start its activity, and if they did not practice any work or achieve any goals, they would be dissolved.

As we reconcile with all NGOs and institutions under the new law, we would be able to determine the exact number.

What is the fate of NGOs that will not reconcile during that specified period?

The matter is submitted by the administrative authority supervising it to the competent court, which dissolves that NGO or institution, and its funds are transferred to the fund for supporting the NGOs and Institutions.

 What will happen to NGOs and institutions that have been included in the terrorism list? Can they reconcile under the new law as well?

Those NGOs and institutions are prohibited from reconciling their positions and their assets will be transferred to the fund to support the NGOs and institutions in the event there is a final verdict condemning them.

 How can NGOs get funding locally?

NGOs and civil institutions have the right to receive funding from inside Egypt from Egyptian natural or legal persons, or from foreign organizations licensed to work inside Egypt, provided that these funds are deposited in their bank accounts.

The administrative authority must be notified of the dates of receiving funds on the dates specified by the executive regulations, and the association may obtain a license from the administrative authority to collect donations nationwide.

NGOs are also committed to transparency and openness, and to disclose their funding sources, the names of their members and their annual donations. They are also committed to following the rules of good governance and management and having a code of functional conduct.

What are the conditions needed for NGOs to receive foreign funding?

According to the law, there are controls for obtaining foreign funding, the most important of which is the approval of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.

For an NGO or civil institution to obtain the approval, it must answer three basic questions, namely: Source of funding, Where does the funding come from, to which NGO or institution will it go, and how it will be used?

Therefore, if the foreign organization that will grant funding is on Egypt’s white list, the Egyptian NGO or institution that will receive the funding has no financial or administrative violations, and the funding will be used in activities that are not prohibited, then the approval will be given.

How many NGOs have received foreign funding in Egypt?

Between 5-10% of the total NGOs operating in Egypt receive foreign funding, and the value varies from year to year.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has designated 2022 as the year of civil society in Egypt. What does this mean for workers in this field? 

The president’s designation of 2022 as the year of civil society is a testimony of the role, value and responsibilities of civil society work, and expresses the president’s belief in civil society and its role.

We in the General Federation of NGOs are currently working on an integrated strategy for civil society in Egypt, through the new law, to launch it starting next year. A conference will be held to announce that strategy before the end of November or in the first week of next December.

You also chair the Egyptian Family Planning Association, what is the nature of its activity?

The Egyptian Family Planning Association (EFPA) is the first voluntary civil organization working in the field of family planning in the Arab world and Africa. It was established in 1958.

The association is subject to technical supervision by the Ministry of Health and Population, and administrative supervision by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The association has 130 centres providing family planning and reproductive health services across Egypt.

EFPA recently organized a workshop for journalists and media professionals on the population issue. What are the most prominent recommendations to reduce the population increase in Egypt?

This workshop concluded with several recommendations and programmes to tackle the population growth. The most important of these themes and main programmes are:

Services, including reproductive health services, follow-up of pregnancy, childbirth and vaccinations. It also includes giving incentives to doctors and nursing staff working in reproductive health clinics and family planning to ensure the highest levels of quality.

In this regard, it is essential for the private sector to participate in the services provided through privately-owned sector hospitals, and to set providing family planning services in private hospitals as a condition for obtaining a license.

Another important pillar is awareness, showcasing the benefits of having a small family. This can be done in partnership with the media, religious institutions, NGOs, universities, youth centres and cultural palaces.

Moreover, the economic empowerment of women will undoubtedly reduce population growth rates.

Also, legislation, Egypt needs new laws and legislation to confront the population increase, when we find that the penalty for dropping out of education in law is a fine of EGP 10 or that the penalty for child labour in the law is very weak, then such laws must be reconsidered, in addition to introducing new laws. 

Finally, provision of incentives such as offering a “golden card” for a family whose number of children does not exceed two, to encourage and motivate these families and provide them with more services to be a model for other families.

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