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Cablegate: Looming Revisions to Ngo Law

VZCZCXRO3502
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #2067 1861020
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051020Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5978
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS CAIRO 002067

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR WATERS AND DAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM EG
SUBJECT: LOOMING REVISIONS TO NGO LAW


1. (U) Recent press reports predict that Egypt's NGO Law (Law
84) and related provisions of Egyptian civil law are likely
to be revised, with the new legislation reportedly to be
debated and passed in the next parliamentary session.
Embassy and USAID contacts also anticipate changes to
NGO-related legislation will be on the parliamentary agenda
in November, when both houses of parliament, now out of
session, reconvene.

2. (SBU) The expected changes to the NGO Law and related
civil law provisions (sections 505-537 of Egyptian civil
code) may include closing a legal loop-hole that currently
allows NGO's to operate as "civil companies." Due to the
restrictive nature of laws governing civil society
organizations, especially the lengthy and often onerous
process of becoming officially registered as an NGO, many
Egyptian activists have opted to establish de facto NGO's
that are not registered as such, but rather are licensed as
not-for-profit civil companies or "branch offices" of
regional organizations (even though for all intents and
purposes, the organizations are Egyptian). Most Egyptian
NGO's not registered under Law 84 are legally operating as
not-for-profit civil companies. Such civil companies first
appeared on the Egyptian scene in 1994; currently, we
estimate that out of the fifty active Egyptian human rights
NGO's, fifteen are registered as civil companies. Embassy
and USAID contacts indicate that the GOE will likely amend
the civil law to eliminate the civil company and branch
office options, and tighten legal provisions to mandate that
all NGO's register as NGO's.

3. (SBU) If the GOE amends the relevant legislation in this
way, USAID Cairo estimates that 25% of its civil society
grants will be affected. Nine of USAID's current civil
society grantees are civil companies, including the Ibn
Khaldun Center (run by the don of Egyptian civil society,
Saad Eddin Ibrahim), the United Group, and the Arab Penal
Reform Organization. As noted above, the changes to the
relevant laws will not come before parliament until
mid-November, and may indeed fall farther back on the
legislative calendar. Depending on how they are drafted, and
when they take effect, the legal changes may affect FY 2008
USAID direct grants to local NGO's. The brewing legal
revisions will likely enhance GOE control over Egyptian civil
society, and bode badly for the operations of several key
Egyptian NGO's, including the Ibn Khaldun Center.
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