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Cablegate: Minister of Social Solidarity Distances Himself From Mepi

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0183/01 0411420
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 101420Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0216
INFO RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000183

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/10
TAGS: EAID PREL PGOV EG
SUBJECT: Minister of Social Solidarity Distances Himself from MEPI
Funding Complaint

CLASSIFIED BY: Magaret Scobey, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Key Points:

-- Minister of Social Solidarity (MSS) Ali El-Meselhi distanced
himself from a MSS diplomatic note which took issue with MEPI
funding of Egyptian NGOs. He explained that the note was
coordinated by Minister of International Cooperation Fayza
Aboulnaga.

-- El-Meselhi is supportive of U.S. funding of NGO activities and
appreciates the rigorous U.S. oversight and monitoring associated
with these programs. However, he continues to have funding,
coordination, and monitoring concerns with other donors and
beneficiaries, particularly given Egypt's cash-based economy.

2. (C) Comment: Contrary to what his ministry's diplomatic note
implied, El-Meselhi showed little interest in altering the status
quo and seems unlikely to press us further on MEPI funding of
non-registered NGOs. The usefulness of El-Meshelhi's support,
however, is limited as MOI and EGIS remain the final arbiters in
the NGO funding and registration approval process, and both appear
content to let applications languish or deny them without
explanation.

3. (C) Ambassador met with Minister of Social Solidarity (MSS) Ali
El-Meselhi January 28 to discuss a December 23, 2009 diplomatic
note from the MSS which implied that in providing MEPI funds to
non-registered NGOs the U.S. was violating GOE law. The Ambassador
also raised continued delays faced by U.S.-based NGOs seeking to
register in Egypt as well as several long-pending NGO requests for
GOE approval of foreign-funded programs. USAID Mission Director
and Econ Counselor accompanied.

4. (C) The Ambassador began by noting that MEPI has been funding
programs in Egypt for many years and nothing in current MEPI
activities represents anything new. She added that, in response to
GOE concerns, the U.S. had decided last year that only registered
NGOs would be eligible to receive ESF funds while non-registered
NGOs would continue to be eligible for MEPI and other non-ESF USG
financial support.

5. (C) El-Meselhi said the U.S. policy on ESF funding for
registered NGOs was "extremely positive." He distanced himself
from the December 23, 2009 diplomatic note, saying that it had been
coordinated with the Minister of International Cooperation Fayza
Aboulnaga. The Ambassador pointed out that we do not see any legal
impediment to funding non-registered Egyptian groups and that the
U.S. sees the benefit of supporting civil society in broad terms.
El-Meselhi asserted that it was not a question of whether recipient
organizations were legal or not, but whether they made the
appropriate notifications to the GOE. He explained that most NGOs
remain unregistered, and the GOE is concerned about sufficient
coordination and monitoring of their activities, particularly since
90 percent of all monetary transactions in Egypt are on a cash
basis.

6. (C) The Ambassador assured El-Meselhi that USAID and MEPI
exercise strict oversight of funded programs. El-Meselhi
acknowledged this noting that "we don't question U.S. funding," but
rather other foreign and domestic funding. He continued, "Frankly,
I definitely know you are doing something right."

7. (C) The Ambassador and USAID Mission Director raised with
El-Meselhi long-pending NGO requests for MSS approval of
foreign-funded programs, and provided a list of several such
requests submitted more than six months ago. They also asked
that El-Meselhi support the registration applications of several
U.S.-based NGO, most of which have been active in Egypt for several
years or more. The Ambassador stressed the importance of

permitting the registering of U.S.-based NGOs, particularly in
light of the USG's response to GOE concerns over ESF funding of
non-registered NGOs. El-Meselhi promised to review the list of
proposed programs awaiting approval and said he would provide a
reply within a week. He noted that while he remains supportive of
U.S.-funded programs, the Minister of Interior and Egyptian
Intelligence Services have the final say on NGO programs and NGO
registration requests.
SCOBEY

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