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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 3, Issue 2, December 2000

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Articles

Church and State Relationships in German "Public Benefit" Law
By Dr. Christine R. Barker

Evaluating Tax Incentives for Donations to Public Benefit Organizations
By Paul Bater

Freedom of Association: Recent Developments Regarding the "Neglected Right"
By Leon E. Irish and Karla Simon

The Government of Israel's Control of NGOs: Legal Dilemmas and Structural Constraints
By Nitza Nachmias and Amiram Bogot

Reviews

Introduction to the Non-Profit Sector in the Balkans
By Jenny Hyatt
Reviewed by Douglas Rutzen

The Third Force
By Ann M. Florini
Reviewed by Karla Simon

Weak Democracy and Civil Society
By Imco Brouwer
Reviewed by Sam Charron

Case Notes

Central and Eastern Europe:
Poland

Latin America and the Caribbean:
Venezuela

Middle East and North Africa:
Egypt | Tunisia

North America:
the United States

Newly Independent States:
Moldova
| Russia

Country Reports

Asia Pacific:
Regional
| Australia | the Philippines

Central and Eastern Europe:
Hungary

Latin America and the Caribbean:
Regional | Dominican Republic | Guatemala | Peru

Middle East and North Africa:
Bahrain | Israel | Palestine | Yemen

Newly Independent States:
Kazakhstan | Ukraine

North America:
the United States

South Asia:
India | Pakistan

Sub-Saharan Africa:
Ghana | South Africa

Western Europe:
Belgium | France | Germany | Ireland

International Grantmaking

Conducting Overseas Site Visits
By Victoria B. Bjorklund and Jennifer I. Goldberg  

- - - - - - - - - -

Editorial Board

Weak Democracy and Civil Society

By Imco Brouwer
Reviewed by Sam Charron

In this chapter the author, through a comparative study of developments in Egypt and Palestine, conducts a thoughtful critique of Western governments’ democracy promotion activities in the Middle East.

After an introduction, the author describes the state of civil society in Egypt and Palestine and sets forth the historical, socio-political context in the two areas. Of great interest in this section is the background explaining the legal frameworks. Egypt moved to seize control of NGOs in 1952, after a revolution against the monarchy. To this day, the state continues to closely regulate NGOs under very restrictive legislation. Despite the hard work of many NGOs and pressure by foreign donors to replace Law No. 32 of 1964, an equally restrictive law (Law on Associations and Civil Institutions, May 1999 (Law 153)) was adopted after much debate in the People’s Assembly.  As we have seen in this and other recent issues of IJNL, the Egyptian Government has continuously harassed and brought legal proceedings against human rights activists under various legal provisions which serve to stifle the development of a true civil society- one that is independent of Government and free from its intervention. In this regard, the government has specifically pursued action against human rights organizations that have received foreign funds without prior permission from Government authorities. Brouwer underlines the irony of the fact that the Egyptian Government refuses to allow foreign financing of its civil society organizations (especially those, such as independent human rights advocacy groups, that the Government would never favor), at the same time that it accepts billions of dollars in foreign aid.

During the Palestinian intifada, which began in the late 1980s, many grassroots organizations sprang up in Palestine. In the absence of a more formalized structure, these organizations (both religious and secular) provided services and organization for political advocacy activities. Brouwer explains that these organizations were demobilized and replaced in large part by the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). When Yasser Arafat returned to Palestine after a long exile, he sought to gain greater control of the new class of community leaders created during the intifada. Thus the PA proposed a restrictive law modeled after Egypt’s Law No. 32 of 1964. A less restrictive law was adopted in 1999 after protests by domestic and international civil society groups and foreign donors.

Other issues of interest in the essay include discussions of donor countries’ activities in each of Egypt and Palestine (civic education; assistance to development-oriented private voluntary organizations; aid to (mostly advocacy), and interest groups (mutual benefit organizations). General descriptions of the activities and specific examples are given, as well as a quantification of the amount of aid provided.

Brouwer then examines the effects of assistance on three levels of civil society in the areas studied:

The conclusions show that the greatest effect of democracy promotion activities can be seen at the micro level; certain individuals and organizations are benefiting from the aid and are developing into effective agents of change. Unfortunately, the effects of democracy promotion on the meso and macro levels are mixed. While it is true that the number of organizations has increased in the two countries over time, the number of activists has not. In addition, organizations with ample resources generally reflect the views of their donors. Organizations that have viewpoints at odds with those of donors, but whose existence would be beneficial to the development of a democratic society, are left by the wayside. Lastly, at the macro level, the situation in Palestine has been more positive than that of Egypt. Palestinian NGOs have had an effect in making the Palestinian Authority more responsive. In Egypt, NGOs have not brought about similar results. Democracy promotion has not contributed to political liberalization in either Palestine or Egypt.

The author’s main criticism of Western democracy promotion in the region is that the object of donor countries has been to ensure the stability of the region rather than establishing what could be called pluralistic, liberal democracy. Instead of taking action based on accepted political theory concerning democratic transitions, the providers of democratization assistance have employed ‘nonpolitical’ technical assistance that has been geared toward bringing about a result which, if not democracy, is at least in furtherance of the donors’ strategic interests.

Brouwer’s piece is informative and concise. It provides a good stepping off point for examining democracy promotion in the Middle East region. In addition, in many cases Brouwer’s criticisms and recommendations concerning the provision of this type of aid are relevant regardless of the region.

 

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