Update: The Draft Non-governmental Organizations Bill, 2013 (formerly Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations Bill) was discussed in a public hearing on November 29, 2013. Revisions have since been made to the draft Bill. However, the government timeline for next steps on the Bill is uncertain given the recent political and ethnic violence in the country and the time needed for a reconciliation process. Please see "Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives" below in this report for more details on the Bill.
The CPA heralded the first step on the road to independence for South Sudan six years later in 2011, and provided an opportunity for NGOs to expand and strengthen their activities relating to human rights, advocacy and social services. NGOs increasingly began to scrutinize human rights abuses committed by the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and its heavy-handed security sector. With its origins as a guerilla movement, the GOSS was often uncomfortable with this public scrutiny from NGOs. Since NGOs were viewed primarily as humanitarian groups, government officials did not always recognize and appreciate the full scope of potential NGO activities. As a result, the legal framework regulating NGOs from the civil war era continued to pose barriers to most NGO operations that were unrelated to humanitarian activities. There was also a great lack of clarity within the government about which governmental bodies were supposed to regulate NGOs and even whether the 2003 NGO Act was supposed to govern NGOs after independence in 2011.
NGOs since independence in 2011 have reported greater levels of government scrutiny of their activities and harassment by security personnel, particularly when they engage in advocacy or other programs that differ from or are contrary to the government’s programs. It is imperative for NGOs, the government and other stakeholders to come to an understanding about the diverse range of activities of NGOs and the essential role NGOs can play in democratic and economic development of South Sudan. This would likely help ensure that any new draft law is enabling and that the government would also implement it in an enabling way.
Despite several attempts to introduce a new law to replace the 2003 NGO Act and create more clarity in South Sudan’s legal framework governing NGOs, no such draft law has been passed in parliament— though the Non-governmental Organizations Bill (formerly Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-governmental Organizations Bill) is currently pending and was discussed in a public hearing at the end of November 2013. The latest version of the Bill has some improvements from previous versions but remains far from being an enabling law.
|Registration Body||Ministry of Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission|
|Barriers to Entry||Multi-tiered registration, high cost, arbitrary denial, mandatory registration|
|Barriers to Activities||Renewal of registration, excessive governmental supervision, harassment|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||Advocacy groups under scrutiny|
|Barriers to International Contact||Work Permits for foreign employees|
|Barriers to Resources||None|
|Barriers to Assembly||Excessive force used on protestors|
|Population||11,090,114 (April 2013 est.)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||Unknown|
|Literacy Rate||Male: 40%
Female: 16% (2000 census)
|Religious Groups||Christians (majority), Animists, Muslims|
|Ethnic Groups||Dinka, Kakwa, Bari, Azande, Shilluk, Kuku, Murle, Mandari, Didinga, Ndogo, Bviri, Lndi, Anuak, Bongo, Lango, Dungotona, Acholi, among more than 50 others.|
|GDP per capita||$900 (2012 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||58||1 – 182|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||51.2||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||62.1||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||--||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Free
Political Rights Score: 1
Civil Liberties Score: 1
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Failed States Index
||Rank: --||177 – 1|
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||No||--|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||--|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||No||--|
|Optional Protocol to ICESCR (Op-ICESCR)||No||--|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||No||--|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||No||--|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||No||--|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||--|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||July 27, 2011|
|Banjul Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights||No||1996|
|African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child||Yes||2000|
 The UN secretary general has been raising the issue of South Sudan’s accession to international treaties with the Government of South Sudan. South Sudan may accede to many of these treaties in the near future.
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan was ratified on July 7, 2011 by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and came into force on the day of independence of South Sudan – July 9, 2011. The Transitional Constitution replaced the existing Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan of 2005. Relevant constitutional provisions include:
- Article 3. Supremacy of the Constitution. (1) This Constitution derives its authority from the will of the people and shall be the supreme law of the land. It shall have a binding force on all persons, institutions, organs and agencies of government throughout the Country.
- Article 5. Sources of Legislation. The sources of legislation in South Sudan shall be: (a) this Constitution; (b) customs and traditions of the people; (c) the will of the people; and (d) any other relevant source.
- Article 9. Nature of the Bill of Rights. (2) The rights and freedoms of individuals and groups enshrined in this Bill shall be respected, upheld and promoted by all organs and agencies of Government and by all persons. (3) All rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights treaties, covenants and instruments ratified or acceded to by the Republic of South Sudan shall be an integral part of this Bill.
- Article 25. Freedom of Assembly and Association. (1) The right to peaceful assembly is recognized and guaranteed; every person shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form or join political parties, associations and trade or professional unions for the protection of his or her interests. (2) Formation and registration of political parties, associations and trade unions shall be regulated by law as is necessary in a democratic society.
In a parliamentary report dated February 25, 2013 on the Transitional Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the “Committee of Legislation and Justice of the National Legislative Assembly” and the “Committee of Legislation, Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of States” decided to extend the deadline for adopting and presenting the draft Constitutional text and Explanatory Report to the President until December 31, 2014. As a result, there will likely not be a permanent Constitution until 2015.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
The national legal framework governing civil society and NGOs is defined more by gaps and uncertainty than by a clear, predictable framework. Nonetheless, relevant (and potentially relevant) national legislation affecting NGOs includes the following:
- The NGO Act, 2003;
- The Companies Act, 2012;
- Taxation Act, 2009, amended in 2011; and
- The Labor Act, 2011.
The NGO Act, 2003
The NGO Act, 2003 remains the law in effect in South Sudan today because of a clause in Part Fifteen of South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution of 2011, which states: All current Laws of Southern Sudan shall remain in force and all current institutions shall continue to perform their functions and duties, unless new actions are taken in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. The NGO Act, 2003 establishes the basic framework for NGOs operating in South Sudan. The Act addresses many key issues in the “lifecycle” of an NGO, including registration, suspension and cancellation, financing, reporting, and penalties.
The Companies Act, 2012
Article 7 of the Companies Act, 2012, defines a “company limited by guarantee” as “a company having the liability of its members limited by the memorandum to the amount that the members undertake in the memorandum to contribute to the assets of the company if it is being wound up.” This company form is made available in many common-law legal systems as a non-profit company. It would seem that individuals seeking to form a non-profit legal entity in South Sudan could take advantage of this organizational form, and thereby avoid some of the regulatory strictures of the NGO Act. At the same time, however, registration under the Companies Act would not entitle a “company limited by guarantee” to the tax or other benefits available under the NGO Act or the benefits of registering under the RRC, such as the ability to book flights with UN agencies.
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
Non-governmental Organizations Bill, 2013
The Draft Non-Governmental Organizations Bill, 2013 (formerly Voluntary and Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations Bill (“VHO Bill”)) was discussed in a public hearing on November 29, 2013. Revisions have since been made to the draft Bill and ICNL is reviewing the latest version of the Bill.
Prior to the November 29th public hearing, the most recent version of the draft NGO Bill was provided by the Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in Juba and shared with ICNL on November 27, 2013. It contained a number of problematic provisions including:
- Limitations on Permissible Activities of NGOs. The NGO Bill defines the permissible purposes of an NGO narrowly, confining an NGO to the fields of welfare, social research, health, relief, agriculture, education, industry, the supply of amenities, and to reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement.
- The Non-Governmental Organization Coordination Board. The NGO Bill envisions the creation of the NGO Coordination Board (Board) as a key regulatory body for VHOs. With members including 8 government representatives (including from Internal Security and the Ministry of Interior, as well as from the Ministries of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Labor, and Justice), the Board will likely be an overly bureaucratic and politicized body. Second, the Board’s functions and powers raise several concerns.
- Registration Procedures. The NGO Bill envisions a registration process, implemented by the Registrar, which raises several concerns, including excessive application requirements; vague grounds for the denial of registration; and no fixed time period for government review.
- Mandatory Registration. The NGO Bill mandates registration and criminalizes all unregistered groups seeking to carry out voluntary activity in South Sudan.
- Renewal Requirements. The NGO Bill requires that each NGO “renew its permit annually upon payment of a prescribed fee.” This requirement amounts to direct interference with the freedom of association, with the burden falling most heavily on those NGOs that may not be able to afford the costs of registration year after year.
- State Supervision. Several provisions raise troubling questions regarding the scope of government supervision of NGOs, including auditing requirements for NGOs, employment restrictions, and burdensome procedures for the withdrawal of NGOs from “any activity, sector or state within South Sudan.”
- Grounds for Revocation. The NGO Bill provides for vague grounds for the revocation of an NGO’s certificate of registration.
- Transitional Registration Renewal. The NGO Bill requires that all organizations registered under the 2003 NGO Act must apply for registration under the Bill within three months of the coming into force of the Bill. Not only does this requirement run counter to international law, the time period for re-registration is unrealistically short. Thus, the Bill would place in jeopardy the legal status of all currently registered organizations operating under the 2003 NGO Act.
International NGOs (INGOs) in South Sudan report that they expect that the government will implement a policy that could complicate the process required for expatriate personnel to obtain work permits. This policy could be part of the new Labor Act, which INGOs say may be passed in 2013.
MoU with Line Ministry on Project Implimentation
In July 2013, the government issued an MoU saying that NGOs should enter into a MoU with a line ministry “before undertaking any project implementation… to avoid duplication of roles.” It remains unclear, however, on what grounds the line ministry could refuse to enter the MoU, thus stifling NGO activities. It is also unclear whether whether this requirement will be enforced.
Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is one organizational form in South Sudan: the non-governmental organization (“NGO”).
The NGO Act, 2003, in Section 3 defines an NGO as “a voluntarily formed organization or association with a written Constitution stating the aims and objectives of that organization or association for the promotion of social welfare and charity through mobilization of private resources regardless of whether these resources were internally or externally raised.” It then asserts that certain organizations fall within the reach of this definition, including “Churches, Mosques, synagogues, Indigenous Religious Communities or other Relief, humanitarian, Religious organizations or associations operating in the New Sudan in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
The main concern with the definition is its limited scope. The “promotion of social welfare and charity” does not embrace the full range of civil society purposes, including, for example, human rights, environmental concerns, the prevention of disease, development activities, advocating for the rights of minorities or the disabled, good governance, democracy promotion, or interests that benefit only the members of the group, such as chess or sports clubs.
Public Benefit Status
The Taxation Act, in Section 69 on “Exemptions,” provides for tax-exempt status for NGOs, stating that: “(1) The following income shall be exempted from business profit tax: (a) income of organizations registered with the appropriate government entity as non-governmental organizations with public benefit status to the extent that the income is used exclusively for their public benefit purposes.” Section 88(b) of the Taxation Act on “Exemption from Tax” also says that, “There shall be an exemption from the advance payment of tax for… humanitarian aid when imported by a bona fide organization as prescribed by regulations.”
In order to be eligible for this status, the Taxation Act states that NGOs must register with the tax department within one month of registering with the Ministry of Justice, with late applications penalized up to 50,000 SSP ($12,500).
At the same time, however, there is apparently some confusion among NGOs on the issue of tax-exempt status. Some NGOs report that in order to receive tax-exemptions, NGOs must also apply to and secure a letter from the NGO Directorate of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Others report that the standards by which the exemption can be denied are unclear.
Barriers to Entry
Under Section 9 of the NGO Act, 2003, every NGO shall submit an application for registration to “the registrar of Societies at the Secretariat for Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development.” In practice, however, the registration system in South Sudan has developed into a two-tiered system, whereby registration is required both at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and at the national-level Relief & Rehabilitation Center (RRC), both located in Juba. Registration at the MoJ is necessary for the applicant to receive legal entity status. Registration at the RRC is necessary for the applicant to receive an operational license.
In addition, NGOs carrying out activities at the state or district level are reportedly sometimes required to register with the state-level RRCs. Furthermore, NGOs reported that they are sometimes required to register with the Ministry of Social Welfare at the state-level and/or county-level. Complicating the registration question further, requirements vary considerably from state to state. NGOs report that some states have a reputation for being particularly difficult environments in which to operate. These states may have their own registration processes and compel NGOs to pay fees to operate within the state, regardless of the NGO’s documentation from the national level MoJ or RRC. In sum, the national-level registration does not, in practice, necessarily entitle organizations to operate at the state level.
At the time of registration, NGO applicants are required to pay a registration fee – at both the MoJ and at the RRC. Some NGOs claim that the MoJ charges as much as 2000 SSP ($500) to process a registration application. Other NGOs reported that registration with the MoJ costs $200. The Chief Registrar at the MoJ claimed that the official fee was $275 for domestic applicants and $400 for foreign applicants. NGOs reported that registration with the RRC (approximately $100) was cheaper than with the MoJ, while the RRC Chairman stated that the fee was somewhere between $100-$300. Despite the variety of reports on the registration fee, NGOs broadly agreed that even a fee as low as $200 could be sufficient to deter some NGOs from seeking legal status, particularly NGOs in the states that have less financial means than NGOs based in Juba.
According to several NGOs and the Chief Registrar at the MoJ, NGOs are required, in practice, to hire a lawyer to help them complete their applications and draft their constitutions. NGOs that fill out the application and draft the constitution independently are turned away by the Chief Registrar and directed to a lawyer. Since the legal assistance must be paid for, this practical requirement only adds to the financial burden associated with registration. Indeed, it could compel some NGOs to abandon the registration process altogether.
Because of the centralized registration system whereby NGOs are required to apply to the MoJ in Juba, the costs linked to registration are even higher for NGOs based outside of Juba. These NGOs must travel to Juba and perhaps remain in Juba while the application is being processed. This necessarily leads to extra costs for transportation and accommodation in Juba, which may be economically prohibitive for many NGOs.Arbitrary Denial
Under Section 14 of the NGO Act, 2003, “The [NGO] Board may refuse registration of an NGO if:
a) The activities of the NGO are incompatible with the humanitarian principles as prescribed in Chapter two of this Act;
b) The application contains a false information or suffers from a procedural defect;
c) An NGO fails to submit a constitution as required by this Act;
d) An NGO fails to submit a budgeted programme of action for its project in the field of operations;
e) An International NGO fails to obtain work and residence permits for its expatriate staff employed in the New Sudan;
f) Its registration constitutes a security risk to the New Sudan.”
In practice, NGOs are rarely, if ever, denied registration. At the same time, however, the MoJ claims that it “advises” applicants of an application’s shortcomings so that the NGO can address the problems. The MoJ reportedly examines the name and purpose of the NGO. If the name is “political” or “governmental,” then the MoJ would recommend that the NGO change its name. If the NGO purpose is to “connect” groups or tribes across borders (such as in Kenya and Uganda), then the MoJ would identify this as problematic.
Under the current law and practice in South Sudan, registration is mandatory. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) report that all NGOs in South Sudan must register at the MoJ in Juba and that NGOs must also receive an operational license from the national-level RRC in Juba in order to operate. The RRC describes mandatory registration as a necessary measure to keep track of and organize the activities of NGOs. Most NGOs confirm that to pursue activities in Juba or at the state level, they were required to secure registration certificates from the MoJ and RRC. This practice is consistent with Section 11 of NGO Act, 2003, which states that “[a] certificate of registration shall be a conclusive evidence of authority to operate throughout the New Sudan (section 11).”
The NGO Act, 2003, undergirds the mandatory registration requirement with fines of up to $1000, imprisonment for a term up to six months, or expulsion from South Sudan (in the case of an expatriate) for operating an NGO without a registration certificate.” (section 30) Although these penalties appear not to have been enforced, they may deter unregistered groups from carrying out associational activities.
Barriers to Operational Activity
Renewal of Registration
Section 15 of the NGO Act, 2003, states that: “An NGO, three months before the expiry date of its registration certificate, shall apply to the Registrar of Societies for renewal of its certificate […]”
In practice, both the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) require NGOs to renew their registration annually for a fee of about $100. In other words, NGOs must pay $100 annual fees in order to exercise the right to associate each year. The renewal at the MoJ involves submitting an annual return, or reporting form, after which the MoJ will stamp “renewed” on the NGO’s certificate. Moreover, the dual renewal requirement (i.e., renewal at both the MoJ and RRC) doubles the burden and aggravates the issue.
Under the NGO Act, 2003, NGOs are required to submit quarterly and annual progress reports to the government, as well as a certified copy of their annual audit reports (section 26). In practice, however, the quarterly reporting and annual audit requirements are apparently not enforced.
NGOs have raised concerns about government expectations of fees as part of the reporting process at the state and county-level RRCs. NGOs highlight the “creative” ways in which the local RRCs extract payments from NGOs, such as requiring NGOs to complete surveys and submit them to the RRC, along with a $20 fee. The lack of clear rules about the supervision of NGOs leaves open the possibility for state-level officials to issue their own rules on an ad-hoc basis, or to take advantage of the lack of clear regulations to compel NGOs to pay fees.
Attacks on civil society are part of a growing climate of fear for civil society rights activists and human rights defenders in South Sudan. Such attacks have become more commonplace in 2012 and 2013.
Barriers to Speech/Advocacy
While the NGO Act, 2003 does not seem to envision a role for advocacy NGOs, there are no specific legal barriers that expressly limit advocacy activities.
That said, it is perceived by many that NGOs conducting advocacy activities are subject to close governmental scrutiny, whereas service providing NGOs are allowed to operate freely. Moreover, well-publicized assaults on civil society activists have created an overall climate of fear, which inevitably creates a chilling effect and may cause many NGOs to avoid speaking out on controversial issues.
Barriers to International Contact
There are no significant barriers to international contact.
Section 29 of the NGO Act, 2003, provides that it “shall be an offence under this Act for an NGO to employ or engage expatriate personnel without a valid work permit” and envisions expulsion, prison, or a $1000 fine for violators. Thus far, however, this provision has not been enforced.
Barriers to Resources
There are no significant barriers to resources.
Barriers to Assembly
Public gatherings critical of the government or government policies have triggered heavy-handed government responses. For example, in December 2012, more than 25 protestors in Wau were reportedly killed by the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF). None of the SSAF officers who shot at the protestors were prosecuted, while the state government embarked on a series of arrests of people associated with the protests.
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Sudan, February 24, 2011
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||None|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||None|
|U.S. State Department||
|Failed States Index Reports||Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 2012|
|IMF Country Reports||
|CSO Sustainibility Index||South Sudan, 2012|
|International Commission of Jurists||Not available|
|International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library|
Future South Sudan Peace Talks Lie With Civil Society (January 2014)
Cordaid's security and justice expert for South Sudan, Rob Sijstermans, gives an analysis of the South Sudan peace talks and some background to the current conflict. He stresses the need to give South Sudanese NGOs, churches and academia a real say in the peace proces. "Otherwise the South Sudanese people remain voiceless," he says.
Fighting in South Sudan: More Accident than Plot (December 2013)
The sudden appearance of Salva Kiir, South Sudan's president, on television on December 16th was as disturbing for its form as its content. Gone were the trademark black suit and cowboy hat, in their place was a military uniform. Juba, the capital of the fledgeling state, had been rocked by heavy fighting the previous day between factions of the army. Mr Kiir announced that a coup attempt by his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar, had been foiled and that his government was in control.
NGO Bill threatens to hinder civil society’s work in South Sudan, UN rights experts warn (December 2013)
Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs warned that the NGO Bill currently discussed by Parliament in South Sudan threatens the work and independence of civil society organizations in the country. "The Government oversight proposed in the draft law goes beyond simple notification requirements and veers into the territory of excessive control," they stressed.
South Sudan's NGO Bill is 'needlessly repressive' (December 2013)
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges the international community and South Sudan's trading and development partners in particular to question official moves to push through a repressive civil society draft law in Parliament. The Bill is currently in Parliament, awaiting a third reading likely before the end of November, after which it will be sent to the Council of States before being moved for presidential assent. CIVICUS has previously raised concerns about the freedom to express democratic dissent in South Sudan. There have been a number of instances of reprisals against civil society members critical of official policies in the country. Thus, attempts to pass a restrictive CSO law mark a multi-pronged administrative assault on South Sudan's CSOs.
South Sudan Misses UN Human Rights Council Seat (November 2013)
As the UN General Assembly elected 14 new members to the 47-seat Geneva-based council, which can shine a spotlight on rights abuses by adopting resolutions when it chooses to do so, South Sudan has lost its chance to sit on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. A group of South Sudanese and international human rights groups urged South Sudan's leadership to its improve Human Rights record. A range of human rights violations have taken place in South Sudan since its independence in 2011, including killings of civilians by security forces and unlawful arrests, the groups said. The groups demanded that South Sudan should ensure that the national Human Rights Commission is fully funded and operational and should sign and ratify core international human rights treaties and conventions, and cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council, including by inviting UN human rights experts to visit the country.
S. Sudan law body condemns threats against Amum’s lawyers (August 2013)
The South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) has strongly condemned threats against lawyers representing the ruling party (SPLM) Secretary General, Pagan Amum after he challenged President Salva Kiir decision to suspend him pending investigation into some of his actions. SSLS said, "We call for the government to conduct an immediate investigation to determine the source of the threats and to take the necessary actions to protect the advocates as they carry out their professional duties.” Samuel Dong Luak, one of the lawyers involved told Sudan Tribune Wednesday that indeed his life was in danger over the former SPLM secretary general’s case. “My brother, I had to flee the country for my dear life after I was threatened,” Luak said from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Cabinet To Regulate State NGOs (July 2013)
The Central Equatoria State (CES) Minister of Information Hon. Jacob Aligo Lo Ladu said the cabinet has resolved that all NGOs should work with line Ministries. “Before undertaking any project implementation it is better if such organization enter into a memorandum of understanding with the line ministry before implementing any project to avoid duplication of roles,” Aligo told the press. Earlier on the CES government had taken measures to streamline activities of the NGOs. However, the policy has remained mainly in the books and is not yet being realized.