On July 15, 2019, Egypt’s Parliament approved a new draft law on civil society organizations (CSOs). (The draft law is available here in English and Arabic.) If ratified by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the draft law will replace Egypt’s current, draconian CSO law, Law 70 of 2017 on Associations and Other Foundations Working in the Area of Civil Work.
The draft law presents a few noteworthy improvements from Law 70. It eliminates individual prison sentences for violations and does away with powerful new regulatory agency—to be staffed by government officials including security and intelligence authorities—that Law 70 would have created to oversee foreign funding and foreign organizations. The draft law also includes numerous provisions to encourage volunteerism and specifically addresses the ability of individuals to carry out civil campaigns outside the purview of registered CSOs.
Nonetheless, and while described by the government as an “entirely new law,” the draft law does not represent a significant change from Law 70. It preserves Law 70’s overall regulatory approach, characterized by excessive government control of civil society, and imposes significant hurdles to organizations’ formation, activities, and access to domestic and foreign resources. Nor does the draft law—as the government claims—align with international standards for the protection of freedom of association. If adopted in its current form, the draft law will prevent the realization of a vibrant, independent, and sustainable civil society sector that can support the development and democratization of Egypt.