Kurdistan Parliament approves new NGO law

Published: April 6, 2011

The Law on Non-Governmental Organizations in the Kurdistan Region was approved by the Parliament of Kurdistan on April 6, 2011 and sent to the President of the Kurdistan Region for his signature and ratification.

This is a significant milestone for Kurdish and Iraqi civil society which lays the groundwork for a new era in civil society / government relations in Kurdistan. Among other significant changes, the new Law on Non-Governmental Organizations in the Kurdistan Region:

  • Substantially improves and simplifies the process of registering an NGO. Responding to one of the key demands of Kurdish civil society, registration authority has been moved from the Ministry of the Interior to an independent NGOs Directorate under the authority of the Council of Ministers. In addition, a dated receipt must be provided to applicants at the time that a registration application is submitted, and if no decision is made within 30 days then the registration application is considered approved under the law.
  • Creates the conditions for NGO financial sustainability. Kurdish NGOs are allowed to obtain financial resources from a wide range of sources, including grants, economic activities, and foreign and domestic fundraising.
  • Removes all restrictions on the associational rights of foreign residents in Kurdistan. Foreign residents have the right to form and join Kurdish NGOs and serve on their Board of Directors. This is a significant improvement upon past practice as well as the recently passed federal Law on Non-Governmental Organizations (Law 12 of 2010), which imposes some limitations on the associational rights of foreign nationals.
  • Removes all criminal penalties. Kurdish NGOs are subject to administrative penalties and fines for violations of the NGO law, and disproportionate criminal penalties and prison sentences for individuals associated with NGOs have been removed.
  • Adds greater transparency to government funding of NGOs. In a significant departure from past practice, all Kurdistan Regional Government funding to Kurdish NGOs is required to be awarded in a competitive and transparent process.

ICNL congratulates all stakeholders for this significant achievement.

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have supported the process of developing an NGO law for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq over several years. Support rendered included the provision of expert advice and analysis of draft laws, raising awareness of international best practices in NGO regulations, and facilitation of negotiation amongst regional stakeholders on the content of the law. In 2010, UNOPS and ICNL organized two roundtable conferences which contributed to the drafting of the unified law which was submitted for vote at the Kurdistan Parliament. UNOPS and ICNL activities in Iraqi Kurdistan are made possible by funding from the US Department of State – Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the European Union, the Government of Finland, and other donors through the UNDG Iraq Trust Fund.