Economics of Non-Profit Accounting

Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 5, Issue 1, September 2002


The Founding Conference of the Arab Network for NGO’s took place in Beirut on April 23-26, 2002.  The gender-balanced participation of over 1000 Arab civil society organizations, represented every member of the Arab League from Mauritania to Oman.  Many studies presented at the conference which included: “The Needs Assessment Survey for Arab NGOs” by Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Oda and the launch of the “First Annual Report about the Status of Arab NGOs.”  The First Annual Report about the Status of Arab NGOs is the result of a collaborative, entirely voluntary effort of a team of 14 researchers from12 Arab League countries.  These and other reports constitute an extremely valuable body of knowledge in a region where systemic study of Third Sector issues is taking off.

The main aims of the April meeting were to i) formalize the establishment of the Arab Network; ii) approve the By-laws and its executive regulations; iii) elect a new Board of Trustees; iv) discuss the Plan of Action for the next five years; v) present and discuss the Progress Report of the Arab Network of NGOs from 1997-2002.  The conference was organized around three main axes:  1) The Role of General Policies and Legislation in Promoting Voluntary Action; 2)Promoting the Role of Arab NGOs in Human Sustainable Development; and 3) Strengthening the Capacity-Building Potential of Arab NGOs.

Legislation governing NGOs in many countries in the region dates back to the Ottoman Empire.  But with most NGOs being independently funded and working in developmental areas and often with strong human rights and advocacy dimensions, there is clearly a need to develop more contemporary legislative guidelines.  A further challenge is that of managing the shift to a rights-based developmental approach, while at the same time ensuring space for philanthropic religious-based organizations and those with a more welfare-based orientation.  Interestingly the optimal use of information and communication technology was highlighted both as a means of facilitating links within the region and for bridging to the outside world.

The inspiring meeting clearly set a firm foundation for the future work of the Arab Network of NGOs.  Many of the issues facing NGOs in the Arab region find their echo in other regions indicating the value of increased networking between regions.   EAR

This report is drawn from a longer report by Dorothee Gordon, a member of the ISTR Board of Directors, found in the “Inside ISTR” Newsletter, April-June 2002 edition.  Volume 10/Number 2.  “Inside ISTR” is published by the International Society for Third-Section Research (ISTR): 559 Wyman Park Building; 3400 North Charles Street; Baltimore, Maryland; 21218-2688 USA.