UPCOMING COUNTRY ASSESSMENTS
Detailed calendar of upcoming assessments for countries
MONITORING/REPORTING CIVIL SOCIETY REGULATION:
RECENT BILLS/LAWS IMPACTING CIVIL SOCIETY SPACE
Angola: Presidential decree on non governmental organisations (NGOs) to further close down civil society space – registering, reporting, operating to become onerous. Read here for an analysis by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) on this decree.
Bolivia: Controversial law adopted in 2013 on ‘legal personality’ stipulating that statutes of NGOs and foundations with activities in more than one department must declare their contribution to ‘economic and social development’. This has recently been challenged as contravening the international right to freedom of association. See here for more.
Brazil: Lawmakers in Brazil have approved (February 2016) a controversial anti-terror bill. The fear of many social activists and rights groups is that the definition of ‘terrorism’ in the law is overly broad and might result in its potential misuse. Brazil has recently come under increased pressure from the FATF in what the FATF sees as Brazil’s continued failure to criminalise terrorism financing. See more here, here and here.
Cambodia: The Cambodian assembly passed an NGO law despite widespread protest in July 2015. The law ‘would force all non-government groups to register with the state and gives ministries the power to shut down organizations on vague grounds’. Read more here.
China: The Chinese legislature will consider the Overseas NGO Management Law this year (2015), which, among other provisions, moves management and control of overseas NGOs and foundations to the Chinese public security apparatus, includes restrictions on fundraising, requires the establishing of multiple representative offices in China, and entails a cumbersome registration process to gain legal recognition from the central government. Public consultation comments were due to the government by June 4th. See here for more.
Egypt: President Sisi issued sweeping counter-terrorism legislation in February 2015 that could be used to penalise civil society organisations for legitimate, peaceful activities. Under the new law, ‘terrorist entities’ could include ‘any association, organization, group or gang’ attempting to ‘destabilize the public order; endanger the wellbeing or safety of society;… endanger social unity;… obstruct the work of public authorities, the judiciary, government entities, or local municipalities;… block public or private transportation, or roads; harm national unity or threaten national peace; or obstruct the implementation of the constitution or laws or bylaws…’. NGO law (law number 84) in Egypt is also highly restrictive, and entails constraints on funding, enables government interference in NGO activities, and makes them vulnerable to harsh penalties. Read here for an article (March 2016) on the ongoing crackdown on civil society organisations promoting democracy and human rights.
European Union: Company owners to be listed in central registers and new rules introduced for tracing fund transfers, deems the new anti-money laundering directive aiming to step up the fight against tax crimes and terrorist financing. See more here.
India: India cancellled the licenses of nearly 9000 NGOs in May 2015 over foreign-funding regulations. In response, civil society organisations have written this open letter to Prime Minister Modi expressing their deep concern at the labelling and targetting of the non profit sector. See more here. Additionally, there are claims that the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) of 1976 is being systematically used to silence dissent. Currently, the only recourse an organisation has on losing its FCRA license is the judiciary, which has so far handed down favourable verdicts to those organisations that have had their registrations suspended and accounts frozen by the Minsitry of Home Affairs. See here and here for more.
A paper by the Institute of Rural management Anand (IRMA) on the challenges facing this sector is here.
Israel: The Israëli Knesset is attempting to redefine terrorism with likely far-reaching impact on non profits. Read more here. Additionally, on 27th December 2015, a proposed government bill regarding ‘transparency’ of NGOs passed the Ministerial Committee of the Knesset, thereby coming one step closer to being approved as law. According to information from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI):
The proposed bill seeks to impose a series of requirements on those NPOs who get a majority of their funding (apparently 51% or more, but this is not defined in the proposal) from “foreign government entities,” as defined by the Non-Profit Organizations Law (meaning foreign countries, the European Union, the UN etc.), including, among others:
- Disclosing the names of these foreign entities in all publications/visula media intended for the public or available to the public
- Considering the representatives of organisations to which the law applies as lobbyists of the foreign entities, and requiring them to wear a special identification tag denoting this.
Kenya: A taskforce set up to gather views on suggested amendments to a law governing NGOs could recommended a ban on those that advance gay rights. ‘We recommend that the national interests and security be addressed during registration and post-registration of public benefits organisations. Further, they must uphold the security, cultural and religious values of Kenyans’, the taskforce said. See more here.
Additionally, the Mombassa High Court has barred the government from declaring two human rights organisations as terrorist entities in what is being seen as a partial victory for justice over politically motivated intimidation and harassment of civil society.
Malawi: Onerous registration process for NGOs highlighted here.
Namibia: The cabinet has approved a plan (August 2015) to tighten laws relating to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. Read more here.
Pakistan: The federal government finalised (May 2015) a revised draft law in line with the National Action Plan (NAP) to monitor activities and foreign funding of local and international NGOs. Under the draft law, international NGOs will be required to register with the Economic Affairs Division and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) valid for up to five years. A central data system would be set up to enable NGOs to post their annual financial, performance and audit reports.The draft also proposes that local and international NGOs spend 80 per cent of foreign contributions on welfare work and only 20 per cent on salaries, allowances, etc. See here for more. The government claims it cannot account for 65 per cent of all foreign funding to NPOs due to a lack of the appropriate regulatory and legislative processes for NPOs. See here.
Russia: President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill allowing authorities to prosecute foreign NGOs or firms designated as ‘undesirable’ on national security grounds. NGOs linked to politics in Russia already face restrictions under a 2012 law requiring them to register as ‘foreign agents’.
South Sudan: The parliament passed a bill in May 2015 regulating the activities of NGOs. Some of the most contentious provisions include (as mentioned here):
– NGOs to be forced to employ 80 percent local staff – this in a country with more than 70 percent adult illiteracy.
– NGOs to register and sign individual ‘country agreements’ with the government.
– Only South Sudanese banks to be used despite suspicions of graft in the financial sector.
– The coverage under the bill of not only humanitarian groups, but also civil society organisations that work in advocacy and human rights. Many fear this clause could be used to stifle dissenting voices.
– The banning of the formation of forums for international NGOs.
United Kingdom: The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 28 May 2015. The bill would protect charities from people who present a risk of abuse, and give the Charity Commission for England and Wales new and tougher powers to tackle serious abuse of charities. The bill would also give charities a new legal power to invest their funds in a way that provides a financial return and furthers the charity’s aims.
Vietnam: The Vietnamese Ministry of Home Affairs released its draft Law on Associations in June 2015, which would regulate Vietnam’s domestic civil society sector. The draft is available in Vietnamese here, and we expect that an English translation will be forthcoming shortly in Hanoi. The Vietnamese National Assembly is scheduled to take up discussion of the Law on Associations in 2016.