Egypt Must Not Hold Its NGOs Hostage

In his three decades of leading Egypt, Hosni Mubarak never understood civil society or the need to have civil organizations outside the authority of the government.

That ignorance of the role of civil society ultimately undid him, as the organizational ability of women’s groups, students and scholars, journalists, lawyers and other professionals played an essential role in running him from power a year ago this weekend.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Mubarak cronies and old generals who remain in power share the same contempt for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) evidenced by the announcement last week that they were referring 43 people, including several Americans, for investigation of violating rules governing NGOs operation and funding.


Uncertain Future for Zambian NGO's

President Ruplah Banda signed new legislation today regulating the activities of all Zambian NGO’s.  This is the Zambian government’s second attempt to pass such legislation after the first was withdrawn in 2007 following widespread protests. Coming on the heels of the arrest and trial of The Post editor Chansa Kabwela, the NGO bill is seen as yet another mechanism to suppress government critics.

NGOs are now required to register with the government every five years, reporting on organizational funding, activities and the personal holdings of their officials.  A newly established authorizing board will be responsible for instituting a “code of conduct” to ensure that all NGO activities are in accordance with Zambia’s national development plan.  Non compliance can result in cancellation or suspension of registration.

The five-year registration period will potentially foster instability among NGOs with ongoing projects as well as discourage outside donors who may not want the hassle of obtaining and renewing a license.  Further, competent professionals may be driven away from working in a sector that requires them to reveal their personal assets to a board of government officials. The impact of this provision on international NGOs as well as domestic NGOs is unclear.

This legislation may take up to a few weeks to go into effect as it must be gazetted before it comes into force.  In the meantime, a peaceful demonstration by civil society members is set for September 4th and the possibility of filing an injunction in the courts is being considered.

Written by Jamie Skaluba, Zambia Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA

(Trying to) block out the world

On Thursday, March 12th, Amnesty USA posted a new web action aimed at getting Sudan to reinstate the operations of 13 international humanitarian aid agencies that were kicked out of Sudan and 3 domestic agencies that were shut down after the International Criminal cort issued an arrst warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.  The action targets the UN Missions of the African Union and League of Arab States and the Sudanese Embassy in the U.S.  

On Friday, calls from activists started pouring in, all with the same complaint: their emails to all three targets were being returned as “undeliverable”.   It would seem that facing a deluge of emails, the targets blocked their accounts from receiving incoming messages. So, now, Amnesty is asking activists to fax messages to these three targets urging them to persuade Sudan to rescind its orders.

The very people who ought to be looking out for the victims of the conflict in Darfur are trying to block words from reaching them that urge the continuance of life-saving support for millions of vulnerable men, women, and children.  Just as Sudan would pull the plug on this life-support system, people who could persuade Sudanese authorities to reinstate these 16 key aid groups are plugging their ears to the world’s outrage and urgent plea for help.