CAIRO: The United States has cut from its budget $10 million in the aid it grants directly to Egyptian NGOs not officially registered with the Egyptian government, the America in Arabic news agency reported.
The news agency attributed the news to a report released by the Project on Middle East Democracy group, which claims that the cut came after demands from the Egyptian government.
The cuts were actually made in the 2009 federal budget and remained for the 2010 budget.
More recently, USAID in Egypt announced that NGOs registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity were eligible to apply for funding under their Annual Program Statement for 2009.
The Project on Middle East Democracy report, entitled “The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010, Democracy, Governance and Human Rights in the Middle East and authored by Stephen McInerney, stated that the US government conceded to “Egyptian government demands that the US no longer provide bilateral assistance funds directly to civil society organizations that are not officially registered as NGOs with the Egyptian government.
“In recent years, approximately $10 million of the annual bilateral funding for civil society groups in Egypt had been granted to unregistered groups, the report continued, “When the portion of US bilateral assistance aid for Egypt designated for civil society groups was cut from nearly $32 million to merely $7 million in March 2009, the $10 million that had gone to unregistered groups was eliminated entirely.
In a statement to Daily News Egypt, US Embassy spokesperson Margaret White said, “The United States is committed to the promotion of democracy and human rights and the development of civil society in Egypt. That commitment remains even in light of the recent reduction in the level of Economic Support Funds (ESF) for the bilateral program from $415 million to $200 million for fiscal year 2009.
“Some program funding for Egyptian civil society organizations and US-based NGOs will shift from the bilateral ESF program to other funding sources, including the Middle East Partnership Initiative and funds administered by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, she added.
Aziza Yousef, an official from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that it is imperative that funds only go through NGOs registered with the ministry to ensure that they are spent “in the proper avenues that serve society.
Yousef said negotiations between Egypt and the US had produced “positive results a while ago when the US Ambassador [Margaret Scobey] announced her country’s acquiescence to these demands.
The report outlined that “many Egyptian civil society groups, fearing heavy-handed interference by the government in their affairs, choose not to register as an NGO, but instead register as a civil corporation, opting to forfeit tax-exempt status in order to be freer of governmental regulation and interference.”
Head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Hafez Abu Saeda told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the non-registered NGOs would receive the funds via direct checks from either the US Embassy or USAID in Egypt.
White said, “Recently, USAID issued an Annual Program Statement (APS) for 2009 to support civil society activities. This Annual Program Statement sets out the types of organizations that can apply for funding, the application procedure, and the criteria that USAID will use to evaluate applications.
Egyptian non-governmental organizations registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity are eligible to submit applications under the USAID 2009 APS.
“In designing the 2009 APS, USAID incorporated lessons learned from its prior experience working with civil society in Egypt, and we expect that any grants that are awarded under the APS will build on civil society experience to date, meet a specific need, and complement other activities, White added.