For defending the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association

March 1st, 2010 by Editor

The Egyptian coalition  for the integrity of civil society calls for passing democratic laws and applying  governance

   At the end of a seminar entitled” The Egyptian coalition for the integrity of civil society … Challenges and hopes” which was held by EOHR in cooperation with the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation on Sunday, 28.2.2010 at EOHR’s office, members of the Egyptian coalition for the integrity of civil society unanimously agreed on the importance of reforming the legislative structure which organizes the work of civil society organizations through enacting alternative laws compatible with international standards of human rights, particularly on the right to assembly and association and to convey  the experience of the coalition to the members of  political parties, trade unions and NGOs in the different Egyptian governorates through organizing training courses on the principles of code of conduct (codes of ethics or rules of democracy)and to approve them as part of interior system of civil society organizations. They call all governmental bodies and members of the parliament to cooperate with the coalition to facilitate its tasks.

For his part, Mr. Hafez Abu Seada, chairman of EOHR and the General Coordinator of the Egyptian  coalition, confirmed that the biggest challenge facing the work of civil society organizations  is represented in the restricted law No. 84 of 2002,   the Political Parties Law No. 40 of 1977  amended by law No. 171 of  2005, trade unions law No. 35 of 1976 amended by law No. 1 of 1981, 12 of 1995. He pointed out that the coalition will engage in the next stage to develop specific proposals to amend such laws as a first step to reach new laws consistent with international standards of human rights, particularly on the right to assembly and association  and to submit these laws to People’s Assembly and Shura Council and discuss them with representative of civil society organizations in the governorates through holding seminars and workshops.

Abu Seada added that the freedom of civil society organizations  in Egypt will not be achieved without overcoming all obstacles and legal, administrative and financial restrictions in order to ensure first: their  proper democratic practice, secondly: to activate the  role of these institutions in the promotion and dissemination of the  culture of human rights and democracy inside the society  as  these  institutions are considered a mediator  between rulers and nations. This will be achieved through reforming the environment surrounding the work of these institutions as a main condition for democratic reform, also to recognize practically the values of human rights in legislations and to increase the role of civil society in the decision making process and the establishment of a partnership between civil society and the State   not a relationship of dependency, leading to a strong civil society able to  contribute to promote the values of democracy and human rights.

Abu Seada stresses on the importance of the idea of spreading awareness among civil society organizations   in the North and South governorates of Egypt  with  the concept of good governance, goals and standards, and to establish  principles or standards of good governance within these institutions, these standards  are represented  in practicing democracy, periodic elections, accountability, transparency and integrity, in other words, to set  or draw  a professional frame  for the work of those institutions, so that they enjoy with good management not just like structures which are not governed by  rules and principles for action.

In the session entitled” Declaration of the bases  of the democratic exercise of political parties and political forces …. The challenges and hopes” Mr. Essam Shiha, member of the supreme council of Al Wafd party, confirmed that the political parties play a main role in the political life in Egypt, article 5 of the constitution provided that the political system is pluralistic system based on the freedom of the establishment of political parties, however the political parties face several obstacles and restrictions. Shiha  called for the establishment of political parties through notification and the abolishment of emergency law which restricts several public freedoms calling at the same time to amend the legislative framework governing the political parties and the electoral system as a whole, and to amend Article 76 of the Constitution and encourage internal dialogues, particularly on the file of women.

Mr. Mohamed Farag, assistant Secretary General of Al Tagamou party, confirmed that the weakness of Egyptian political parties is a result from the legislative frame which organizes the right to form parties, political parties law No. 40 of 1977 and its amendments makes the establishment of parties contingent upon the approval of the parties affairs committee, despite the fact that the constitution is more pluralistic rather than restrictive.

To put in action the code of conduct, Farag called for educating members and leaders of political parties in the governorates with the importance of interior democracy and its rules and allow parties to receive funds and to set projects that fund parties and peacefully exchange the power.

In the second session entitled” Conduct rules for trade unions…. Challenges and hopes, Mr. Said Al Sabagh, Secretary General of pensioners  federation, confirmed that union organization has gone through several stages, but in fact there are some periods  that the history pauses to search and check the status of trade unions  movement in Egypt due to the bad circumstances which Egyptians face as a result of failure policies seek to fulfill private gains for the system and the group of stakeholders.

Al Sabagh criticized  the unified labor law pointing out that the government wanted to put it into force since 1990s so it deliberately undermined and dismantled the infrastructure of workers through undermining union committees through controlling the general unions, the General Federation of workers and the abolish of union supervision over elections, so the labor law of 2003 came to restrict the public freedoms and workers’ rights and their interests  and aligned  for employers  at the expense of workers, besides restricting the right of workers to strike and demonstrate except after the approval of two thirds of the public union which includes the side of strike.

Al Sabagh called upon a dialogue between national forces and workers in order to determine the priorities of their demands  and pressure methods which enable them to fulfill their needs and to draft a collective document confirms the right of workers in union plurality and to prepare a study of legal procedures to create the independent union.

Mr. Seif Hanafi, Secretary- Labor of Nasserist party, stressed on the presence of insurance coverage for workers and to focus on the preparation of a bill replacing  Law No. 35 of 1976, amended by law No. 1 of  1981 and law No. 12 of  1995 to comply with international standards and protecting the rights of Egyptian workers and union movement. He called for forming an independent union for preparing this bill.

Mr. Sherif  El Helaly, director of Arab institute for supporting civil society, declared in the final session entitled” Code of conduct for NGOs …. Challenges and hopes”  that the legal, administrative and financial restrictions which face NGOs are represented in Law No. 84 of 2002. El Helaly called for the necessary of establishing civil society organizations through the free will of founders in a full independency away from state control and to strengthen the role of civil society organizations, besides the promotion for good governance and democracy.

For his part, Mr. Farid Zahran, director of Al Mahrosa center, confirmed that there is no  clear features  for Egyptian civil society, there are religious associations like “Islamic Charitable association” and “Al Tawfeek Coptic association”, pointing out that there is a recent  sector appeared in the recent period: human rights associations and other associations work under  the government control and being manipulated in some issues like elections . He called for developing NGOs and activating the status of civil society organizations through enacting democratic laws.    

It is worth noting that the Egyptian coalition  for the integrity of civil society which was established in November 2009 with 40 representatives of political parties, trade unions and NGOs. The coalitions’ members approved  a set of principles, codes of conduct (codes of ethics or rules of democracy) for the work of civil society institutions.  A leading committee for the coalition was established and EOHR was chosen as a general coordinator for the Egyptian coalition.


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