Civil society organizations in Egypt are struggling to work, and sometimes even survive, as the government begins to cut off the foreign funding they rely on.
Employees of nongovernmental organizations say the government is refusing to approve most of the outside grants they receive to run programs in Egypt, forcing some to lay off staff or cut salaries, and keeping them from the work they were founded to do.
Many say the situation is worse now, under President Mohamed Morsi, than it was under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, whose regime was notoriously hostile to civil society.
“It's worse, and it gets worse and worse and worse,” says Magdy Abdel Hamid, head of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation and Enhancement (EACPE.) “Under Mubarak there were problems, and sometimes they refused [to approve foreign-funded grants], but in general, under the Mubarak regime we were in better condition.”
Since a military junta took power when Mubarak stepped down, the government hasn't allowed his organization to receive a single grant, Mr. Hamid says. He thought that might change when the junta relinquished power, but the Morsi government has continued to refuse grants; The government refused to allow EACPE to receive one grant it received from a Swedish organization, and has not approved others.
“We don't submit any new requests because we know what the answer will be,” Hamid says.
Foreign funds make up most of the budget of many civil society organizations here because there's little money to go around locally. Under the law governing such organizations, any grants from foreign organizations to run projects in Egypt must receive approval from the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs before they can be disbursed.(...)
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) recently laid off more than half its staff because of the lack of funding, says Hafez Abu Saeda, EOHR chief. Under Mubarak, the organization only had one project rejected in its 28 years of existence, he says, while the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs has rejected three of its grants in the past six months. They included projects to train young people on how to protect human rights and encourage political participation and to monitor freedom of expression in Egypt.(...)
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