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New PA law gives it “control of all the non-governmental organizations,” warns rights group

Headline: “Adalah – the [PA] government is deciding to take control of the money and activities of the non-governmental organizations”

“The Palestinian Coalition for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Adalah) [parentheses in source] said in a statement today [March 3, 2021] that the amendments to the Law of Philanthropic Associations No. 1 of 2000 – which were issued as part of a new decision with legal validity – constitute a declared decision on the [PA] government taking control of all the philanthropic associations and non-governmental organizations, including their property, their budget, and their activities, and they also threaten independent civil and social activity in Palestine.

It added: ‘The philanthropic associations and non-governmental organizations are being required now, in accordance with the new amendments, to be completely coordinated with the plans of the governmental ministries. In other words, it is demanded of them that they relinquish their goals and plans, and turn into appendices of the various governmental ministries.’ The Adalah coalition said that the goal of the new amendments to the law of associations is:

A. To subordinate these associations to the will of the senior officials.

B. For organizations that do not submit – to put an end to their activity and close them in accordance with this decision with legal validity, and thus to tighten the executive branch’s control over all aspects of Palestinian society. This is part of an ongoing tendency to cancel every civil and democratic expression in Palestinian society, and to impose a blockade on every active social and civil force that is liable to criticize the directions, policy, and actions of the PA…

The coalition noted that a number of the clauses clearly indicate this desire. Clause 13 of the original law was amended by adding the following new text: ‘The association or organization will submit to the relevant ministry an annual work plan and estimated budget for the new fiscal year, which will be consistent with the plan of the relevant ministry.’ The coalition thinks that the meaning of this amendment is that no association or organization will be able to engage in any kind of activity that opposes the direction of the governmental ministries, or in other words – the silencing of every voice that criticizes the functioning of the various governmental bodies

Clause 30 of the original law was changed by adding a limiting clause, which constitutes an opening for ending the work of most of the philanthropic associations and non-governmental organizations. According to the new amendment, ‘The employees’ salaries and the operating expenses of the association or organization must not exceed 25% of the total annual budget.’ Beyond the mistake of unifying [the clause on] the associations and organizations’ operating expenses with the clause on the employees’ salaries, this amendment indicates a deliberate ignoring of the nature of the activity of many non-governmental organizations! Is it conceivable that such a clause would be implemented regarding research institutes, human rights organizations, cultural institutions, and institutions that provide services of psychological and social aid?

To clarify this amendment, one can see that according to the 2018 PA budget, the sum of all the salaries and operating expenses of the various PA institutions was more than 60% of the total budget, with 48% of it being salaries and wages. Will the PA obligate itself to the same criteria of expenses like the philanthropic associations and non-governmental organizations?

The coalition emphasized that the amendments to clause 39 of the original law, according to which the property and money of an association will be transferred to the public coffers of the State of Palestine as the first one who profits from the dismantling of the association, will whet the appetite for taking control of the property of the associations and non-governmental organizations: equipment, buildings, hospitals, clubs, and even revenue yielding projects that belong to them.

The coalition noted that through the demand to receive approval in advance for receiving donations to the non-governmental organizations, the executive branch is giving itself the right to reject any activity or campaign that is not consistent with the PA’s agenda

The Adalah coalition emphasized that the decision to amend the law of associations must be canceled. It also emphasized that the flood of decisions with legal validity must be put to an end, especially in light of the talk of elections for the [PA] Parliament (Legislative Council) and [PA] presidency, which are supposed to be held in an environment that is consistent with freedom and democracy.”

[Ma’an, independent Palestinian news agency, March 3, 2021]

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