Public Hearing on NGO Bill Set; What You Need To Know

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On 22nd of June 2015, the Parliament of Uganda published an announcement dated 19th June 2015 in the New Vision newspaper inviting members of the public to a public hearing on the NGO Bill, 2015 starting at 10:00am. The purpose of the hearing is to allow people to share their opinions and input to the Parliamentary Committee of Defense and Internal Affairs as it considers the Bill.

During the last few few, the committee has been meeting members of the NGO Board and Internal Affairs ministry to discuss the same Bill.

Since the Bill was published in the National Gazette, Chapter Four Uganda has been facilitating several public discussions on the same NGO Bill at various organisations and forums to promote awareness of the troubling provisions and the official position of the CSO Position Paper on the Bill as developed by a group of CSOs under the auspices of the National NGO Forum.

On 10th of April 2015, the government of the Republic of Uganda placed the Non-Governmental (NGO) Bill in the Uganda Gazette. This signified the official proclamation of the government's position on the regulation of NGO activity in Uganda. The Bill, which is intended to replace the current NGO Registration Act, primarily seeks to provide a conducive and enabling environment for the NGO sector.

Indeed, a progressive legal regime that regulates operations of NGOs is necessary; and the NGO Bill largely addresses critical concerns for the NGO sector. Specifically, the NGO Bill establishes a full-fledged institution of the National Board for NGOs (herein after referred to as the Board). providing for its financial security by anchoring it in the Parliament and compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.

The Bill, further establishes a level of clarity as regards the registration and incorporation of NGOs, laying out the process, documentation and considerations the Board is required to take in appraising the applications of the NGOs.

Despite the notable strides observed above, the NGO Bill is majorly problematic; and is littered with several troubling provisions that follow the global trend of regressive legislation towards NGO activity and general civic space. Critically, the impending NGO legisltaion would join and be a pivotal part of the recent illegitimate laws coerced through parliament normally through bribery, intimidation and blackmail. These include, the Public Order Management Act (POMA) - 2013, the annulled Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) - 2014, and the recently passed Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which legislations potentially create difficulty for the effective democratic engagement in the country.

The government has created a clear systemic architecture for repression.

This negative tenor of the Bill is anchored in a perceivable mistrust by the government towards the activities of NGOs. Specifically, the Memorandum to the NGO Bill states that, "It has however been noted that the rapid growth of Non-Governmental Organisations has led to subversive methods of work and activities, which in turn undermine accountability and transperancy in the sector..." The clear suspicion towards NGO activity displayed herein, accounts for the thrust and ethos of the proposed NGO law.

The proposed NGO legislation raises concern particularly with regard to the rights to freedom of association and expression. It further raises issues on matters of criminality and the principle of legality, which require urgent scrutiny and consideration. Critically, it engages the important matter of regulation versus control; with these legislative efforts clearly indicating a thrust for the control of NGOs and civic activities, disguised as the regulation of the same.

In addition to the CSO Position Paper and other analysis already provided, Chapter Four Uganda has put together a detailed analysis highlighting the major human rights and constitutional infractions caused by the Bill. The anlaysis further provides clear adverse legal implications of the impeding legislation. The appraisal of the Bill is based on international human rights standards as adopted by Chapter Four of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995.

Download full analysis of the human rights and constitutional infractions caused by the Bill

More about the NGO Bill: Find 10 links to useful sites and PDF downloads on the NGO Bill, 2015