A simplified guide to the NGO Act, 2016

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Governments in Africa have over the past years moved to regulate Civil Society Organizations. The regulations provide for a wide number of controls and obligations that CSOs have to meet if they are to operate in a country. In Uganda, there are a number of regulations under different laws such as the NGO Act, 2016, the Companies Act, Trustee Incorporation Act etc. 

The NGO Act, 2016 came into force in March 2016 and places a number of obligations on NGOs working in Uganda. The law applies to a host of NGOs including local or indigenous NGOs, foreign NGOs, CBOs, Trustees and Companies whose work or focus is on providing voluntary not-for-profit services to the community. The Act has been criticized for putting in place too many conditions for NGOs and these may curtail their operation and limit access to services by members of the community. 

Several CSOs operating in Uganda do not know the legal obligations placed by this law and other laws governing the environment in which they operate. Many have not engaged lawyers to help them through the legal obligations that they are expected to meet. On the other hand, a number of CSOs in Uganda have faced legal and regulatory sanction because of non-compliance. This presents a challenge for the continued operation of CSOs in Uganda. CSOs and their leaders need to be conversant with the laws that govern the sector to be able to meet requirements of the laws and be able to engage with those in charge of regulating the sector and avoid being in conflict with the law. 

Chapter Four Uganda has developed a simplified guide (download) highlighting key issues in the NGO Act, 2016. It is hoped that the guide can help give a basic understanding of the requirements in the NGO Act. The easy to read, question and answer format was adopted to help the reader understand the key issues in an easy and simplified manner. It should be noted that the guide is not a law but rather a simplification of parts of the law highlighting the frequently asked questions. A user will need to read the actual law to get more details. 

It should also be noted that the booklet does not cover administrative aspects of the law that focuses on the NGO Bureau and its management. CSOs or their leaders need to look at other laws governing their specific sectors such as the Companies Act, the Trustees Incorporation Act to meet obligations set out under those laws as well. 

It is our hope and belief that CSOs operating in Uganda will find the publication useful and that it can help guide them through the key requirements under the NGO Act.