Government and Society School

Role of Non-Governmental Orginisation in the time of revolution in Egypt

Professorial Dissertation, 2011

62 Pages, Grade: merit





1. Chapter One: Introduction
Rational of the study
Question of the study
Objective of the study
Limitations of the study
Structure of the study

2. Chapter Two: Literature Review
Definition of CS and NGOs
Roles of CSOs and NGOs
NGOs and political change
NGOs and democracy
Limitation of the political role of NGOs
Election and protest and NGOs

3. Chapter Three: Methodology
The research design
Key informants interviews
NGOs interviews
Beneficiaries interviews
Limitation of the study
Ethical implication

4. Chapter Four: country profile
Why Egypt?
Information about Egypt
Civil society in Egypt
The road to 2011 revolution

5. Chapter Five: Analysis and Discussion
Analysis of research study
Role of the NGOs before revolution
Role of the NGOs in the time of revolution
Role of the NGOs after revolution
Discussion of the study

6. Chapter Six: Conclusion and Recommendations




This research study aims to highlight the roles of NGOs as a part of civil society during the time of revolution or political changes. The study has taken the Egyptian revolution as a case study to answer the questions as to whether NGOs can play any role during the time of a revolution, and what are the NGOs’ roles are before and after a revolution. The study demonstrates the roles of NGOs in three times around a revolution: before, during and after, through interviews conducted in Egypt with different categories of respondents. This study presents the NGOs’ direct and indirect roles throughout the time prior to and during the revolution. In addition the study explains the crucial role of the NGOs after the revolution, in this case to rebuild a new Egypt and participate in strengthening the civil society of Egypt.

Keywords: Non-government organisation (NGOs), political changes, revolution, Egypt.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Chapter One: Introduction

Rationale of the study:

Civil Society Organisations (SCOs) have been recognised globally as main players in development and democracy worldwide. An active and vibrant civil society is a key element of any healthy, modern society. They play many crucial roles within their societies: they promote accountability, strengthen and empower communities, promote transparency between the state and its citizens, deliver services on behalf of the state in many countries, advocate for the most vulnerable members of society such as the poor, women, children and the disabled, the elderly and minority groups (AusAid, 2009). The role of CSOs or Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has exceeded even local and regional boundaries to reach the global level. In today’s world there are international or global movements which take part aggressively in setting the agenda of the world’s priorities (Otto, 1996 and Anheier el, 2001).

All of the social sciences are interested somewhat in understanding and analysing CSOs as a main stakeholder of any social, economic and political movements. It is worth mentioning that most, if not all, development agents, especially the United Nations Agencies, are working closely and in full partnership with local CSOs worldwide. For example, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a long history of collaboration with CSOs at the local, regional and global levels. As part of its partnership strategy, the FAO works closely with federations and associations of different stakeholders, such as women’s and youth organisations, Non-governmental organisations, societal/people movements, Labour Unions, Indigenous people associations, charitable organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations and foundations (FAO, 2011).

CSOs exist in all communities and under different names, institutions, frameworks and sizes such as youth associations, cultural and sports associations, scouts movements. The emergence of modern forms of these CSOs or NGOs has given new aspects to politics and political arenas locally and internationally. They have significantly contributed to the democratic associative movement through promoting demands that were previously silenced which have been put at the heart of political debate issues, that were previously silenced e.g. the status of women, cultural and religious specificity etc. There is extensive literature on the significance and impact of the emerging civil society in non-democratic or authoritarian contexts. The connection generally made between civil society and democracy / democratic transition suggests that this relationship is causal (Naciri, 2009).

Most literature on CSOs focuses on their roles in the process of democratisation and peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Less has been written about their roles during and immediately after revolutions and sudden change movements in nations’ lives. At some points in nations’ lives, people move suddenly against the ruling authority and the whole state, especially security forces, collapses overnight. This study explores the role that CSOs can play during such extraordinary times.

Questions of the study

This study tries to answer one main question: what are the roles that NGOs can play during political revolutions when the central government disappears suddenly? To answer that main question, other questions need to be addressed and considered as well: what is the role of NGOs in political change? What is the role of NGOs after political change?

Objectives of the study

This study is a modest attempt to add to the literature of civil society a new dimension and aspect of knowledge related to the role of that civil society in political transformation and state-building. Therefore the main objectives will be:

1. To highlight the importance of NGOs as part of civil society generally in building a healthy society.
2. To highlight the changing and dynamic role of NGOs in political life generally and during crises in particular.
3. To highlight the absolute importance of establishing clear and good relationships between the state and community groups and society associations.

Methodology of the study

This study was based on both an extensive desk-based literature review and field visit to a country where a revolution has just taken place. The literature review is conducted mainly to explore the different roles that NGOs play generally and regarding promoting and furthering democratisation in particular.

The researcher visited Egypt in August 2011 to undertake a series of interviews, and focus groups discussion. Egypt was chosen because in January 2011 Egyptian youth led an unprecedented revolution against 30-years of authoritarian regime. In the third day (28th January 2001) of the 18-day revolution, the central government and its security forces collapsed completely and disappeared. Egypt also is the country of origin of the researcher where used to work with one of the NGOs and thus had many contacts and access to respondents.

The interviews mainly targeted workers, volunteers and heads of local NGOs to discover how they responded to that unprecedented situation, the collapse and disappearance of what used to be a very strong central government. Also, many interviews were conducted with citizens (beneficiaries) to find out how they evaluated the work of NGOs during the revolution. In addition, interviews with key informants were conducted. More details about the methodology and data collection techniques will be given in the methodology chapter.

Limitations of the study:

This study is limited to local, non-aid-driven NGOs. It is also limited to Egyptian circumstances, where the data has been collected and where a revolution happened. This study is just a modest attempt to highlight some unusual roles that NGOs can play during certain unusual times. More research needs to be conducted to reach valid and general arguments.

Structure of the study

The road map for this study will be as follows: chapter one will be the introduction which will cover the questions of the study, its methodology, limitations and structure. The second chapter will be the literature review which will present the main roles of NGOs as part of

CSOs in social and political life. The third chapter will explain in detail the methodology and data collection techniques that were used. The fourth chapter will be the country profile. In this chapter, the study will highlight Egypt’s political life from the declaration of the republic in the 1950s until the 2011 revolution. This chapter will cover as well a brief introduction to CSOs in Egypt and challenges that they faced before the revolution. The fifth chapter will be devoted to data analysis. The contents of the interview, focus groups minutes and surveys will be analysed in accordance with the main aim of the study. The final chapter will be the conclusion which will include the recommendations.

Chapter two: Literature review

The aim of this chapter is to understand what CSOs and NGOs mean in the literature of social science. Also, it aims to explore the main roles of NGOs as part of CSOs generally, and their role in the process of democratization in particular.

The definition of Civil Society Organisations / NGOs

The definition of civil society itself is not an easy task as there are too many aspects and disagreements between scholars about what CSOs mean. Each defines it from different angles and from different conceptual frameworks (Allen, 1997). There is no single, static definition of civil society. The term has a long and continually evolving history. The term Civil Society is presented generally as one of three sectors in each country, along with the state and the market. Each sector is separate and independent although overlapping sometimes. However, other scholars emphasise the fuzzy borders and interrelationships between the three sectors (Edward, 2009).

Although civil society has a rich history and goes back hundreds of years ago, it is the last twenty years that have given it unprecedented importance and attention. This can be explained mainly by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. More democratic openness meant more choices for people to establish their own associations, NGOs and communities (Edward ibid). Fisher (1998) stated that the term NGO has many different meanings. NGOs can refer to all nongovernmental organisations worldwide and can include: Northern NGOs which are based in a developed country and operate internationally; International NGOs or networks which are based in three or more countries; Southern NGOs, which are located in the third world; and many other types of non-profit organisations spread throughout the world.

The difference can be a cultural one as well. While in Western Europe, for instance, it generally means non-profit organisations that are active internationally, in the transitional countries of Europe and former Soviet Union, it tends to mean all charitable and non-profit organisations. In the third world however, the term NGO generally broadly defines organisations which are involved in development. On the other hand, hospitals, charitable organisations and universities are usually called voluntary or non-profit organisations rather than NGOs, although some other observers in the third world limit the term NGO to intermediary or gross roots supported organisations. What brings all these types together is their work in development generally (Fisher ibid).

Salamon and Anheier (1995:14-15) distinguish NGOs from other forms of organisations based on seven criteria. They argue that NGOs are:

1. Formal (i.e. they have an institutional character);
2. Private (i.e. institutionally separate from government);
3. non-profit-distributing (i.e. institutionally distinct from private sector);
4. Self governing;
5. Voluntary (i.e. depend on a certain amount of voluntary effort, even if at a broad level);
6. Non-religious (i.e. non-proselytising);
7. Non political (i.e. not primarily engaged in promoting candidates for electoral office)

In reality some of the above mentioned criteria are not applicable to all CSOs or NGOs. Some of them are faith-based organisations and may promote certain political ideas or support specific candidates.

Trying to reach a simple definition, Clarke defined NGOs as “ private, non-profit, professional organisations with a distinctive legal character, concerned with public welfare goals ” (Clarke, 1998:2-3). From a legal, sociological and juridical prospective point of view, NGOs can be defined as “ formal, professionalized, independent social organizations whose primary aim is to promote common goals at the national or international level ” (Martens, 2002:282).

Salamon and Anheier (1996) cited in (Ch3 in Hossain et al., 1998) provide a list of tasks and roles NGOs perform in any society. This may include:

1. Cultural and recreational
2. Educational and research orientated
3. Health orientated
4. Social services orientated
5. Environmental
6. Developmental and orientated toward housing
7. Law, advocacy and politics orientations
8. Philanthropic intermediaries and voluntarism promotion orientations
9. International activities orientations
10. Religious
11. Business and professional associations, unions
12. (Not elsewhere classified)

Roles of CSOs and NGOs

In today’s world, millions of people are being serving by CSOs and NGOs in particular. Their job and the scope of their work and reach often eclipse both the private and public sectors. They are able to move quickly and reach people wherever they are. The rise of NGOs in the Third World has coincided with an increasing inability of the nation-state to fulfil its basic tasks. The number of CSOs has grown significantly since the 1960s owing to the availability of funding from external donors from one side, and due to the increase of educated young professionals who benefited from the widespread governmental investment in education (Fisher op.cit). This has resulted in huge number of CSOs in the Third World. Directly after the end of the Cold War, in 1992, the number of such organisations reached at least 50,000 active organisations. Today the number must be much higher than that (UNDP, 1993).

NGOs and political change

In the last few years there has been an increase in the number of NGOs which play crucial and differing roles in society. For example as they help to organise and mobilise disadvantaged communities, they play a crucial role in elevating social levels. They also advocate democracy by playing vital roles in helping to form political opinions via their influence on trade unions as well as their effect on media. The combination of NGOs evidently strengthens civil society as it not only advocates but also supports the reform of the state (Clarke, 1998a).

NGOs play a key role in establishing democracy and state sovereignty on both social and political levels (Wiktorowicz, 2002). They can participate in different ways. For example, an empowering NGO supplements political parties as mechanisms through which citizens define and articulate their interests, meet local needs, and make demands on government. It is not rare for there to be a member in parliament lobbying for their interests. An Educative NGO provides training grounds for democratic citizenship, develops the political skills of the members, recruits new leaders, stimulates political participation, and educates the broader public on a wide variety of public interest issues (Dicklitch, 1995). A very similar role is performed by advocacy NGOs which advocate political involvement and participation, in order to articulate and channel the public’s interests, rights and needs (Korten, 1990).

There has been speculation about how political NGOs are? However before this is defined it is important to define what these political factors relate to. Opinions have been put forward about this: firstly, it can relate to decision making based on the allocation of resources, or it can relate to an ideology in terms of the culture or identity of an individual. Whichever definition is utilised, the latter draws a collection of individuals i.e. through gender, race, ethnic groups or social construct, and they have their unique voice when they participate in struggles for resources. Based on this a ‘political’ NGO must cohere to a certain type of group and that group should influence the struggle of allocating resources. This can relate to for example NGOs involved in relief and rehabilitation. If we look at the former definition of organisations that focus on ideas such as gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation serve as that example of that type of organisation. Overall when focusing on the study of NGOS and politics, NGOS should operate on both levels (Clarke ibid).

Therefore, it’s not surprising to find that NGOs have played a vital role in the process of political changes in Asia, Latin America and even in Africa, where obstacles to NGOs’ influence are greater than in Asia and Latin America. In Chile for example NGOS helped the popular Economic Organisations (Organizaciones Economicas Populares) and Self help organisations (Organizaciones de Auto-Ayuda) to participate in local government structures (Clarke,1998b).

NGOs and Democracy

Fowler (1993) argues that, generally, NGOs can potentially contribute to democratisation when certain conditions are met, for example when the state allows the rights of such organizations or when government needs the support of the actors of civil society, or when there is weakness in other institution of the state like trade unions or other political parties.

Many scholars view NGOs as effective in facilitating political alteration and consolidation of democracy. NGOs are considered as the institutional expression of civil society, commonly touted as critical to political reform, since they make the social capital necessary for collective action and effective governance becomes available (Putnam, 1993).

NGOs in such different location as Kenya, Indonesia, Thailand, Chile and Vietnam have mobilized to protect and expand democratic space, which signifies that NGOs have the prospect of definitely influencing democratisation and governance (Clarke, 1998b; Ndegwa, 1994).

Examples of NGOs’ role in furthering democracy

Chile is an example of a country where NGOs have contributed significantly in restoring democracy, particularly in a transitional period. Hojman has put forward that, not only do NGOS provide a contributory factor to ensure a smooth transition (as they have supported the democratic opposition) but they are able to advise on policy proposals which later form the fundamental components of the government programme (1993).

Similarly NGOs in the Philippines have been a pivotal contributory factor in aiding the restoration of electoral democracy. They were able to fill the gaps, not only because of their links with society, but they were able to act as strategic partners for ministries and as major suppliers to the governments’ social service delivery role ( Clarke, 1998b).

There has been a lot of evidence presented in terms of the contributory factors NGOs have towards the democratisation of states. The relationship between the proliferation of NGOS and democratisation is however presented in a different light by two fundamental propositions, DeTocquevillian and Gramscian: the DeTocquevillian view instigates that the spread of NGOs strengthens civil society and as a result initiates democracy as the involvement of civil society is representative of many voices (1947). The Gramscian viewpoint, on the other hand, argues that the proliferation of NGOs comes as a result of existing patterns of political contestation (1971) cited in Clarke (1998b).

As a result of democracy programmes conducted in Albania; Steven Sampson has noted “ few NGOs meant less democracy, more NGOs meant more democracy ” (Sampson 1996:128). It is useful to establish the roles that NGOs play within democracy. Cohen and Rogers suggest four key roles:

1. Through their grassroots work NGOS provide otherwise inaccessible information to policy makers on beneficiary preferences and the impact of laws on society.
2. They provide a fair representation as individuals with low capital resources pool their efforts through organisations that represent them. This partially corrects the imbalance in power that stems from unequal distribution of wealth.
3. They promote citizen education amongst those most marginalised from political systems.
4. They act as correcting tools in the market (1995:42-4).

Limitation of the political role of NGOs

According to Dicklitch (1995), NGOs are constantly under watch from national security, particularly in dictatorial governments. There have also been instances where the state has been forced to cease the activities of NGOs in the fear that they are supposedly funding illegal activities. In summary, although governments allow NGOs to operate, they are constantly under observation.

Most NGOs, especially in the Arab region, tend to seek leaders who have good relations with governments in order to avoid trouble for their work. Under conservative, authoritarian Arab regimes, most voluntary organisations are traditional charities, not NGOs (Kandil, 1994).

The fears and suspicions of NGOs and CSOs generally in the Arab World are obvious for those who are familiar with Arab affairs. There is formal unfriendly attitude towards anything related to human rights organisations. For example, at the Arab League meeting in 1996, representatives from various ministries of the interior met to discuss NGOs as a growing security threat. Human rights organisations, in particular, were characterised as destabilising instruments of subversion intent on undermining national sovereignty (and supported by foreign agents such as the CIA and Mossad). Michel Al-Murr, the Lebanese Minister of the Interior, noted that ministers at the meeting “ were complaining of the human rights organisations in their countries [and] that the work of these organizations and their movements do not aim to protect human rights but to paralyze security operation and countries security policies ”(Pitner,2000: 34).

As a result the security services, also referred to as ‘Mokhabarat’ in the Arab world, have had a tendency to target these NGOs, their organisers and the activities they undertake, in the fear that they “undermine national sovereignty”. The actions of the ‘Mokhabarat’ across the Arab World have been evident; the Palestinian National Authority, for example, disbanded all the executive committees of the NGOS and ordered the installation of at least one ‘Mokhabarat’ agent in the re-election. They went so far as to form new NGOs staffed by security agents in Tunisia. Similarly in Egypt, Sa’ad Eddin Ibrahim founder of the Ibn khaldoun Centre (which conducts research on civil society and democracy) was arrested and convicted in 2000 (Pitner, Ibid).

Efforts to discredit and disband the work of NGOs in the Middle East have been mainly through propaganda campaigns. They have been labelled as actors of foreign agents, or even the CIA, that are determined to undermine national sovereignty (ELGawhary, 2000).

Baogang argued that in certain countries NGOs are restricted by boundaries to their participation in civil activism, mainly through immense political pressure. For example in China the state controls licences for NGOs and has an interfering role in determining membership and leadership positions within NGOs. Such activities by the state undermine the role that NGOs can play in using civil society to initiate necessary change (Baogang, 1997). However the definition of NGOs in some countries can also limit political activities. In Kazakhstan, for example, NGOs have merely been defined as social or philanthropic organisations, impeding their autonomy as rights movements (Luong and Weinthal, 1999).

Other countries such as Tanzania have attempted to restrict the political interference of NGOs, limiting their freedom of speech and weakening any opposition from civil society. There have been cases where the Tanzanian government has restricted the registration process or has prohibited organisations from being politically focused (Tripp, 2000).

The attempts highlighted above by the state have hampered the autonomy of NGOs to prevent any opposition to the autocratic governments which could be a threat to its stabilisation. This has also been evident within the Arab world also, and notably Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Jordon, despite them claiming a fair electoral process in politics (Kandil, 1995).

Election, protest and NGOs

NGOs may play a role in elections; Clarke argued that the role of NGOs in presidential elections has also been significant; this was notable during the presidential campaign of Lula Da Silva (1990) in Brazil. It was noted that in areas of the North East of Brazil, which has high number of structurally organised NGOs, Lula won a significant amount of votes. Similarly in the Philippines, NGOs that work parallel to government and political parties have been at the forefront of election campaigns. It is important to note that, although NGOs may provide a significant contributing factor towards such campaigns, it is however not always for the interest of the state. However NGOs act in the interest of the communities or societies that these elected governments represent, or in other terms, the beneficiary communities, in a sense strengthening their local autonomy. Indonesia can be used as an example where an NGO has acted to strengthen the autonomy of the local community by organising local groups which consisted of at least 17,000 individuals (Clarke, 1998b).

In addition to NGOs’ roles in protest or demonstration, if we look at the role of NGOs, particularly those that are concerned with rights issues, they have had significant effects in change making especially in demonstrations. Taking the demonstrations in Thailand in May 1992 as an example; these led to the collapse of the national peace keeping council. Gohlert has argued “there is no sector in Thai society more closely identified with and committed to political democracy and economic development for all than the private voluntary organizations”(1992:2). The activities of these types of NGOs through protests have provided an avenue to channel the demands and needs of society (Clarke,1998b).


CSOs and NGOs have different meanings for different people, but all share one characteristic; being in the middle between the state and the society. They provide different services and target different stakeholders.

They interact with society and with governments, and this creates opportunities as well as challenges for them. Most authoritarian or semi-democratic governments do not welcome active and politically or religiously-driven NGOs, as they can undermine their definition of security.

There is much agreement that CSOs and NGOs affect politics somehow. They exist and play roles within communities and that gives them the power to interact and react for changes in the society. They educate people, raise their awareness, advocate on their behalf, and mobilise people around - or against - certain policies or candidates.

However, less has been written about their roles during times of state collapse or state withdrawal when the state stops performing its basic roles of security and social protectio


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Government and Society School
Role of Non-Governmental Orginisation in the time of revolution in Egypt
University of Birmingham  (government and society school)
Human Resouce management and development
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i had a very cooperative supervisor
government, society, school, role, non-governmental, orginisation, egypt
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Manal Mehanna (Author), 2011, Government and Society School, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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