United Arab Emirates: The Ins And Outs Of NGOs - Guide 2018-2019

Last Updated: 11 July 2018
Article by STA Law Firm
Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, November 2018

Non-governmental organizations provide the services that fill the gaps lefts by the private and the public sectors. Short-term interests motivate many politicians; these interests do not often align with long-term social goals and leave significant shortfalls in policies at the national and local level worldwide. Therefore NGOs are left to provide services that would otherwise be provided by the government.

In the alternative, the private sector is limited in services to that which can be monetized and can generate a profit. Milton Friedman stated, "the social responsibility of business is to increase its profit." This limitation fuels another gap in service for which NGOs fulfill, and these services are outside of the realm of what the public sector provides.

Another role that NGOs play is undertaking high-risk business models where the returns on investments are too uncertain to justify returns for shareholders.

The need to prove the clarity of their intentions is highest for NGOs because their very being is dependent on a relationship of trust. On the one hand, their work often entails working closely with people that they are trying to help. Not having a seller-buyer relationship but a trust-based relationship allows NGOs to get closer to people's lives than any private sector organization could.

In the United Arab Emirates, the regulation of NGOs in undergoing an overhaul, and is constituted by legislation only on the Federal Level and in the Emirate of Dubai.

1. Ins and Outs of NGOs

In 2012 the United Arab Emirates closed down various international Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as domestic organizations. This occurrence led to the State coming to the understanding that there was a need to regulate the process of the establishment of an NGO and ensure that the new legal framework takes cognizance of the sovereignty of the State.

Having declared 2017 as the Year of Giving, the issuance of a new legal framework governing the establishment and regulation of NGOs took place in Dubai, namely Dubai Law Number 12 of 2017. This issuance was in pursuance of the UAE governments key strategy to formulate a comprehensive framework for charities and humanitarian organizations.

For the Emirates that do not have a legal framework of their own on NGOs, Federal Law Number 2 of 2008 concerning public-benefit regulates a particular form of NGO.

Due to the translation of the relevant legislation, in some translations, non-governmental organizations are referred to as civil society association or establishment. But for the objective of this guide, it will be seen as a non-governmental organization.

2. How to describe a non-governmental organization.

A non-governmental organization (NGO) as described by the international NGO governing authority is any non-profit, autonomous group of citizens organized on a local or international level. NGOs will participate in a variety of humanitarian or service activities. These activities are inclusive of but are not limited to, education, human rights, bringing the concerns of citizens to the higher authorities of the State, environment, training, health, ensuring compliance by the Government, and providing citizens with information which enables them to participate in matters that concern them actively.

2.1 Federal Law Number 2 of 2008

The Federal Law Number 2 of 2008 describes a non-governmental/public benefit organization as a group that is constructed for a determined or undetermined amount of time, comprising natural or juristic persons. This organization must be established to achieve a specific activity or humanitarian services, whether through economic or moral assistance. Its primary aim is the achievement of Public Welfare, and it cannot be for the obtaining of an economic benefit.

2.2 Dubai Law Number 12 of 2017

The Dubai Law Number 12 of 2017 regulating non-governmental organizations in the Emirate of Dubai in Article 2 describes a non-governmental organization as a composition of natural or juristic persons, conducting the activities as prescribed in Article 5 of the Law, which exists for an indefinite period. This Law makes a distinction between two types of NGOs based on the non-governmental establishment apportioning property to the activities found in Article 5 of this Law and non-governmental association being the other.

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