Middle East and Northern Africa
The Global Philanthropy Environment Index “Middle East & Northern Africa” region includes Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
Governments in eight of the twelve countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region under review are labeled as authoritarian. The situation in Egypt, since the overthrowing of the government in 2011 and 2013 and the presidential election of 2018, has deteriorated and is still regarded as ‘authoritarian.’ The elected government in Israel is regarded as “flawed democracy,” and that of Lebanon and Turkey as ‘hybrid.’ Political environments in these countries are reflected in the governments’ policies toward philanthropic organizations (POs)—with the introduction of new restrictions on their functioning and fundraising programs. On the other hand, four monarchies (Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia) and one emirate (UAE) included in this review have been trying to expand spaces for POs. Thus, in these countries (except Qatar) the overall GPEI scores (between 2.9 in Saudi Arabia and 3.72 in Morocco) are higher than the rest of the countries under review (except Israel—which, with a score of 3.96, is marginally better because of its tax incentives). The GPEI scores in the former group are lower than in 2018, while in the latter group the scores are stable or better. The GPEI scores for Egypt (2.35) and Turkey (2.61) are almost the lowest in the region. These scores are disheartening because before 2011, Egypt and Turkey offered a most congenial environment for the functioning of POs in the region.
These twelve countries under review include low-income countries (like Sudan), middle-income countries (like Lebanon and Egypt), high-income countries (like Israel and Saudi Arabia), and very high-income countries (like Qatar). Four countries (Iran, Israel, Morocco, and Turkey) have comparatively higher economic inequality (ranging from Gini Index of 39 to 42). On the other hand, Sudan has less inequality (34.2), but a higher need of economic support in general (with GNI PPP per capita of USD 3,970). The four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries cannot process data for economic inequality, but a very high percentage (about 40% in Saudi Arabia to 90% in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)) of the expatriate population, about 70% of which are low/unskilled workers, have tremendous income inequality among the population. Thus, all countries in the region rely on POs offering goods and services that the governments cannot provide.
In the two years (between 2018 and 2020), the overall functioning environment in the MENA region has been mixed. In the past, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey allowed direct (liberal laws) or indirect (POs could operate without any permit or registration, as in Turkey). Eager to ensure that the tragic incidents of 9/11 are not repeated anywhere in any form, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) highlighted the importance of national legal action to restrict and monitor financing of terrorist activities. Due to the revolution in Tunisia, the elected governments in the MENA region have misused the UNSC’s “concern at the flow of funds to terrorists and the need to suppress all forms of terrorist financing,” to restrict PO activities in the name of monitoring because the POs, among other things, work to increase critical consciousness of individuals and demand greater equity and transparency in public policy and actions. Elected governments are imposing restrictions and unelected governments are relaxing the current restrictions. It is not unusual. This has been the trend in all countries—unelected (military) governments tend to promote POs in order to neutralize political activism by keeping political parties at bay; the elected governments formed by political parties reverse the trend—not to be outshined or outperformed by the POs in public benefit programs (Hasan, 2017b).
The future of POs in the MENA region is, at best, uncertain.View the full Middle East and Northern Africa region report