Local and international NGOs working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at both the national and provincial levels have stated that the various state services in the DRC pose great difficulties to their day-to-day operations. The lack of operational space they need to deliver vital humanitarian assistance and services has been one of their main concerns and a hindrance to providing essential relief for many years.
The legal framework in the DRC defines NGOs as non-political, non-commercial organisation whose activities are for ‘cultural, social, educational, and economic’. International and domestic NGOs have different procedures for registration.
Non-governmental organisations in the DRC are governed by the Constitution and by Law no. 004-2001 of 20th July 2001 (Law 004/2001). Available in French and English. All NGOs in DRC must conform to this legislation.
For domestic NGOs, registration involves the following three stages:
The regulations for International NGOs (INGOs) are regulated by the same law (Law 004/2001) as for domestic NGOs. In contrast to domestic NGOs, permission for INGOs to operate in DRC is granted through an Ordonnance Présidentielle (“Presidential ruling”).
There is a three-stage process for obtaining a Presidential Ruling.
Two more procedures may be necessary, depending on the circumstances. Firstly, any benefits or exemptions agreed in the Framework Agreement must be ratified by an Inter-Ministerial Decree. Secondly, in some areas INGOs may be required to obtain a deed of recognition from the local authority, despite this law being repealed in 2001.
The three pre-conditions for any INGO operating in DRC are that they must:
1. Have legal status in the country of their head office.
2. Have a known representation (office).
3. Use local labour for a minimum of 60% of their total staff.
INGOs that meet these three conditions must first apply to the relevant supervising Ministry for advance recommendation and registration. As we understand only three INGOs to date have been successful in gaining the Presidential Decree.
The law provides in theory, for some kind of oversight of all NGOs to be exercised by the Ministry of Planning and the Finance Ministry (which requires as many as four reports a year and also undertakes audits). In addition, individual supervising ministries may impose additional requirements. For example, the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs requests annual reports from all NGOs registered with it. In practice, compliance with reporting requirements is probably very low.
There are no clear figures on the size of the NGO sector. As there are a number of government actors involved in regulation it is not clear who has responsibility for maintaining a database and different actors have different figures. A survey by the Ministry of Planning in 2004 found more than 4,000. However, it is likely that the number is far higher as many associations reportedly avoid registration.
The International Programme conducted a review of the DRC's legal and regulatory environment in 2008.