US shares NGO funding records with Egypt

A technician adjusts the position of an Internet router placed on a ship docked on the east bank of the River Nile in the city of Luxor in September 2007. The project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and sponsored by the Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information targets the large tourism sector and offers open Internet connectivity in several cities of Egypt.
Cris Bouroncle

CAIRO — Less than a month after Egyptian authorities launched an investigation into USAID's funding of unlicensed NGOs in Egypt, Ambassador Anne Patterson has handed over a list of Egyptian organizations who have taken U.S. funds.

Patterson is working to soothe Egypt's concerns that "foreign elements" are operating on sovereign soil without proper approval. A reported $40 million has been distributed to pro-democracy and human rights organizations since the January 25 revolution.

“The United States is proud of our support for independent organizations,” Patterson told a group of GlobalPost / Open Hands Initiative reporting fellows on Monday. “We don’t fund political parties. We do try and fund people that, for instance, [work toward] voter education, NGOs or training, job creation and [other parts] of civil society.”

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has been at odds with Patterson since she took her post in July, as have some Egyptian media figures.

SCAF called Patterson's August visit to its headquarters "dangerous" and "explicit interference."

In June, Islamist columnist Fahmy Howeidy wrote, "[US democracy funding] is designed to serve a specific political agenda which has nothing to do with supporting real democracy in Egypt.”

Compared to the more than $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. sends to Egypt each year, $40 million in NGO money is not a large sum, and is used for a very different purpose.

But Egyptians are skeptical of American influence, whether as a longtime ally to the Gaddafi regime or a benefactor of Egyptian non-profits.

Patterson said she is open to increased transparency across the board about American funding to Egypt.

“Nothing is more important than budget transparency, and that’s going to be up to a new parliament that are going to report on the budget not only of the military but of the intelligence community,” she said.