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Registration and regulation of non-governmental organisations - International Law Office

International Law Office

Company & Commercial - Iraq

Registration and regulation of non-governmental organisations

September 10 2012

International NGOs
Domestic NGOs

International NGOs

Under CPA Order 45, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) must register to carry on its conceived activities in Iraq. The authority for registering and regulating NGOs has changed a number of times since the order was issued. Initially, registration and regulatory authority rested with the Minister of Planning. Authority was then transferred to a newly created Minister of State for Civil Society Affairs, which executed the function until recently, when it was again moved to the General Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers. The requirements for registration have not changed significantly since the order was issued, although there have been differing interpretations of the requirements and a general desire by the regulatory authority to seek more information than was perhaps contemplated by the original order.

Under the order, an 'NGO' is defined as an organisation or foundation that is organised to undertake one or more of the following as its principal activities:

  • humanitarian assistance and relief projects;
  • human rights advocacy and awareness;
  • community rehabilitation and resettlement;
  • charitable works;
  • educational, health, and cultural activities;
  • conservation;
  • environmental protection;
  • economic reconstruction and development;
  • promotion of democratic practices;
  • development of civil society;
  • promotion of gender equality; or
  • any other non-profit activity that serves the public interest (Section 1(1)).

An international NGO (or 'foreign' NGO, as stated in the order), is an NGO that is established with its registered office or headquarters outside Iraq.

Permitting activities
According to the most recent registration form for NGOs provided by the NGO Office, international NGOs must designate their activities from among the following options:

  • agriculture;
  • art and culture;
  • democracy;
  • economic development;
  • education;
  • environment;
  • the disabled;
  • human rights;
  • humanitarian assistance;
  • media;
  • children and orphans;
  • public health and medicine;
  • general services and infrastructure;
  • shelter and housing;
  • women's issues; and
  • youth and sport.

International NGOs must be not-for-profit organisations and must have no government connection. Once registered, an international NGO will be subject to regulation and supervision by the NGO Office. International NGOs will be exempt from corporate taxes and social security.

Kurdistan region
In the Kurdistan region, the regional government has issued Regulation 1 regarding the registration and regulation of international NGOs in the region. The regulation is substantially similar to the requirements for the registration of international NGOs under the order and the instructions of the NGO Office. The activities that NGOs may pursue are as follows:

  • humanitarian support;
  • relief projects;
  • housing and community reconstruction;
  • charity;
  • education;
  • health;
  • cultural activities, protection and advocacy;
  • environmental protection;
  • reconstruction;
  • economic development;
  • democratic process development;
  • civil society development;
  • female equality; and
  • other non-profit activities considered to be useful or to serve a public good.

The agency responsible for registration and regulation of international NGOs in Kurdistan is the Kurdistan Ministry of Humanitarian Aid and Cooperation (MHAC). An international NGO registered with the NGO Office must pursue a separate registration with the MHAC before conducting any activities in the Kurdistan region (presently Erbil, Dohuk and Suleimaniyah), and must submit separate reports on its activities to the MHAC.

Domestic NGOs

In addition to the international NGO process outlined above, Iraq has a separate and analogous process for domestic NGOs that have no international affiliation. An 'Iraqi NGO' is defined in the order as an NGO that is established with its registered office or headquarters inside Iraq (Section 1(2)).

The same conditions as set out above would apply for registration of a domestic NGO, and the same rules regarding prudential and non-prudential requirements would exist.


All NGOs, whether domestic and international, must:

  • formally notify the NGO Office when entering into any joint project or other contractual arrangements with a foreign organisation or organisations or with any international agency, before beginning work with them;
  • not work with any foreign organisation not registered with the NGO Office;
  • inform the NGO Office of any administrative changes in the organisation within 30 days thereof;
  • formally notify the NGO Office in the event of a change in the bylaws of the organisation within 30 days thereof;
  • formally notify the NGO Office of any proposed branch openings in Iraq before any such opening;
  • not open any international branch of the organisation (for domestic NGOs);
  • submit to the NGO Office detailed and supported reports regarding the activities of the organisation on a quarterly basis;
  • not be supported (financially or morally) by any political agency or entity; and
  • remain non-political, non-governmental and non-profit, and not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or nationality.

For further information on this topic please contact Thomas W Donovan at Iraq Law Alliance PLLC by telephone (+964 7 901 919 425), fax (+20 2 760 4593) or email (thomas.donovan@iqilaw.com).

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