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establishing your international ngo in palestine

Establishing Your International NGO in Palestine: A Comprehensive Guide

Non-profit organizations are Charitable, Humanitarian, and Civil society organizations that have long been dedicated to helping communities in need and serving marginalized populations in Palestine and all parts of the world. NGO governance has developed strong capabilities to provide crucial services in areas lacking government support. International NGOs play a vital role in assisting Palestine.  

In Palestine (West Bank & Gaza), NGOs must adhere to the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organisations Law No. 1 of 2000, under which the Palestinian and international NGOs operate, along with other legislative and policy measures. 

This article delves into a step-by-step guide for establishing an International NGO (Foreign Branch) in Palestine. This includes various stages, from document preparation to the submission of necessary paperwork. We will also discuss the timelines for approval, bring insights about the pertinent laws governing the establishment of NGOs in Palestine, and answer frequently asked questions about establishing your INGO in Palestine.

Key Demographic, Governmental, and Economic Aspects of Palestine

As of 2022, the population of Palestine is estimated at 3.2 million in the West Bank and 2.1 million in the Gaza Strip. The literacy rate in Palestine stands at 97.7%, and the GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is estimated at $3,493 as of 2022.

In terms of life expectancy at birth, in 2021, male life expectancy was approximately 73.4 years in the West Bank and 72.7 years in the Gaza Strip, while female life expectancy was around 75.7 years in the West Bank and 74.9 years in the Gaza Strip, resulting in an overall life expectancy of approximately 74.21 years.

Religious demographics in the West Bank show a predominantly Muslim population (80-85%), with Jewish and Christian minorities (13-16%), while the Gaza Strip is also predominantly Muslim, with a small Christian minority. The ethnic composition of the population primarily consists of Palestinian Arabs.

Organizational Landscape and Regulations

In Palestine, associations are categorized into local and international, both governed by the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations No. 1 of 2000. All associations must register under the Ministry of Interior. As of 2022, approximately 3,729 associations are recorded, distributed between the West Bank and Gaza. Entry into this sector requires mandatory registration with the Ministry of Interior, which can be a challenging process.

The Ministry of Interior oversees the activities of these associations to ensure that funds are utilized for their designated purposes, as stated in Article 6 of the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations. While there are no specific legal barriers to speech, advocacy, or international contact, the Ministry has the discretion to allocate funds from dissolved associations to the Treasury of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Additionally, associations may need prior approval from the Council of Ministers to receive funds from any source, which can pose barriers to resource acquisition and potentially impact their activities.

Constitutional Framework, National Laws, and Pending Initiatives Affecting NGO`s in Palestine

The Basic Law, Palestine’s Constitution, was enacted by the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1997 and formally ratified by President Yasser Arafat in 2002. Subsequent amendments were made in 2003 and 2005. Article 26(2) of the Basic Law guarantees freedom of association, affirming the right of all, whether individually or collectively, to form and establish unions, associations, societies, clubs, and popular institutions in accordance with the law.

National Laws and Regulations these include laws on charitable associations, public assemblies, and others:

  1. The Law on Charitable Associations and Community Foundations (Law 1 of 2000) 
  2. Implementing Regulations for Law 1 of 2000 (Council of Ministers Decision 9 of 2003) 
  3. Basic Law of the Palestinian National Authority 
  4. Law on Public Assemblies (Law 12 of 1998)
  5. Regulation on Non-Profit Companies (Regulation 3 of 2010) 

NGO Registration and Compliance Requirements

Mandatory Registration: Any foreign association that wishes to operate in Palestine must register its branch with the Ministry of Interior in accordance with the charitable associations’ law.

Reporting and Audit Obligations for NGO Branches

Annual Reporting (Article 36): Every branch of a foreign association is required to submit an annual report to the Ministry of Interior. This report must detail the branch’s activities and the funds utilized, ensuring that operations align with stated objectives and comply with local regulations.

Financial Audits (Article 13): Organizations must submit a comprehensive financial report within four months after the end of the fiscal year. This report should include detailed financial statements and be signed by a licensed auditor. Additionally, organizations are expected to maintain an annual budget overseen by a licensed accountant unless their expenditures do not exceed one thousand Jordanian Dinars.

Notification of Changes and Operational Requirements

Notification of Changes (Article 35): Representatives of foreign association branches must inform the Ministry of Interior about any changes in their information within two months. This includes updates to the organization’s leadership, contact details, or operational scope.

Commencement of Operations (Article 37): If a foreign association branch fails to commence operations within the first year of registration without unavoidable circumstances, the Ministry of Interior may cancel its registration after providing notification to the association. This provision ensures that registered organizations are actively contributing to their stated missions.

What Provisions of the Law on Charitable Associations and Community Foundations Apply to Foreign and International NGOs Operating in Palestine? 

Under Law No. 1 of 2000 Concerning Charitable Associations and Civil Society Organizations, foreign associations wishing to establish a presence in Palestine must adhere to specific regulations to ensure transparency, accountability, and compliance with local laws.

What are the Barriers to NGOs Entering and Operating in Palestine? 

From the initial stages of registration to the ongoing operational activity, NGOs encounter various requirements by law that shape their ability to function effectively within the region. Understanding NGOs barriers is crucial for grasping the complex dynamics influencing civil society engagement in Palestine. Let’s delve into the challenges faced by NGOs seeking to enter and operate within Palestinian territories.

Barriers to entry for associations in Palestine:

  1. Mandatory Registration: Any association wishing to operate in Palestine must undergo a mandatory registration process with the Ministry of Interior. This process involves several detailed steps and procedures, which are thoroughly outlined later in this guide. The registration requirement is designed to ensure that all associations comply with local regulations and operate transparently within the legal framework of Palestine.
  2. Additional Requirements: Sometimes, the Ministry may ask for more documents or information beyond what the law requires.
  3. Decision Timeframe: The Ministry should decide on registration within two months of receiving the application. However, this process might extend at times to exceed 5 months.
  4. Reasons for Rejection: If the Ministry rejects an application, they must provide written reasons, although the law doesn’t specify the permissible grounds for rejection. In some cases, contradictory decrees and decisions have complicated the registration process.

What are the Required Documents for Registering an International NGO/Foreign Branch in Palestine?

The following documents are required for INGO registration in Palestine:

1. Organization’s Charter/Bylaws: Provide the charter or bylaws in the organization’s native language, translated into Arabic. The Arabic translation must be certified by:

  • The Palestinian Embassy in the NGO’s home country.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Justice.

2. Registration Certificate: Submit proof of the NGO’s registration outside the Palestinian territories. This document should be translated into Arabic and certified by:

  • The Palestinian Embassy in the NGO’s country of registration.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Justice.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3. Official Letter of Interest: Include an official letter from the INGO expressing its interest in opening a branch in Palestine, along with the names of its representatives in the country. This letter should be translated into Arabic and certified by:

  • The Palestinian Embassy in the NGO’s country of registration.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Justice.
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

4. Identification Documents: Provide copies of the ID or valid passport of the INGO representatives in Palestine. If representatives hold Palestinian nationality, they must provide a tax exemption certificate. Include copies of their ID cards/passports.

5. Board and Founders’ Information: Provide the names, addresses, and nationalities of the founders and board members of the association, including the names and nationalities of those responsible for the branch to be established in Palestine.

6. Activities and Objectives: Provide a brief explanation in Arabic and English illustrating how the projects and services align with the interests of the Palestinian people, detailing the main activities and objectives of the NGO.

7. Handling of Funds: Include a statement on how the funds of the branch will be handled in the event of dissolution, liquidation, or withdrawal of the foreign NGO.

8. Registration Fees: Attach registration fees of 20 dinars in stamps to the registration application form.

What is the Process of Registration of NGOs in Palestine? 

All INGOs intending to operate in the West Bank must register with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Interior (MoI). The registration process is typically completed within 60 days but can extend to 180 days under special circumstances. The process is divided into four main steps:

Step 1: Submission of Application

Applicants must submit the following documents to the Ministry of Interior:

1. Association’s Bylaws: The bylaws should be in the organization’s native language and translated into Arabic. The Arabic translation must be certified by:

  • The Palestinian Embassy in the INGO’s home country
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Palestinian Ministry of Justice

2. Application Form: Filled in Arabic, using the form provided by the Ministry of Interior.

Additional requirements beyond the standard bylaws and application form may be mandated by the Ministry.

Step 2: Waiting for the Issuance of Decision by Ministry

The Ministry will issue a decision accepting or denying the application within two months or more after submission. If the Ministry fails to respond within this timeframe, the association is considered registered by law. However, there are instances where the Ministry might still refuse to consider it registered despite the automatic registration provision, which can hinder or prevent the association’s activities.

  1. Relevant provisions from the Council of Ministers Decision No. 9 of 2003 regarding the handling of applications (Articles 28, 29, and 30).
  2. Upon receiving the application and its attachments in accordance with Articles 28 and 29 of these regulations, the department issues an acknowledgement of receipt to the founders, indicating the date of receipt, description of the received attachments, and the names of the applicants.
  3. The acknowledgement includes a serial number, which becomes the registration number of the association with the Ministry of Interior upon approval of the registration request or after two months from the receipt date if no decision to accept or reject the application is issued.
  4. The department may contact the founders to complete any missing information in the application or its attachments as specified in Articles 12 and 13. Upon completion of the required information and attachments, the department issues a new acknowledgement of receipt, retrieving the old one, and the two-month period starts from the date of the new acknowledgement.
  5. The application is considered submitted, and the two-month period begins from the date of submission of the required information and attachments as specified in Articles 12 and 13 of these regulations.
  6. The department sends a copy of the registration application and its attachments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Planning to seek their opinion regarding the registration of the association. This is done within four days of receiving the application.
  7. The legal department reviews the bylaws to ensure they meet the conditions specified in Article 14 of these regulations and recommends acceptance or rejection based on whether the bylaws contain the required information.

Step 3: Follow-up on Registration Procedures

Authorized founders can oversee the registration process through written authorization. This provision streamlines the administrative aspect of establishing an association, allowing for efficient handling of registration procedures.

Step 4: Opening of Bank Account

Associations cannot open a bank account without a registration certificate, making it difficult to receive funds and operate effectively. Securing the registration certificate is crucial for financial functionality.

What if the Palestinian Ministry of Interior Rejects Your Application, and What Are the Reasons for Rejection?

The NGO registration process in Palestine ensures that associations operate within a clear legal framework, focusing on legitimacy and public benefit. Here’s why an application might be rejected, based on the Council of Ministers Decision No. 9 of 2003:

Verification of Conditions (Article 32)

  • The Ministry of Interior reviews the application to ensure:
    1. Bylaws Compliance: Aligns with the Law on Charitable Associations.
    2. Legitimate Goals: Objectives serve the public good and align with Palestinian interests.
    3. Non-Profit Intent: No personal profit distribution.
  • Recommendation: The Ministry recommends approval if conditions are met or rejection if incomplete.
  • MOI Consults the Ministry of Foreign Affairs(MOFA) and the Ministry of Planning(MOP), expecting their input within a month.
  • MOFA and MOP Issues its recommendation to the minister within a month.

Final Decision (Article 33):

The minister has the ultimate authority to approve or reject the application based on the thorough evaluation and recommendations provided by the relevant departments. If the minister decides to reject the application, the decision must be accompanied by a clear and detailed justification, ensuring transparency and accountability. Furthermore, the rejected application can be appealed in a court of law, providing the applicant with a fair chance to contest the decision. The minister is required to make a decision within seven weeks from the date of receiving the application, ensuring that the registration process is efficient and that applicants receive timely feedback on their status.

What Documents Are Required to Register an NGO in Palestine?

  1. Provide the organization’s charter/bylaws in its native language and translated into Arabic, certified by the Palestinian Embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Justice.
  2. Submit a copy of the registration certificate translated into Arabic, certified by the Palestinian Embassy, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  3. Include an official letter expressing interest in opening a branch in Palestine, translated into Arabic and certified by relevant authorities.
  4. Provide copies of the ID or passport of INGO representatives in Palestine.
  5. If representatives are Palestinian nationals, provide a tax exemption certificate.
  6. Include copies of representatives’ ID cards/passports.
  7. Provide a brief explanation in Arabic and English showing how projects align with Palestinian interests.
  8. Attach 20 Dinar worth of stamps to the registration application form for fees.
ngo registering process in palestine

Does My NGO Need A Local Partner Organization To Register in Palestine?

No, there’s no requirement for your NGO to have a local partner organization to register in Palestine.

Are There Any Restrictions on Foreign Funding For NGOs in Palestine?

Palestinian banks, under directives from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, have placed limitations on financial transfers to NGOs. Many banks have stopped opening new accounts for NGOs and now require additional documentation for grant transfers. However, NGOs can still navigate these challenges by adhering to the following guidelines:

Key Provisions from the Council of Ministers Decision No. 9 of 2003:

Article 50: Developing Financial Resources for Associations

NGOs in Palestine have the right to develop their financial resources through various means. They can raise funds through membership fees and donations, and they are permitted to accept unconditional gifts, grants, and assistance from any individual or organization. Additionally, NGOs can engage in profit-making activities to generate income, provided that the profits are not distributed among members.

NGOs must maintain accurate accounting records and appoint an auditor to ensure financial transparency and accountability. They are also required to detail any profit-making activities and their financial impact in their annual report.

Article 51: Permissible Assistance

For the purposes of these regulations, conditional assistance that ensures transparency and proper use of funds is allowed. This includes assistance requiring adherence to specific accounting practices and funds designated for particular activities or budget items.

These provisions allow NGOs to access foreign funding, provided they adhere to guidelines ensuring transparency and proper utilization of funds. This helps maintain financial integrity and public trust, enabling NGOs to continue their essential work in the community.

What Are The Requirements For my NGO’s Governing Documents in Palestine?

In Palestine, NGOs are regulated by the Law of Charitable Associations and Civil Society Organizations of 2000. To operate legally, an NGO must obtain approval from the Department of Foreign Associations. These Government approval documents include:

  1. A registration certificate.
  2. Registration approval.
  3. A letter of approval for the representative of the association in Palestine.
  4. A letter of approval for the objectives of the association in Palestine.

Once these documents are submitted and approved, the NGO will be governed under the provisions of the 2000 Law, ensuring compliance procedures, legal requirements, and standards for charitable associations and civil society organizations in Palestine.

What Information Will I Need to Provide About My NGO’s Activities in Palestine?

The NGO must submit an annual report detailing its activities and the funds used. Additionally, within four months after the fiscal year ends, it must provide two reports: one describing its activities and another containing a detailed financial report signed by a licensed auditor, including revenue and expenditure accounts.

What Steps Can I Take To Ensure A Smooth Application Review Process?

Applicants must submit all required documents accurately, and in case of any inquiries from the ministry, they must be promptly addressed. Adherence to statutes and bylaws is essential 

How Will I be Notified of The Registration Decision?

You will be notified of the registration decision through a receipt issued by the Department of Foreign Associations or through follow-up.

Is it Advisable To Consult A Lawyer Specializing in NGO Registration in Palestine?

Yes, it’s often advisable to consult with a lawyer to ensure compliance with legal obligations, especially when dealing with matters such as submitting reports or navigating regulations related to foreign associations.

What Are Some of The Potential Challenges I Might Face During The Registration Process?

The registration process for NGOs in Palestine involves significant administrative and regulatory challenges. According to the Law of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations of 2000 and the Council of Ministers Decision No. 9 of 2003, NGOs must submit extensive documentation, including bylaws, proof of registration, and certified translations. The Ministry of Interior thoroughly verifies compliance with legal requirements, legitimate objectives, and non-profit status, which can be time-consuming and require multiple revisions. Additionally, consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Planning can add complexity and delays. NGOs must also adhere to specific financial and administrative documentation requirements, such as maintaining accurate financial records and appointing an auditor.

Are There Any Tax Implications For Registered NGOs in Palestine?

Registered NGOs in Palestine are subject to specific tax regulations designed to support their non-profit activities while ensuring financial transparency. According to Article 53 of the Council of Ministers Decision No. 9 of 2003, NGOs are exempt from any tax or customs duty on movable and immovable property necessary for achieving their objectives as outlined in their bylaws. This exemption is contingent upon the property not being disposed of for purposes that conflict with the NGO’s objectives within five years. If the property is sold or used for other purposes within this period, the applicable taxes and customs duties must be paid.

Furthermore, NGOs are exempt from taxes and fees following procedures approved by the Ministry of Finance, providing substantial financial relief and support for their operations. However, it is crucial to note that if an NGO engages in commercial activities, the income generated from such activities is subject to taxation. This stipulation ensures that while NGOs benefit from tax exemptions for their primary, non-profit activities, any revenue from commercial ventures is appropriately taxed, maintaining fairness in the tax system.

These regulations aim to encourage and facilitate the vital work of NGOs in Palestine, ensuring they can focus their resources on their core mission while adhering to financial and legal standards.


In light of the critical situation in Palestine, establishing NGOs is essential to provide vital aid and support to affected communities. These non-governmental organizations play a crucial role in delivering humanitarian assistance, promoting human rights, and fostering sustainable development in regions facing significant challenges.

Successfully establishing your international NGO in Palestine requires navigating complex legal frameworks and adhering to stringent regulations. This process can be significantly streamlined by utilizing expert legal services such as Kurdi & Co. With extensive experience advising numerous international NGOs and multilateral organizations, Kurdi & Co. is uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive guidance and expertise. They facilitate the registration, operation, and compliance of NGOs within the Palestinian context, ensuring that organizations can efficiently navigate legal complexities and align their efforts with local regulations.

This Article was researched and written on July 3rd, 2024 by Amer Kurdi.

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