Syria/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.8 Other areas of relevant legislation

The establishment of associations in Syria[1] falls under the civil law of 1949 and its amendments, especially those introduced by law No. 384 of 1965 which was first applied in Egypt, then in Syria during the era of the Syrian- Egyptian Union between February 1958  and September 1960. Later amendments were introduced in 1969,  by Decree No. 224, that is still regulating up to the current time the work of the “Association and Private Institutions” within the framework of the Syrian Constitution.

Many association related legal details are introduced in the executive bill passed by decree No. 1330, of the 13th of October, 1958, and endorsed by a presidential decree for the year 1958.

The decree entitles the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in the tasks concerned with law application and management, including the practice of its power with regard to declaration of association, dissolving, integrating, and monitoring associations, in addition to determining their agendas and activities. In 2013 the Ministry of Social Affairs was separated from the Ministry of Labor which tasks and privileges were specified according to the law project that was appointed by the legislative decree, number (15), on 9/2/2013. The Ministry of Social Affairs remained responsible for the management of the societies law.

In the beginning of 2013, the Minister of Social Affairs assured, regarding the societies law, that the law project which included civil society organizations[2] , was deeply studied in the Ministry of Social Affairs, so if it was accepted would form an important legislative formula in activating the civil society and promoting it to become one of the development factors[3].

Following this, legislative decree number 41 was passed by the Syrian president on 14/9/2014 concerning agricultural cooperative associations. Chapter Five of law number 62 for 2013 concerning copyrights and related rights identified groups it called “collective rights management”, and defined them as: authors and copyright holders or their private or public heirs may give their rights under exclusive licenses of their rights and collect compensation attributable to them fully or in part to collective management organizations who manage copyrights taking into account non-governmental organizations law if applicable must not be inconsistent with the provisions of the law mentioned). Authors and copyright holders delegating their rights renders the collective management organization to recognize these rights and collect royalties in all forms to give back to authors and copyright holders. Article 51 of the law specified the conditions of forming a “collective management organization” that is by obtaining permission from the Ministry of Culture – being subject to the Ministry’s censorship and power – after providing a copy of the internal structure of the organization – a copy of the registration contract – names of authors and copyright holders that delegate on their behalf to collective management, a copy of royalty collections and their duration – a copy of the organization’s financial regulations. The Chapter also contains legal details and rights that govern the relationship between the organization and copyright owners, and between the organization and the Ministry of Culture. One example is that in case of violations, the decision to dissolve the organization goes back to the Minister of Culture.

Financing of Associations:

The Law No. 93 regulates the relationship that connects these association with the external world. This law prohibits the involvement and/or contact of any Syrian society with an external body unless the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is informed in advance and provided that the Ministry does not issue a notice of objection within a term of 30 days from the date the Ministry was informed (Article 21, law no. 93). The same article also stipulates that the Ministry has the right to prohibit financing the society.

Moreover, no society has the right to receive or be granted funds or money from any individual or society outside Syria without prior permission and approval of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affair (formerly). It’s not yet clear; the law form for funding societies after the International Cooperation and Planning Commission has become the State only gate concerning funding, partnership and loans. With regard to domestic funding, the associations are not permitted to receive any funds or approve on funding unless the Ministry is previously informed (Article 17 of the Executive Bill).

Attempts to Reform the Law of Associations:

In 2005, the Syrian authorities have started reviewing the Law No. 93 and its executive Bill with the aim to altering the role of these associations from a charitable into a developmental, with Government approval on receiving foreign funds on condition that these associations work under the State supervision. In February, 2005, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has held a workshop in cooperation with the European Union to discuss means of developing the civil society in Syria. Based on statements released by officials taking part in the workshop, it can be said that no recommendation were adopted.

A month later, the Syrian Association for Family Affairs, that was established in 2003 by a Presidential decree, held on the 22nd and 23rd of March a workshop with the participation of around 30 persons from various Syrian non-governmental organizations, the European Union, the British Council, and the Swedish Embassy in Damascus to discuss the circulated law for establishing associations. The participants reached specific conclusions and adopted a lot of recommendations[4].

The project amendments law for the establishment of associations  coincided with the signing of the Syrian-European Partnership Agreement and the National Indicative Program II between both parties, resulted in a 60 million Euro donation to enhance trade, civil society, and human rights. The donation includes financing activities of the NGOs[5]. This partnership agreement had stayed frozen, at least, until 2009[6], (a French diplomat, related to the Syrian file in Paris, assured that there are no specific difficulties or obstacles towards the endorsement of the partnership. However, he added that the endorsement requires a “political decision” to be taken by the member countries in the European Union. The diplomat also mentioned that there’s a “substantial European agreement” on the endorsement of the partnership, which is going to be a “political indication” towards Syria, therefore “the appropriate moment” should be seized). At the time of making this research, we have not noticed any new procedures regarding the agreement.

Head of the State Planning Commission, Mr. Abdullah Al-Dardari has declared to different media outlets, on many occasions, including  his interview with Al-Hiyat newspaper, that under the directives of President Bashar Al-Assad, efforts were being exerted to activate the local society with intentions to enhance people participation in the process of development and secure access of various societal groups and areas to aspects of development where the State, due to bureaucracy, cannot reach with high efficiency. He further pointed out to the draft law on introducing amendments to the law no. 93, for the year 1958 that maintains an overall view and allow for a foreign financing under the supervision of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

It is worth mentioning that the above mentioned law is currently under review and examination (in 2009). It is said that the final draft of this project has been finalized and two proposals on amendments law for establishment of associations were introduced:

  • The associations should be, administratively affiliated, to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, with concentration on restructuring the role played by the Ministry.
  • That the Associations be directly attached to the Prime Minister[7].


The Ministry of culture has also a role in terms of approving the establishment of cultural associations, notwithstanding that, administratively speaking, associations work is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Granting license for establishing a cultural society necessitates a number of approvals amongst of which the approval of the Minister of Culture.


Cooperative Associations:

Cooperative associations embody a convenient model for intellectual work and for the gathering of a number of owners of one craft, as well as allowing beneficial and non-beneficial work for the good of the society all at once. The establishment of cooperative associations in Syria is controlled by law (317) for the year 1956 which is modified by law (91) for cooperative associations that defines a cooperative association as an association entirely established by people, who are described as consumers or producers, on the following fundamentals:


  • The association budget should be made of shares that are not specified in numbers and in which each person has the right to participate in and divert to any other person according to this law and the system of each association.

  • Each member of the general assembly has one vote regardless of the number of shares they possess.

  • Budget shares should not get a profit that exceeds 6% of its assigned amount.

  • Net profit, which is allowed to be distributed among members, should be distributed to each member with a ratio in accordance to their work with the association.


Associations that are established, not in accordance to this Law, are not permitted to have their names to contain the word “cooperation” or any of its derivatives. The association’s name should include whatever points to its cooperative characteristic, real purpose and location. It should also not consist of any of its members’ or non-members’ names. This Law enforced restrictive conditions related to the association budget, starting from Article (5) which stated that a cooperative association is not permitted to issue shares worth an amount that’s varied from the one stated in its system. This amount should not be more than one pound or ten Syrian pounds paid at once or gradually, as what costs during the booking shall not be less than a quarter of the share cost. The association system assigns a time-period, for not more than two years, to pay what’s left of the cost of booked shares. Thus, the association has the right, afterwards, to suspend members who haven’t paid the rest by a written letter. While Article (12) stated that founders should submit a paper stating the association paid budget.

The Law is directed at cooperative associations, in matters not mentioned in the Law, to the private associations and institutions Law, according to Article (11).

Article (17) is considered the best part in this Law according to the research. It states that a cooperative association shall start its work in all the fields of social and economic activity and it’s allowed to reduce its work to one of the fields or work within a couple of them according to the association system and the regulations of each field. Thus, this Law ignored completely the artistic and cultural works and put a social and economic dimension as a condition. Although cultural and artistic sectors consist of social and economic dimensions, the Article was specified and leaves no chance to be interpreted.

Article (28) is considered an obstacle for those working in open crafts to join a cooperative association. The Article states that a member of an administration council is prohibited to practice, by himself or by other people, any kind of activities practiced by the cooperative association or activities that go against its interests.

Enforcing cooperative associations on joining one of the unions puts intellectual works far from cooperative associations. For example, photography is considered a craft, thus, if a number of professional photographers agreed to work and establish a cooperative association, then they will be obligated to join the crafters union, which leaves professional artistic photography outside the circle. Article (34 – A) states that the general assembly is normally held as in request from the cooperative union which the assembly belongs to. Thus, the assembly is required to join one of the unions such as the Union of Workers, the Union of Farmers, or the Union of Crafters, etc... As a result, owners of intellectual crafts stayed away from real and organized contribution to building the society within those mechanisms.

While the work of cooperative associations seems more detached than the work of civil associations, they remain comparable on a variety of issues related to following the administrative side, surveillance over funding, calculations and spending, and working for others, even though they’re one-craft owners, within the associations tasks. Thus, cooperative associations also get a role in developing crafts.

Article (51) states that the dissolution of an association is permitted if it works on political issues which makes it hard for cultural activists to benefit from this model.

Articles (35), (36), (37) state the surveillance mechanism by the administrative side (The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) over cooperative associations. This surveillance is in control of inspectors, who are assigned by specialized minister, and whose reports are carried out to him and to a specialized governmental team as well. The specialized administrative team has the right to suspend any decision, issued by commissions in charge of an association administration, which goes against the Law principles, association system, or cooperation fundamentals. Accountants or accountants’ assistants, who are recognized by courts in the Syrian province, are assigned to review the cooperative association calculations at least once a year at the association headquarters.

Cooperative associations also hold a social and developmental responsibility that has distant similarities to the private sector social responsibility. Article (41) states that in a case of associations which start the same kind of operations with members and non-members, the money made which is distributed among members, should not include any of the profits resulted from those operations signed with non-members. The association should set aside those profits to improve the district affairs where the association is located and according to what the general assembly decides.

Companies Law:

Companies’ law was issued according to the legislative decree number (29) for the year 2011. The Syrian companies law divides types of companies, legally speaking, to: partnership, commandant, limited liability and joint. While it defines types of companies: trade companies, mutual companies, free-zone companies, holding companies, external companies, and civil companies. The latter is the type which suits founding companies that are interested in artistic and cultural work.

Companies law defines civil companies as the following: civil companies are the ones founded by partners of intellectual speciality and crafts, or companies of civil purpose and which are subject to the civil law principles and law principles that are related to them and their contracts and interior system. Companies registry which is possessed by the registry of trade office consists, in each governorate, of a registry branch specialized in  civil companies.

t was mentioned in the fifth section, Article (56), “a company’s budget or part of it is allowed to be offerings in kind. The rights of privilege, invention, artificial knowledge and other incorporeal rights are considered of offerings in kind and it’s not allowed for these offerings to be services or works of any person.”

At the end, it is worth mentioning that there is a number of other legislations related to the associations acts in Syria, especially those related to the establishment of general Unions in specific circles such as: General Woman Union, Students Union, and Labor Union. Laws and decrees issued have granted these unions the right to monopoly domains of work related to each. For example, law no. 33 (issued on the 21st of December, 1975 related to the establishment of General Woman Union prohibits the establishment of any other women’s society, article 66).

Law Execution:

Governmental sides are not abiding by the rules they’re currently being made or those which had been issued prior to March, 2012. One of the most important examples regarding this is having interior orders issued in the Ministry of Finance that prohibit civil companies from officially registering, but only by renting a commercial property which is against companies law that allows civil companies, which are non-commercial and non-profit, to use an non-commercial property. Thus, this makes it impossible for civil companies to get an official permission, as the costs of converting a residential property to a commercial one are very expensive, and in addition, the cost of operating is not possible for any side that is not commercial.

[1] The Society is the official name of the NGOs based in Syria

[2] Attach (6)- law project of civil society organizations

[3] Website of SANA News Agency in February 2012

[4] The government should issue a new law, since amendment of law 93 in force is insufficient. As one of the participants observed: “amending a 50-year-old legal text would be insufficient because it has been introduced in a context and reality completely different from the current challenges and opportunities that Syria is facing.

  • The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs should honor article No, 10 of law No. 93 which, as mentioned above, stipulates that unless the Declaration was made within a 60-day period of time, it will be canceled in line with the observed law. But participants said that this is not practically applied.
  • The government should eliminate all obstacles facing the associations with regard to the  Declaration.
  • The associations must be allowed to hold meetings with similar associations in terms of domain of work on the domestic, national, and international levels.
  • Restrictions imposed on financing should be eased and associations should be allowed to raise funds and receive the national and international financial support.
  • A new administrative authority should be appointed with the aim of enhancing the civil society in Syria.

 The number of the NGOs in Syria is 584,among of which,  280 associations are charities offering livelihood services for around one million inhabitants. The figure also includes the other associations concerned with environment issues , culture, art, and all sectors of the civic work.

[6] Al Watan Syrian newspaper- March 23, 2009

[7] These information were quoted from talks of individuals activists in the cultural domain, accordingly, they are not documented. Interested people are waiting for the  issuance of the new Law  

Chapter published: 06-05-2016