The associations working with Palestinians are divided into 4 categories, as follows:
- Lebanese institutions, licensed through the Lebanese Ministry of Interior and Municipalities according to a notification announcement, as per the Ottoman Law of Associations of 1909, and based upon law-decree no. 10830 issued in October 1962.
- Foreign institutions having Lebanese branches, licensed according to a presidential decree, as per the Foreign Association Law (decision no. 369) issued on December 21, 1939.
- Religious institutions affiliated to the Islamic Waqf and that do not require a license from the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, but rather operate according to a “religious proof” that they obtain from one of the religious courts directly affiliated to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. For instance, the NGO Ataa’ (Giving), headquartered in Rashidieh camp in Tyre, was established in 1994, and obtained a religious proof from the court of Tyre under no. 30/3.
- Unlicensed Palestinian institutions, agencies and associations that operate according to their internal regulations and special programs.
The right to establish or join associations constitutes one of the pillars of the democratic system. The key international instruments that Lebanon has ratified with regard to the right to establish associations are set as follows:
- Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
- Article 5 (d) of the Philadelphia Declaration.
On the local level, the Lebanese Constitution provided for the freedom of association and the right to assembly, whereby article 13 of the Lebanese Constitution literally stipulated the following: “The freedom to express one’s opinion orally and in writing, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of association shall be guaranteed within the limits established by law.”
Whereas the (Lebanese) associations can be established by a simple agreement among its founders and their signing on its Statutes and Bylaws, without the need to obtain any prior authorization from the authorities, the establishment of foreign associations – including Palestinian associations – and the establishment of related branches as well as the amendment of statutes and bylaws are subject to decision no. 369 issued on December 21, 1939, i.e. to the prior authorization regulation, and is therefore not complying with the general principle that only requires the association to submit a notification announcement to the competent authorities.
The agencies and associations working for Palestine refugees in Lebanon amount to 213 associations until 2012, with different sizes and abilities.
In spite of the law’s acknowledgement of the right to establish associations, the practical problems of confronting the Palestinian civil activity remain an issue. In this context, the LPDC, with the support of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, is striving to settle the situation of the Lebanese associations involved in the Palestinian affairs, which operate in unregulated or illegal ways on one side, and to facilitate granting licenses to Palestinian associations through the issuance of decrees by the Lebanese Council of Ministers, as stipulated by decision no. 369 issued on 21/12/1939, and circular no. 13/2014 issued on August 26, 2014.
LPDC has long considered the right to establish associations as a sacred right provided for in the Lebanese Constitution. For this purpose, the LPDC has launched a legal study in 2012, based on a field questionnaire, titled: “Facilitating the registration of Palestinian Associations in Lebanon: A right for Palestinians and an obligation of the host country”.