By Kabeer Yousuf — MUSCAT: Feb. 8 - Any association or group that does not come under the purview of the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) is illegal, said a senior ministry official. “Such associations are not legal entities,” he added. The official said only 11 foreign associations and clubs have officially registered with the ministry. Five branches of some of the associations have also registered with the ministry, taking the total number to 16. “These associations and their branches can function in the country within the bylaws approved by the ministry,” the official told the Observer.
As per law, any non-profit group composed of several “natural persons” can be called an association, whose “goal is to carry out social, cultural or charitable activities”. These include charitable funds, associations, social and cultural clubs or groups established by private organisations, companies or establishments. “But the provisions of the law don’t apply to the national organisations, cultural and technical associations, and clubs coming under special laws,” he added.
These associations can be specialised in orphan care, childhood and motherhood care, women’s services, elderly care, care for the disabled or for people with special needs, or any other field or activity that the minister may decide to include after approval from ministers’ council. “There are two important factors. First, the association cannot work in more than one field unless approved by the minister; secondly, it is barred from engaging in politics, forming political parties or branches or intervening in religious matters.”
An association will risk losing licence if it is found practising any activity other than those specified in the bylaw, or associates itself, participates or joins an association/organisation/club outside the country unless it has obtained the ministry’s approval. Likewise, an association is barred from holding public parties, festivals or public lectures unless it has obtained permission from the ministry. “A club or an association is not permitted to send or host delegates outside Oman without the ministry’s consent, nor can it allow gambling or other unethical practices within its premises.” Finally, an association is barred from raising funds for organisations outside Oman except through Oman Charitable Organisation.