Editorial: Law Controlling NGO’s “inimical to democracy”
Update 118. 30 November 2006
The Peru Support Group laments the fact that the Peruvian Congress has approved legislation which threatens to curb drastically the freedom of action enjoyed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country.
In a letter to Lord Triesman of Tottenham, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Latin American relations, PSG President Lord Avebury wrote that "transparency is vital to democracy, but the obligatory registration and government control over the activities and finance of NGOs are inimical to the development of a strong and dynamic civil society".
As the PSG Update goes to press, all that remaines is for President Alan García to place his imprimatur on the new measure for it to become law. Originally the bill was an initiative of the pro-Fujimori grouping in Congress, on whose votes the ruling APRA party depend for their majority. The Fujimoristas, more than most, have cause to resent the activities of NGOs. The FT reports that many in Peru view the revival of the proposal as a means of curbing the spread of protests against foreign investors, which the current administration holds NGOs responsible for.
The new NGO law will make it obligatory for all NGOs working in Peru - both Peruvian and foreign - to be registered with the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (APCI). More than 3,000 NGOs operate in Peru, but those deemed not to be working towards the goals of the national development plan will have their registration cancelled. Despite official claims to the contrary, this represents an obvious threat to NGOs and a de facto restriction on their freedom to support the projects that they see fit.
Lawyers and constitutionalists claim that the new law contravenes a number of principles enshrined in the 1993 Constitution, and have threatened to mount a legal challenge to its constitutionality.
Successive governments have reacted negatively to criticisms by NGOs, acting across a range of fields. Controls have been introduced, and NGOs are already obliged to report their doings to a variety of government agencies. But the current legislation is far more draconian than anything hitherto.