Editorial: NGOs and democracy
Update 118. 30 November 2006
Peru has long had a large network of NGOs, most of which are involved in tackling poverty and providing assistance at the grass-roots. Each has its own priorities and personality. They have played a key role in helping to connect society and the state in a country where these are often poles apart, giving some sort of voice to those who would otherwise lack it. They have taken up policy issues, providing legislators with a useful sounding board. They have also helped express and relay dissent and discontent at the local level, a vital function in a democracy.
NGOs in Peru, often at grave personal risk to those involved, have also been at the forefront of the fight for human rights. They have played a key role in investigating human rights violations, documenting cases, presenting them to international tribunals, and providing judicial and other assistance to those afflicted.
It is not surprising that sometimes governments feel aggrieved by the activities of NGOs, often in the face of deserved criticism. But strong and healthy democratic governments must be prepared not only to accept such criticism, but indeed to embrace it. The new law to control NGOs is therefore not just bad in itself, but is a worrying sign.