Peruvian NGOs resist new government controls
14 June 2015
For nearly 33 years, the Peru Support Group has supported civil society organisations in Peru that stand up for democracy and human rights. This has not been without cost. The PSG has at times been the target of defamatory accusations, not least during the authoritarian Fujimori regime when democracy and human rights came under severe attack. We have also seen our partners in Peru come under periodic attack from the authorities, especially in cases where they are perceived as standing up to government policies on specific issues. We fear that we are again at such a juncture.
Conflicts over extractive industries have inevitably created a climate of tension in which civil society organisations are blamed for the sometimes critical views they adopt in opposing schemes that they perceive to be against the interests of those communities with which they work. The prolonged conflict over the proposed Tía María project in Arequipa has polarised opinion between those living in the Tambo valley and the companies seeking to maximise mining investment. In the press and other media, the leaders of the communities opposed to Tía María have been routinely portrayed as ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists’.
For its part, the Humala administration, whose popularity rankings are at a low ebb, is keen to be seen taking a tough line, both with the protesters and those who may sympathise with their aims and objectives. ‘Mano dura’ (getting tough) is clearly the order of the day if recent opinion polls are to be believed (77% support it according to a GfK poll last week). The government has thus responded to Tía María by decreeing a state of emergency and sending in troops to ‘restore peace’.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also taking steps, to introduce new controls over non-governmental organisations, both Peruvian and foreign. A recent directive from the Agencia Peruana de Cooperación Internacional (APCI) (No 085-2015-APCI-DE) introduces new rules governing the process of official registration of NGOs and international cooperation agencies. The new rules will increase the degree of discretional supervisory control over these and introduce a number of new conditions which will apply to the renewal of official registration in future. We fear that these new rules may be used to outlaw some NGOs which the government perceives as being adversaries.
The Associación Nacional de Centros (ANC) which represents Peruvian NGOs, along with the Coordinadora de Organizaciones y Entidades Extranjeras de Cooperación Internacional (COECCI), has issued an international appeal with a view to rescinding these new requirements and returning to existing procedures which in their opinion work perfectly well.
Both these organizations and their members deny responsibility for the climate of conflict that exists in many parts of Peru today, pointing in turn to the shortcomings of the state in failing to protect vulnerable communities. They say they do not object to being subjected to scrutiny by state institutions, particularly in the use of the funding they receive from foreign sources. They claim furthermore a proud role in promoting development and research in Peru over the last half-century, particularly in encouraging participation, equality of opportunity and working in support of inclusion and respect for human rights.
In a letter dated 1 June to Rosa Herrera Costa, the executive director of APCI, the presidents of ANC and COECCI, Julia Cuadros and Pierre Rouschop respectively, request an early meeting with APCI to discuss their point of view. Meanwhile they appeal to organisations outside Peru, such as the PSG, to address letters both to the Peruvian Foreign Minister, Ana María Liliana Sánchez Vargas de Ríos, and to the President of the Republic, Ollanta Humala Tasso. We are considering our response to this appeal.