2000). In a National Giving and Volunteering Survey conducted in five cities in 1998, 31% of adults
claimed to do volunteer work in a wide variety of organizations, including local church groups, sports
clubs, neighborhood associations, and community service organizations, while 24% declared themselves
formally members of an organization, and 35% of those surveyed made financial contributions to
nonprofit organizations.
45
 Despite limitations on the rule of law and political competition mentioned in
previous sections, most civil society organizations still enjoy considerable freedom of association and
expression.
As in most countries, Peruvian civil society is characterized by a multiplicity and fragmentation of
interests, and by the institutional weakness and economic precariousness of many organizations,
particularly those of the rural and urban poor. The decline of national level political parties, labor
federations and other 
intermediary
 or aggregate forms of association has left numerous sectors of society
without an effective voice in national political debates and with a limited capacity to hold government
accountable.
Given the current incapacity of government institutions and political parties to reform themselves  from
within,  
key civil society organizations remain the leading actors in the effort to promote greater
democracy in this country
. Certain kinds of NGOs, religious and educational institutions, and grassroots
community organizations offer much needed spaces for the defense of basic rights and the promotion of
citizen participation. They work to hold the government accountable in various spheres, propose new
policy alternatives and promote debate thereof, and help to train and prepare new leadership. The current
USAID program in Peru supports many of these efforts, and our assessment Team recognizes the
importance of this arena.
However, in order for civil society organizations to be effective agents for democracy in the kind of
political context described in this report, two conditions are critical. First,  political society  needs to be
(re)constructed, drawing together the subset of organizations which are capable of bridging the gap
between the broader civil society and the exercise of real political power, and of proposing viable
governance alternatives. Second, it is necessary to create a better enabling environment for civil society
development itself. This means assuring the defense of basic civil rights and the rule of law, constructing
alliances across diverse interest groups, and strengthening the autonomy and accountability of the
private, nonprofit sector.
2.
The Basic Conditions for Civil Society:  Legal Framework and Finances
Formally, Peru has one of the most free and flexible legal frameworks in Latin America for private
associational activity. The 1993 Constitution recognizes the freedom of association as one of the basic
human rights, and nonprofit organizations are regulated by the Civil Code through three basic legal
figures: associations, foundations, and committees.
The most widely used legal figure is the association (
asociacion civil sin fines de lucro
), as this is the
easiest form to establish. An organization of two or more members needs only to record incorporation
acts before the Public Registry to receive legal existence as a nonprofit association, and the law does not
                                                    
45
 The Catholic Church and church related organizations account for a considerable share of the donations of
persons from all social strata except the very rich. See Armando Millan,  
Somos solidarios los peruanos
?, Punto de
Equilibrio No. 55, July  August 1998, pp. 53 56, and  
Ayuda mutua o egoismo? Reflexiones acerca de la sociedad
peruana a partir de un encuesta sobre donaciones y trabajo voluntario
, Lima: CIUP, unpublished document, 1998.
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