periods of severe economic crisis, political violence, and persecution. This is particularly crucial in the
case of human rights and democracy advocates, who do not receive public funding and rarely find
support in the corporate sector. However, it also encourages dependency on external donors, and has
prevented many NGOs from attending to the sustainability of their organizations and to policies that
might strengthen this sector.
One of the most important functions that certain NGOs play in Peru is through their efforts to build
bridges and channels of communication across broader civil society, and between different social and
political actors. Born in a climate of political confrontation, the role of NGOs as facilitators has
evolved over three decades of experience, through successive periods of internal self criticism,
readjustment to changing times and (in the most successful cases) generational turnover among their
leadership. Although increasingly pragmatic in their politics and market oriented in their strategies, most
NGOs continue to maintain a broad commitment to social justice and to the empowerment of the
disadvantaged. This, and the past political histories of many of their founders, has occasionally provoked
oral attacks and witch hunts on the part of government officials. However, no systematic attempt has
been made to restrict their activities to date, and public perception of NGOs as a whole is fairly positive.
In a recent USAID funded survey, for example, respondents placed NGOs and human rights
organizations third, after the Catholic Church and municipal government, as the institutions most capable
of administering resources at the community level.
Critical Actors and Allies for Democracy
Within broader civil society, and within the NGO community, certain actors are particularly critical for
democracy in Peru, either because of their direct efforts to defend democratic practices and curtail
government abuses, or because of their potential role as allies. In the first case, these include human
rights and legal defense organizations, including those that defend women's rights and opportunities, and
organizations that undertake specific democracy related tasks such as election monitoring, leadership
training, and media watchdog activities. In the second case, potential (but not always actual) allies for
democracy include business and labor organizations, grassroots community groups (the most important
of which are the
organizaciones femininas para la sobrevivencia
or OFAs), the Catholic Church and
other churches, and academic research and training centers, as well as private foundations and donors.
Although there is not sufficient space in this report to describe each of these actors in detail, and some of
them are mentioned in previous sections, our team consider the following to merit particular mention:
Human Rights Organizations
The Peruvian human rights movement is widely recognized as one of the strongest and most united in the
world. Human rights activity can be traced to the lawyers and members of the clergy who defended
indigenous peoples in the Colonial period and in 19
century Republican Peru. In recent decades, a
fundamental role has also been played by the progressive Catholic Church movement known as
Liberation Theology which, from the 1960s onward, has involved clergy and law workers in more
egalitarian ways of working with and empowering the poor.
The Episcopal Commission for Social Action
(Comision Episcopal de Accion Social or CEAS)
established a human rights department in 1976 and was
Martin Tanaka and Patricia Zarate. Valores democraticos y participacion cuidadana en el Per . Lima: IEP,
2000, p. 23.
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