The reduction of space for civil society is a reality. In some cases this reduction manifests itself in the violent and open repression of the actors of civil society;in others the reduction of space is subtle, often beginning with small adjustments which become real threats in the long term. The latter is the current situationin Paraguay now that legislators in the ruling Colorado Party, which has been in power for 70 years, have presented a bill in Parliament intended to restrict the activities of NGOs in the country. Therefore POJOAJU, the Paraguayan member of FORUS, has decided to speak up and create a debate, setting out its rejection of the bill in a document which explains why the bill is a threat andmust be dismissed. It is unconstitutional because it violates the fundamental right of freedom of association. This bill, in the event that it is passed,will be an authoritarian obstacle to the young Paraguayan democracy, which in February 2019 willbe just 30 years old. This democracy came into being following the coup d’état which saw the overthrow ofthe military dictator Stroessner who had ruled for the previous 35 years.
This is a new threat for NGOs which impels us to fight for the rights and representation of civil society in Paraguay. The risk is that we return to an authoritarian regime.
POJOAJU (the Association of NGOs in Paraguay) and civil society organisations have presented a document to the national Chamber of Deputies detailing the objections to the proposed “Law to Institute and Regulate the Functioning of Non-Governmental and Not-for-Profit Organisations (INOGUFIL) and Establish their Charter”. Reference: D-1.848.553.
Signed by representatives of 40 civil society not-for-profit organisations, associations, foundations and national NGO networks, on 19/11/2018, the document petitioned for the bill’s dismissal based on detailed legal, political and economic points.
The principal arguments are as follows:
It is unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental right of freedom of association.
It does not take into account the current legal framework for registering andmonitoring not-for-profit organisations which exists in the country.
It is not aligned with the cross-cutting rules applicable to the whole of thePublic Administration.
The bill contains imprecise terminology.
It will duplicate the functions of other public institutions and it will betotally incapable of meeting its objective.
It will create a new public entity which will be financed through public funds from the national budget, capture resources and grant loans (financial intermediation).
It will confiscate a percentage of all the donations and resources the NGOsreceive.
It will seek to make not-for-profit entities and civil society organisations subject to the executive through the Ministry of the Interior, with arbitrary powers of discretion, which will encourage corruption.
Not even in times of authoritarian governments was there anything similar to the INOGUFIL proposal.
POJOAJU made clear its willingness to provide more detailed explanations of its point of view and to participate in discussions with members of the national Chamber of Deputies. The document referenced is shared so that it may be distributed further. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org*
*This English translation has been possible thanks to the PerMondo project: Free translation of website and documents for non-profit organisations. A project managed by Mondo Agit. Translator: PhilipWalker. Proofreader: Omar Neyra