NGOs activities in Mexico are Increasing Day by Day

NGOs activities in Mexico are Increasing day by day. NGO’s are playing an important role for the Mexican people. VIRIDIANA RÍOS is a 32-year-old activist who grew up in the impoverished suburbs of Mexico City. But she is no left-wing firebrand. She is the Harvard-educated head of an NGO that uses analysis, statistics and cheeky social-media campaigns to agitate for clean government. Instead of adopting the rabble-rousing tactics of the street, she is part of a movement of civil-society wonks who are gaining big influence in Mexico. Their weapons are hard facts and solid arguments. “We are the technocracy of civil society,” she says.

In recent months, after the murder of 43 students in the south-western state of Guerrero in September and widespread allegations of corruption, these organisations have come into their own. They have persuaded the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to go further than he originally wanted in a constitutional reform to tackle corruption. “I would go so far as to say that, without them, this reform wouldn’t have happened,” says Fernando Rodríguez Doval of the opposition National Action Party, which drafted the law.

In April NGOs and think-tanks lobbied successfully for laws opening up greater access to government information. They also launched a “civil observatory” to monitor the building of a vast new airport near Mexico City; the government says it will cost 169 billion pesos ($11 billion), but has not said where the money will come from. And an education charity, Mexicanos Primero, headed by a member of a prominent industrial family, is taking legal action to force the interior ministry not to cave in to radical teachers who are opposed to a sweeping education reform.

It has not been easy for NGOs to attain this influence in a country where the technocratic elite used almost automatically to join the government. For much of the 20th century, Mr Peña’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) co-opted civil society. Its mishandling of rescue efforts after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake produced an upsurge of grassroots activism. Civil-society groups gained further prominence by fighting fraud during elections in the 1980s and 1990s, until the PRI finally lost its 72-year-old grip on power in 2000.

Once Mexico had become more democratic, the American foundations that had bankrolled some of these NGOs moved elsewhere, says Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think-tank. But a new law in 2004 gave charities more access to government support and the tax authorities have slowly made it easier to make tax-deductible donations. American money has come back. By one estimate, donors such as the Ford Foundation account for more than half the funding of large NGOs. Mexican business foundations play a small but growing role.

After a lull, the number of NGOs grew again as Mexico’s domestic security troubles increased in the late 2000s. Some, supported by Mexican business groups, became highly effective in getting the government to deal with drug-related violence in such northern cities as Ciudad Juárez and Monterrey.

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