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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 12, Issue 1, November 2009

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

NGOs in the Political Realm

Special Section

Political Activities of NGOs: International Law and Best Practices
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

NGOs: An Antibiotic Against Bureaucracy, Democracy's Degenerative Illness
Eduardo Szazi

Articles

Citizen Participation in Mexico Through Advisory Councils
Consuelo Castro

State Supervision of NGOs in Peru
Maria Beatriz Parodi Luna

Endowment Funds: New Develpments in the World of Philanthropy in France
Philippe-Henri Dutheil

Legal Framework for External Supervision of NGOs in Current Czech Law
Katerina Ronovska

British Charities and Insolvency
Pesh Framjee

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Editorial Board

Citizen Participation in Mexico Through Advisory Councils

Consuelo Castro1

In Mexico, one mechanism that has been instrumental in the past few years in order to maintain a government-civil society relationship is the government Advisory Councils, in which CSO representatives participate.

The Federal Law for Promotion of Activities Performed by Civil Society Organizations, enacted five years ago in order to have a regulatory framework to sustain a stimulating policy for actions undertaken by CSOs, is not an exception. This Law established two important entities: the Commission for the Promotion of Activities Performed by Civil Society Organizations and the Technical Advisory Council for the Law of Promotion (Consejo Técnico Consultivo—CTC). The first, the Commission for Promotion of Activities Performed by Civil Society Organizations, is composed of representatives from four ministries: the Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público – SHCP (Secretariat of the Treasury and Public Credit), Secretaría de Gobernación – SEGOB (Secretariat of the Interior), Secretaría de Desarrollo Social – SEDESOL (Secretariat of Social Development) through its Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Social – INDESOL (National Institute of Social Development), and Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (Secretariat of Foreign Affairs). The other entity created by the Law on Promotion, the Technical Advisory Council, hereinafter referred to as “the Council,” is a participatory body for civil society organizations. The Council became effective on January 17, 2005, and consists of nine CSO representatives, plus four members from the academic, professional, scientific, and cultural sectors, as well as two Congress representatives. Members and their substitutes are appointed for a three-year term of office.2

According to its regulations, the main purpose of the Council is to issue proposals and recommendations regarding the CSO Registry, as well as to jointly coordinate with the government Commission on the evaluation of promotional policies and actions for CSOs on an annual basis.3 The Council also issues opinions concerning the application of the Law on Promotion and promotes civil society participation, especially through the follow-up of public policies. In order to carry out its functions, the Council has formed committees in various topic such as public policy, organizations registry, legal, communication, professionalization.4

In order to evaluate the impact of public policies concerning CSOs, having reliable data is fundamental. Before the Law on Promotion, there was no consistent effort to integrate information on public administration support to CSOs. Therefore, in 2005 an Annual Report was integrated for the first time in Mexico on this matter by the Secretariat of Social Development (INDESOL). For instance, in 2008, the Annual Report included the report of 126 public officers from 17 Secretariats and 53 Governmental units. Promotion activities reported include public resources funds, capacity-building training, organization of events, and others. However, the relevance of these reports consists in making concrete actions for public disclosure of subsidies and other support received by CSOs.

Nevertheless, based on the results of these Annual Reports,5 the Advisory Council will have more elements to encourage the government to define the activities of nonprofit organizations. It is important to point out that it is beginning to help government agencies to have better coordination regarding nonprofit organizations and influence the efforts to consolidate an effective public policy of promotion of CSOs. Collecting evaluation reports from the governmental administration authorities has not been an easy process as it implies that the different ministries do not have common terms of reference concerning CSOs. Therefore, although the reports have been improved each year, it is not yet possible to have accurate information on the way the application of public policies concerning CSOs have had an impact on CSOs.

The approval of the Promotion law not only focuses on having better public policies towards CSOs; the purpose of the Law is to recognize organized participation of citizens in fields of action such as human rights, gender equity, and development of the community. One of the results expected of this Law is also to serve as a platform for incentives other than having access to pubic funds such as fiscal exemptions.

In 2005, based on the Law on Promotion, the Council successfully advocated jointly with other organizations such as the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía – CEMEFI) in order to have human rights organizations be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations by fiscal authorities according to Mexican tax legislation. Recently, organizations dedicated to promote civic activities may also be tax exempt. Having tax incentives opens possibilities to this type of organizations to access more public support and help their sustainability.6 The legal committee of the Council has reached a consensus with organizations on legal reform proposals to fiscal authorities that would facilitate donations such as the need to increase the 7% limit of taxable income that may be deducted established in the 2007 Fiscal Reform.   

After four years, the Council faces various challenges. One is to have a budget to cover activities relating to the overall service, research, publication, and other tasks. Usually the scarce funds assigned are delivered late in the fiscal year. Another challenge is to have access to more communication mechanisms with civil society organizations that will enable a closer dialogue with nonprofit organizations throughout the country. 

However, though Councils such as the Technical Advisory Council for the Law of Promotion have been recently created, a formal and permanent dialog with the federal government and civil society organizations has been taking place. The main objective of the Council is to be able to participate in the design, follow-up, and assessment of public policies. Up to now, the results show that although the Technical Advisory Council has limitations to effectively influence public policy, it has a significant role as a liaison with the federal government.

Notes

1 Consuelo Castro is Legal Director at the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (CEMEFI), a member of the Technical Advisory Council, and a member of the Advisory Council of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

2 The author has been a member of this Council since 2008.

3 See Law on Promotion § 26 and  § 28.

4 Subject matter for the CTC can be found at www.consejotecnicoconsultivo.org.mx and www.corresponsabilidad.gob.mx.

5 http://www.corresponsabilidad.gob.mx/inf_anual_depe.aspx.

6 Income Tax Law Reform published in December 23, 2005 at the Official Journal.

 

 
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