Civil Society Organizations in Latin America as a Democratic Anchor for Long-Term Social Development
Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future (Boston University)
August 5, 2011
This paper provides an empirical investigation of the “social capital” theories that link civil society and democracy. Using data from the Civil Society Index for 44 countries, we find that not only this relationship exists, but that civil society is also positively correlated with human development. Using a simple regression analysis, we discover that democracy has an impact on human development through two essential components of civil society. Therefore, we conclude that all three are part of a unified system where strengthening one reinforces the other two. In addition to these findings, we also investigate the current state of civil society in Latin America and whether it shares common characteristics among its countries. We find evidence that organized civil society in this region is underdeveloped and that its countries are very diverse in their civil development. Thus, we conclude that-even if developing a more professional and democratic civil society could lead to better human outcomes- we will not find single recipes to achieve this vital goal. For this reason, we finish the paper focusing on the case of Mexico to highlight how the analysis of local information can provide some early suggestions on how to improve civil society there. Based on qualitative and quantitative analyses of the current conditions of civil society in Mexico, we conclude that lack of trust, lack of diversity, and a small government support are their main deterrents. To overcome these barriers, we propose five potential solutions: (1) targeted accountability, (2) inclusion of civil society in the national curriculum, (3) limit on government support per organization, (4) government credit risk sharing, and (5) professionalization programs.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: Civil Society, Third Sector, Human Development, Democracy, Latin America, Mexico
JEL Classification: A12, C21, H39, J00, M00, M14, O1, O54, P16, P52
Date posted: August 4, 2011 ; Last revised: December 20, 2013