A More Equitable and Sustainable Latin America

Fundación Avina is on the ground in 14 Latin American countries. This local presence is an essential part of our strategy for regionally relevant impact. In each country, we have a national liaison, often with a support team dedicated to developing and implementing country-specific strategies.

 

Avina Expands its Work in Mexico

Fundación Avina has a long history of collaboration with dozens of organizations in Mexico and Central America, but it was not until 2011 that Avina officially established a formal presence in Mexico to align its efforts with those of Mexican society. Strategic alliances here are already making a significant impact.

In June 2011, during the Avina Forum in Mexico City, Avina formally presented its work to Mexican government officials, business leaders and civic groups in order to partner with them in promoting positive change in Mexico.

Mexico is a critical part of the Latin American landscape, so collaboration between Avina and its network of allies goes both ways. On one hand, we have much to learn from the ideas and innovation of our Mexican counterparts. On the other, we can share our international experiences and plug them into our wide Latin American social network. Working together, we are promoting local change of continental relevance.

 

 

Youth in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, celebrating the promulgation of the
Youth Departmental Law, the first national law that recognizes
youth rights.

Bolivian Youth Win Rights

More than 40 youth organizations from each of Bolivia’s provinces worked closely with the government in Santa Cruz de la Sierra last year in passing the Youth Department Law, the first national law to recognize the rights of young people. Its 23 articles were prepared and approved by the Departmental Legislative Assembly, with the contributions of groups allied with Avina.

Youth organizations seized the opportunity to influence public policy, and to formalize their rights and duties. The law also espouses comprehensive universal education, favoring more effective inclusion in Bolivia's social, economic, political and cultural life.

The Bolivian law recognizes the Departmental Youth Council (DYC) as the representative body for youth in Santa Cruz, bringing together different organizations, social sectors and representatives of indigenous people. The DYC will receive and channel youth proposals though representative organizations, and will be in charge of youth social programs including funding for recreation, and greater political participation.

Avina’s contribution to this significant achievement by Bolivian youth included supporting strategic and operational logistics for the respective groups, making connections, offering guidance and sharing best practices among the leaders of the youth advocacy groups in the region. Avina also helped to build political support through involvement in a series of meetings, debates and public discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

Protest in the streets of Argentina, organized by La Alameda
Foundation against organized crime and human trafficking for
labor and/or sexual exploitation.

Exposing the Ugly Reality of Modern Slavery

In Argentina La Alameda is an example of an organization with a structured program focused on a specific cause, in this case, a fight against organized crime that abuses humans for sexual or labor exploitation.

In its decade of existence, La Alameda has carried out more than 150 investigations that resulted in legal proceedings against textile workshops that subjected employees to slave-labor conditions. It also fights its battles in the court of public opinion, identifying and denouncing major clothing brands that utilized these sweatshops. In June 2011, La Alameda’s reports exposed three haute couture designers who dressed Argentina's most famous people in clothes produced by shady contractors. These revelations about the use of slave labor generated great commotion in the fashion world, exposing the dirty secrets of both high-end and mass-produced brands that embraced illegal practices to reduce costs.

La Alameda typically uses the law in Argentina to combat organized crime and the human slave trade. Its efforts led to approval of a municipal order by the city of Mar del Plata that shut down dozens of bars and cabarets that were actually operating as fronts for brothels. Another order implemented assistance programs and protocols for the victims of the human trafficking, resulting in the creating of a shelter in Mar del Plata. This success led to passage of a similar law in Buenos Aires to assist victims and establish a shelter. Also, a provincial law in Mendoza sanctions businesses that use child labor in agriculture. In addition, La Alameda has won preliminary approval from the National Senate for a new human trafficking law that increases penalties, eliminates the concept of consent as a defense and calls on national, state and local government agencies to enforce the law.

La Alameda fills a niche by pursuing the passage of tougher laws against some of the most heinous and despicable practices that society does not wish to face. Aside from the human toll of depriving thousands of people in the region of their dignity and rights, enslaving people also degrades countries’ democratic and social institutions.

Avina is the only international organization that has supported La Alameda. Support has come in the form of financial resources so that the organization's members could travel throughout Argentina to carry out investigations in the provinces. Avina also provides social capital, enabling access to a wide network of activists, lawyers, journalists and individuals from different fields. Avina also contributed funds that allowed La Alameda to acquire technology used to record and edit images that accompany their publicity campaigns and legal actions. Avina is currently looking to broaden the reach of its support to more cause-based groups in the region like La Alameda.

 

 

Chairman of the Board of Directors of LIFE, Clovis Borges;
executive director of Fundación Avina, Sean McKaughan;
executive secretary of the LIFE Institute, Alice Zimmerlin; and
vice-chairman of the Board of the Directors of LIFE, Miguel
Milano, during a presentation of the LIFE certification in Brazil.

Acknowledgement for Biodiversity Conservation

The LIFE Certification, established to qualify and certify public and private organizations that promote biodiversity and conservation, made a number of important strides in 2011. It was mentioned in various international business and biodiversity publications wrote about the certification and it was the focus of a special article in the July 2011 news bulletin of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Additionally, the executive secretary of the CBD referenced the LIFE Certification in several public declarations.

The LIFE Institute is responsible for the development and management of the LIFE Certification and has received the support of Avina and other organizations since 2008. In 2011, the Life Institute organized the CBD’s first Regional Workshop on Business and Biodiversity in Brazil, bringing together more than 200 representatives of civic groups, businesses, academia, government and media to discuss biodiversity conservation goals.

In October Brazil's Petrobras, one of the largest oil companies in the world, signed an agreement with the LIFE Institute to carry out audits implementing the certification’s methods across 20 of the company’s operating units. This alliance reaffirms the pioneering, innovative and international function of the LIFE Certification for promoting sustainable development. With Fundación Avina’s support, LIFE continues to seek new alliances in other countries, particularly Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.

 

 

Women of African descent during a pilot effort of labor inclusion,
social organization and impact on public policies.

Entrepreneurial Cultures

In the Colombian cities of Cali, Cartagena, San Andrés and Medellín, the Visible Hands (Manos Visibles) organization, in alliance with Fundación Avina, began a pilot project last year to improve the employment prospects of youth and women of African descent.

This project to promote economic inclusion involved the participation of representatives of the indigenous population and those of African descent. Job exchanges established as a result of these initiatives in the public and private sectors will help Colombia take advantage of a diverse labor pool while providing employment opportunities to segments of the population suffering from acutely higher rates of unemployment. Representatives of different communities occupy positions of authority in managing the job exchanges, ensuring that hiring decisions are made with due regard for cultural dynamics. As a result of Avina's efforts, municipal governments in Cali and Cartagena now incorporate these exchanges as elements in official hiring practices for public sector jobs.

Higher education has also been a focus of this initiative, which has helped leading universities in Colombia obtain funding commitments for scholarships, such as one recently made with Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina (BBVA) in the amount of USD 250,000 for educating community youth leaders and cultural entrepreneurs. Avina is pleased to help raise funds for higher education through its vast network of philanthropic contacts and benefactors in the region and around the world.

 

 

The new Organic Law of Solidarity Economy and of the Public
and Solidarity Finance Sector of Ecuador will improve work
opportunities and generate profit for thousands of Ecuadorian
families.

Improving Work Opportunities

In Ecuador, the Social and Solidarity Economy Movement (Movimiento de Economía Social y Solidaria de Ecuador, or MESSE), is an advocacy group that emerged in 2008, with the support of Avina and other organizations, as an active participant in the drafting of a new Ecuadorian constitution. MESSE has continued to make an impact, offering proposals to influence legislation such as the Solidarity Economy Law and the Community Finance and Solidarity Sector policy of Ecuador. This law, passed in April, 2011, is designed to create employment opportunities and generate income for thousands of Ecuadorian families.

Today MESSE continues to coordinate, share and strengthen the initiatives of more than 200 participants, from across Ecuador and the region, who exchange best practices and share experiences through numerous networking opportunities provided by Avina. With its allies from both rural and urban parts of the country, MESSE has made a tremendous impact over the past four years in reshaping the social pact between Ecuador's government and its people.

Avina continues to work closely with MESSE and other Ecuadorian activists, especially leaders of the National Community and Solidarity Finance Network (Red Nacional de Finanzas Populares y Solidarias, or RENAFIPSE), Avina and RENAFIPSE in the past year have coordinated meetings, hosted thought-leadership gatherings and prepared white papers to inform the ongoing public debate. We have also been active participants in several meetings of the National Assembly and various government commissions, and we have had several direct meetings with assembly members, ministers and undersecretaries.

Our common goal is to support legislative change and the establishment of a regulatory framework in Ecuador that broadens political participation and fosters a national economy based on sustainable practices of production, commercialization and consumption of goods and services.

 

Improving the Quality of Education From Uruguay to Paraguay

 

Children playing during recess at a state school in Uruguay.
The model of education evaluation and quality improvement
created and implemented in Uruguay in previous years is now
being used in Paraguay.

Avina is pleased to have provided financial and organizational support to several groups working with the Paraguay's Center for Intelligence Development (Centro para el Desarrollo de la Inteligencia, or CDI), in creating a framework for evaluating and improving the quality of education in Paraguay.

By facilitating contact and conversations between these groups and government officials, Avina was able to achieve a positive outcome in the government's selection of a model developed by the Catholic University of Uruguay (Universidad Católica del Uruguay). The model addresses educational quality on several fronts, from institutional planning and curriculum development to structural organization that recognizes the impact of family structures on access to education.

Authorities of the Ministry of Education and Culture are currently evaluating alternatives for implementing the report's recommendations across publicly funded educational institutions in Paraguay.

The evaluation and certification of schools and other educational centers is one of the weakest aspects of Paraguay’s current education system. Strengthening schools’ evaluation and reporting mechanisms is a priority effort, and this first experiment is widely viewed as an important and promising step toward achieving these objectives.