Photo: Fundación La Alameda

La Alameda Foundation unveiled its “Hidden Agenda” digital platform
to inform the public about complaints filed against textile businesses
and brothels.

L atin America is experiencing one of the most promising phases in the history of its political development. The majority of the region´s countries have electoral democracies and growing political participation.  Unfortunately, the presence of democratically elected governments does not always correspond to democratic exercise of power, quality governance, nor the effectiveness of government institutions.

 
In recent years, Latin American democracies have been increasingly challenged by collective risks such as organized crime, public safety concerns and violence which endanger the exercise of citizenship and human rights. The persistent fragility of government institutions and, in some instances, the erosion of the state’s ability to perform its most basic functions and provide public goods ultimately damages the legitimacy and sustainability of democracy.  These problems are seen clearly in the rural areas of many countries and in some of the region’s most important cities.


A related threat comes from the “parallel institutions” increasingly visible in many parts of Latin America.  These arise when informal or even illegal activities “capture” public institutions whose rules, practices and policies begin to favor or answer to private or even criminal interests, thereby destroying the ability of government to provide goods and services in the public interest.


To counteract these challenges to the democratic advances in the region, what is needed is a new vision of governance and the exercise of power, as well as innovative strategies for civil society, the public and private sector to work together in solving public problems.  This involves building stronger and more sustainable institutions that can provide public services effectively, particularly in terms of improved policy-making. 

 

What Avina Does for Democratic Institutions

From its inception, Avina has considered democratic governance a pillar of sustainable development. Avina has supported hundreds of leaders and organizations committed to improving citizen participation, public accountability and democracy.  In analyzing key challenges for Latin America over the next decade as part of our planning process in 2012, it was clear that there is an opportunity for Avina to contribute to stronger democratic institutions.   Avina decided to develop this opportunity as part of our five-year plan, by building on its recent learning and experience and its wide network of allies.


Avina's strategy aims at better understanding the political factors that shape development and learning how to influence those factors.  Our approach focuses on the active collaboration of a wide range of actors and sectors to expose the cracks in public institutions and build sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life of citizens.


Avina’s Democratic Institutions team has convened a range of experts and allies to consider innovative strategies to strengthen governments and recognize their key role in delivering public goods and services.  Argentina and Mexico were chosen to pilot this Impact Opportunity in Development for Avina.  The Argentine pilot sought to reduce threats posed by organized crime. In Mexico, our work focused on new approaches to institutional capacity-building to improve the provision of public services.


As Avina’s strategy in this new area becomes clearer, we believe that innovations in public policy and institutions will promote durable, effective and replicable solutions that will assure the continued consolidation of Latin American democracy.

 

Below are some promising results related to Democratic Institutions that we saw in 2012:

 

The Fight to Combat Labor and Sexual Exploitation
in Argentina

In Argentina, Avina's ally, Fundación La Alameda (La Alameda Foundation), made inroads against impunity and industries based on labor and sexual exploitation. In 2012, it unveiled its digital platform, “Hidden Agenda”, through which it makes public complaints about textile businesses and underground brothels operating in urban areas. By the end of the year, La Alameda had won the direct support of the General Labor Confederation (CGT). Jointly, they launched the National Campaign against Slave Labor and moved to organize public demonstrations and bring lawsuits against business people who exploit their workers.

 

Our primary allies and co-
investors in 2012:
  • Democratic Institutions is an impact opportunity under development, but it has formed solid alliances with leaders from civil society, the business community and the government sector.  Key constituents include public interest organizations, social and business leaders, shapers of public opinion, government innovators and media companies. Research centers and international organizations such as think tanks, philanthropic foundations and development cooperation organizations will also be key partners.