The Open Society Latin America Program works to strengthen democratic governance by fostering open societies that are safe, inclusive, and responsive to their citizens’ needs and aspirations. The program believes in the need for a vibrant civil society that holds government accountable. It encourages the participation of Latin Americans in global and regional debates on issues of vital importance to their countries, such as citizen security, accountability and transparency, and the defense of human rights.
Through grantmaking and advocacy efforts, the Latin America Program supports the work of civil society organizations and their constructive engagement in the development, implementation, and oversight of public policies. The program counterparts are NGOs, grassroots networks, and applied research and training organizations.
The program’s strategy includes a concentrated resource approach to priority countries (Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela) in addition to support for strategic regional initiatives in areas of thematic focus. Key focus areas include:
- accountability, transparency, and access to information
- citizen security
- human rights
- policy debate and dialogue
The program works closely with the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté in Haiti. It also collaborates with other Open Society programs, such as the Information Program, Global Drug Policy Program, Media Program, and the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Accountability and Transparency
The Latin America Program supports initiatives that encourage informed, constructive public oversight of government policy. show more Only through greater accountability and transparency can citizens combat graft and inefficiencies and secure equal access to essential public services. The program provides funding for civil society actors in Latin America that often lack the resources and expertise necessary to gain access to government-held information, to scrutinize budgets, and to monitor the performance of public officials.
To encourage the public oversight that assures higher standards of governance, the program supports work to: promote the public's right and ability to access government documents and data through the passage and implementation of freedom of information laws; provide citizen groups and journalists with the training and resources they need to fulfill their role as public watchdogs; improve the capacity of civil society to monitor government revenues and expenditures and promote equitable access to government services; strengthen and expand accountability and oversight mechanisms to reduce opportunities for corruption and other abuses of public office; promote the use of transparency tools to increase access to justice and essential social services for marginalized or disadvantaged communities.
The Latin America Program supports initiatives that encourage constructive policy advocacy and dialogue between civil society and governments relating to issues of citizen security, law enforcement, and judicial policies. show more Insecurity is the top concern for a majority of Latin American citizens, opinion polls show. Yet reforms in law enforcement and judicial institutions are often short sighted, piecemeal, or hard-line, threatening basic human rights. Many countries are ill-equipped to deal with the menace of organized crime and corruption, fueled by the illegal drug trade. Constructive policy advocacy and dialogue between civil society and governments are often lacking.
To address these issues, the Latin America Program funds efforts to: provide state and civil society actors with the technical expertise and advocacy skills to implement effective law enforcement and judicial policies that respect human rights; encourage new actors and institutions to engage in policy-relevant debate and research on alternative approaches to drug policy and organized crime; develop regional networks of civil society actors to exchange information about police reform, crime prevention, and the growth of transnational organized crime.
The Latin America Program supports organizations that advance human rights and strengthen the rule of law. show more We give priority to civil society groups and individuals that work to: monitor and report on human rights abuses and advocate for rights-respecting policies and practices in select countries (Mexico and Venezuela); strengthen regional mechanisms and initiatives to protect human rights; improve transitional justice outcomes for victims of human rights abuses in ways that strengthen democratic institutions and fight impunity.
Policy Debate and Dialogue
The Latin America Program encourages greater participation in the formulation of international policies that reduce conflict, reinforce democratic governance, and promote social justice. show more We advocate pluralistic dialogue among diverse sectors based on mutual understanding and respect.
To stimulate policy debates both within and among nations, the program supports efforts to: build public support for multilateral mechanisms to solve problems that threaten the security of citizens throughout the hemisphere, such as common crime and drug and arms trafficking; encourage U.S.-based organizations to advocate U.S. foreign policies based on respect for human rights and democracy; identify strategies to reduce political polarization within and among Latin American countries; foster regional dialogues to defuse conflict and improve hemispheric relations.