Washington Office on Latin America
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The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is an American non-governmental organization (NGO) whose stated goal is to promote human rights, democracy and social and economic justice in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Washington Office on Latin America facilitates dialogue between governmental and non-governmental actors, monitors the impact of U.S. foreign policy on human rights, democracy and equitable development in Latin America, and promotes alternatives through reporting and advocacy. Through its reports, WOLA informs and educates policy-makers, religious and non-governmental organizations, and the general public about that impact. In addition, WOLA's briefings bring policy-makers and the media in direct contact with Latin American leaders and experts on a regular basis. WOLA works closely with civil society organizations and government officials throughout the Americas.
WOLA was founded in 1974 after the 1973 military coup of the democratically elected government in Chile. The first long-term executive director of the organization was Joseph Eldridge, who is currently the chaplain for American University. In its early years, some of WOLA's contacts were priests and nuns who lived in Latin America and bore witness to the events there.
WOLA has provided U.S. citizens and policy-makers firsthand information from Latin America. It informs the U.S. government about the effects of U.S. policy on the region. It facilitates communications and helps to sponsor visits from Latin Americans with expertise and experiences in human rights.
In 1975, the first major legislation that put conditions on U.S. military aid abroad on human-rights practices was drafted by congressional staff-persons who asked WOLA for advice.
WOLA has played a key role in most major Washington policy debates over human rights in Latin America since its foundation. Today, WOLA is called upon regularly to provide information and analysis to the executive branch, to multilateral organizations, to members of Congress, and to U.S. and Latin American news media.
The organization works on issues such as drug policy, rural development, violence against women, organized crime and the rights of internally displaced people.
Current program work includes:
- Central America
- South America
- Citizen Security
- Drug Policy
- Migration & Border Security
- Regional Security Policy
WOLA plays a key role within four somewhat distinct networks of non-governmental organizations: the human rights community, the foreign policy community, academic think-tanks, and the community of peace, justice, solidarity and religious-based organizations. WOLA's role as a bridge connecting networks with each other and with policy-makers has increased over the years.
In the media
- Youngers, Coletta. Thirty Years of Advocacy for Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice.
- Suri, Jeremi. Henry Kissinger and the American century. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007. p. 243