Latin American Advocacy

August 03, 2013

My time with the Mennonite Central Committee - Washington Office this week often dealt with Latin American advocacy (the photo is one I took of the Capitol, a frequent target of advocates). On Wednesday, I attended a meeting of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) in the offices of the American Jewish World Service. HAWG brings together numerous NGO's (including many faith-based ones) "to coordinate advocacy efforts for effective and just disaster relief, reconstruction and long-term U.S. development policy toward Haiti." Since it formed shortly after the 2010 earthquake, it has stayed an action-oriented group as they frequently meet to share information from the ground and strategize advocacy efforts. I particularly learned about efforts to promote greater transparency in U.S. governmental relief efforts. On Thursday and Friday, I joined meetings with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) workers serving in Columbia and Mexico as they talked about in-country advocacy and building greater connections with the Washington Office. On Thursday, much of the discussion focused on Columbia, and I learned a lot about advocacy related to issues like mining injustices, democratic rights, violence, drugs, and the military. At one point we visited the offices of the Latin America Working Group, a collection of NGOs (including many faith-based ones) to push "our nation's representatives to change U.S. policies towards Latin America and promote human rights, justice, peace and sustainable development throughout the region." LAWG especially works on issues related to Columbia, Mexico, and Cuba. We mostly talked with staff about Columbia, but also covered issues related to Mexico and that nation's border with the U.S. During the walks to and from the LAWG office I enjoyed talking with a couple of those who have served in Columbia to learn more about their work. Friday's conversations that I joined focused on advocacy efforts in Mexico, as well as how to explain advocacy efforts throughout Latin America. I had to slip away to meet with Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia on immigration (see post here), but the conversation about Mexico and border issues seemed like perfect preparation. The international presence and work of MCC in various nations creates a unique advocacy voice for the MCC Washington Office. I enjoyed learning more about some of these efforts and hope the Latin American efforts (both in those countries and in the halls of Congress and the U.S. State Department) will continue to make a positive difference.

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