The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas. WOLA envisions a future where public policies protect human rights and recognize human dignity, and where justice overcomes violence. WOLA tackles problems that transcend borders and demand cross-border solutions. The organization creates strategic partnerships with courageous people making social change—advocacy organizations, academics, religious and business leaders, artists, and government officials. Together, they advocate for more just societies in the Americas.
This fall I interned with the Washington Office on Latin America, carrying out research for the Central America Monitor. The monitor is a new initiative led by WOLA and local partner organizations to track U.S. assistance to Central America and evaluate the progress that Central America is making to reduce violence, safeguard human rights, strengthen law enforcement and the rule of law, combat corruption, and increase accountability and transparency.
Since starting my work, I have been offered networking opportunities I could have never imagined receiving in places other than DC. For example, I interacted with multiple diplomats and private sector personnel from across Latin America. My work has allowed me to meet numerous practitioners of international development and human rights advocates, including top officials from some of the world’s best-known NGOs.
WOLA also raised my awareness towards the impact of development. My role as a research fellow allowed me to gain insight on how international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) operate both internally and externally in the quest to address global societal problems. I investigated how the Guatemalan government was professionalizing their police force, to avoid human rights abuses on the part of law enforcement, and to create a force that would no longer require help from the nation’s military. I constantly sent Freedom of Information Requests (FOIAs) to the Ministerio de Gobernacion (Interior Ministry) in Guatemala to obtain data we needed on issues such as police budgets and numbers of officers. My work at WOLA has allowed me to both understand the Central America region more in depth, and to see how human rights and their preservation are key to successful human and societal development.
Alejandro Turino was a MAIR student who graduated in December 2020. He also interned at Oxfam and the Pan American Development Foundation.