50 Years Creating a Hemisphere of Opportunity for All

Strengthen Communities and Civil Society

Strengthening civil society and increasing citizen participation in local governments and non-governmental organizations is a fundamental ingredient for a healthy democracy.

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, grassroots democracy has expanded in the last two decades, often bringing significant reforms. Today, an important decentralization from national to municipal governments is occurring in the LAC region, strengthening ties between local government and communities and encouraging the development of civil society.

To foster resilient communities and engaged societies, PADF partners with civil society organizations to strengthen their capacity to better respond to community needs. We believe that addressing community needs and increasing citizen participation in civic matters are fundamental for a healthy democracy. Over five decades, PADF has successfully developed and strengthened more than 2,000 community-based groups, NGOs and municipalities in the region, enhancing their capacity to support local communities:

  • Enhancing Democratic Values and Civic Practices
  • Empowering Civil Society, Communities and Social Entrepreneurs
  • Promoting Human Rights, including Afro-Descendants, Indigenous and Other Vulnerable Groups
  • Fostering Participation and a Culture of Lawfulness
  • Pioneering Innovative Models of Corporate-Civic Engagement
  • Supporting the Inter-American Democratic Charter

Enhancing Democratic Values and Civic Practices

PADF encourages greater learning about human rights and democratic values through formal and informal training and activities that engage a cross-section of the population, among them youth, women and vulnerable groups. Our initiatives leverage innovative techniques including arts, social media tools and other interactive opportunities to promote discussion and collaboration. PADF also works with journalism students, citizen journalists, and professionals to foster better journalistic practices, promote balanced and objective media coverage of critical issues, develop innovative media outlets and increase awareness of the importance of the role of free media.

As part of our regional civil society strengthening program, in 2012 PADF provided assistance to groups in Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Venezuela and other countries in accordance with our mandate to support the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Empowering Civil Society, Communities and Social Entrepreneurs

In the last 50 years, PADF has strengthened the capacity of more than 2,000 civil society groups. And that work continues today. Throughout the hemisphere, PADF is actively strengthening local non-governmental organizations and municipalities by working side by side to combat human rights abuses, prevent human trafficking, promote media freedom and address other issues. This approach has developed much needed leadership and improved local capacity to tackle community challenges. PADF also trains local leaders in critical areas such as planning, management, fundraising and citizen participation, and provides technical assistance and other resources. This helps communities tackle local problems with efficiency, effectiveness and transparency, enabling grassroots democracy to grow.

A $3.4 million program with Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Social Prosperity (DPS), the Special Unit for the Attention and Comprehensive Restitution of Victims, and USAID helped strengthen local organizations that assist displaced persons. Among various activities, this initiative improved the organizational capacity of 15 women-led victims’ organizations and trained local pro-victim organizations to advocate and represent their constituents. In Colombia, PADF continues to work with women’s organizations in 15 departments (provinces), many National Board of Victims (Mesa Nacional de Víctimas) organizations and community leaders from 255 municipalities in 31 departments.


Promoting Human Rights, including Afro-Descendants, Indigenous and Other Vulnerable Groups

PADF has a long history of strong support of human rights. For decades, the Foundation has carried out programs to support victims of violence, combat human rights abuses and provide opportunities for greater equality to Afro-descendants, indigenous people, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable groups. As a result of our work to strengthen government entities and local NGOs, PADF has greatly impacted women’s rights, violence reduction and monitoring, social rights, access to justice, rights of free association and the rights of historically excluded minorities.

Because of PADF’s unique technical expertise, long-standing relationships with Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups and vulnerable communities, Colombia’s Department of Social Prosperity (DPS) sought out PADF to implement a program worth US $24.4 million. It focuses on providing differentiated attention to 10,000 Afro-Colombian and Indigenous families located in 12 departments.  Activities include income generation projects, institutional strengthening of Afro-Colombian and indigenous community councils, food security projects and other actions that promote the development of these communities.

Fostering Participation and a Culture of Lawfulness

PADF is keenly aware that strengthening the social fabric is a key part of promoting respect for law. By fostering the participation of families, government officials, law enforcement and civil society, our programs teach communities that each member has a personal role in creating and overseeing the implementation of the laws, and preventing crime and corruption. PADF, therefore, believes in working with children and youth, because school-based programs have a ripple effect, influencing not only students, but also teachers, parents, local government officials, neighborhood associations and the community at large.

Pioneering Innovative Models of Corporate-Civic Engagement

Following the creation of PADF in 1962, we began working with private sector partners Caterpillar and Pfizer. Since then, our list of trusted corporate partners has grown exponentially to include not only Caterpillar, but also Chevron, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Telefónica, Merck, EMC, Boeing, MTV, Citi,  Coltabaco, and many others (see p. 28). Today, PADF continues to work with companies that are looking for innovative, sustainable ways to stimulate job creation, protect human rights, conserve the environment, improve social services and infrastructure, and prepare for and respond to natural disasters quickly, among other priorities. PADF also leverages significant private contributions to match public funds.

Meanwhile, PADF also engages with existing business networks. Under PADF’s strategic alliance with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA) to provide disaster relief and assistance, PADF collaborates with 23 American Chambers of Commerce in the region. In some instances, local “AmChams” provide PADF with emergency relief funds to manage on their behalf.

PADF’s growing In-Kind Donations Program is also a successful model, as it partners with businesses and institutions that donate equipment as part of their corporate social investing programs. PADF distributes high-quality new and used medical and dental equipment to health care institutions throughout the region. This program also provides tools to support vocational training programs that are designed to help disadvantaged people increase their incomes in order to become self-sufficient. In the past four decades, PADF has provided more than $100 million worth of goods, including $6.1 million in 2012 alone.

Supporting the Inter-American Democratic Charter

PADF is a support mechanism for the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was approved by Organization of American States members on September 11, 2001. In this role, PADF works to strengthen nonpartisan civil society, community groups and the private sector as fundamental pillars of democracy and to nurture greater pluralism and participation in OAS member states.

Over time, PADF has helped NGOs form alliances with municipalities, government agencies and corporate and private donors to develop micro-enterprises, provide employment and technical training, improve basic services, facilitate citizen participation in community-action programs, and aid victims of natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

PADF remains committed to working in a nonpartisan manner with local civil society groups that represent all segments of society and social movements, in accordance with the principles of the Inter-American system.  It does not work with political parties or foundations and NGOs affiliated with them.