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AIDA: Protecting communities and the environment in the Americas

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Founded in 1998, AIDA is a nonprofit environmental law organization that works across international borders to defend threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. Environmental health and human rights can no longer be protected by working within the political boundaries of individual nations: the 35 countries of our hemisphere are united under a common environmental flag. International problems call for international responses, and AIDA develops transnational strategies to address the environmental and human rights challenges of the 21st century.

AIDA mission

Our mission is to strengthen people's ability to guarantee their individual and collective right to a healthy environment, via the development, implementation, and effective enforcement of national and international law.

What does AIDA do?

Environmental systems throughout the Americas are being pushed to the limit by industrial activities, population growth, and irresponsible public policy. Focusing our efforts on problems in Latin America, AIDA partners with local groups to field multinational teams of lawyers and scientists to tackle a range of environmental crises – the decline of freshwater resources, the proliferation of toxins, climate change, and the decimation of vulnerable biodiversity. Environmental health is part and parcel with human health: protecting the environment we also protect the underprivileged communities that depend on their ecosystems for fresh air, clean water, and livable habitat.

Our methods are diverse. Complex problems don’t yield to simple solutions, and AIDA employs a broad suite of advocacy tools. We combine legal work with education and alliance-building initiatives designed to empower citizens and arm policy-makers with the knowledge needed to make responsible choices. We distribute reports on key issues, leverage international institutions and tribunals to expose flawed policies, and help nonprofit organizations to work for environmental enforcement when governments can’t or won’t get the job done.

AIDA conducts its efforts according to four basic principles:

Encourage Transnational Collaboration. In many cases, environmental crises can’t be boxed into individual nations. Pesticide spraying in Colombia threatens forests in Ecuador; polluted waters from Bolivia damage fragile wetlands in Brazil; overfishing by boats registered in Panama causes global disruptions in marine ecosystems; and consumer excess in the United States strains environmental resources throughout the hemisphere. AIDA doesn’t let arbitrary political boundaries dictate the scope of our efforts. We do what it takes to win, no matter how many borders we have to cross along the way.
 

Protect human rights. Environmental health and human rights are two sides of the same coin. Without the services provided by functioning ecosystems – clean water, breathable air, and productive soil – human communities cannot thrive. When human rights are violated, democracy fails. When significant disparities in economic capacity and political influence are involved, AIDA protects poor communities struggling against powerful corporate or state interests.
 

Cultivate the power of international law. Many international treaties make lofty promises that lead to little action. Commitments on paper are meaningless without real-world incentives and mechanisms for enforcement. AIDA designs international strategies that lead to measurable results: we hold governments accountable and build the capacity of key players in positions to make a difference.
 

Encourage citizen enforcement and public participation. Lasting change comes from the ground up. AIDA works to empower the communities and organizations that we represent. Sometimes, governments cannot be relied upon to protect basic environmental and human rights. When the authorities don’t deliver, AIDA helps nonprofit organizations enforce the law.