Colombia Human Rights Education Project

About the Project

The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law is leading an initative to partner with two universities in Cali, Colombia (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali and Universidad Santiago de Cali) to expand and support their teaching of human rights. The Colombia-U.S. Human Rights Teaching and Research Partnership, sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED), seeks to build the Colombian partners’ human rights teaching capacity and to enhance their existing human rights programs and institutional commitment to increasing work on human rights as a way to support the advancement of human rights in Colombia.

Colombia’s armed conflict over the past five decades has resulted in serious challenges regarding respect for and enforcement of human rights, including the perpetration of widespread human rights violations and the displacement of more than three million people. In recent years, however, Colombia has made significant progress in developing its legal and institutional framework for the protection and promotion of human rights, underscoring the need for trained professionals at all levels of the legal system with the knowledge and skills to investigate, document and prosecute human rights abuses to hold perpetrators accountable. In this context, the partnership seeks to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in Colombia by strengthening the institutional capacities of law schools in the conflict-prone Valle del Cauca region to train future human rights practitioners and advocates.

Photo at left: Student art mural on display at Universidad Santiago de Cali's School of Law.

The substantive programming of the partnership has been collaboratively developed by key human rights faculty from each partner institution and is responsive to the needs of both Colombian universities. It also leverages WCL's specialized human rights faculty and programs—including participation in the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition, the Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Summer Legal English Program, and more. WCL faculty is conducting a series of faculty training workshops in Cali, which are interactive and participatory in design and include substantive and practical focal areas shaped by the priorities of the Colombian partner institutions. The partnership also supports study visits and exchanges, in addition to joint research and clinic initiatives as well as ongoing development of specialized human rights trainings across the region.

Project Partners

Each Colombian partner institution has a unique approach to human rights legal education, both of which work to integrate models of teaching human rights appropriate for the current reality of transition in Colombia and their respective univeristy communities. Universidad Santiago de Cali (USC) has the oldest School of Law in the city of Cali which houses USC's renowned legal research center, the Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Legales (CEIDE), as well as a Practice Law Center with a growing human rights internship program providing students opportunities to gain experience interning at the local Human Rights Ombudsman's Office. Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali's Department of Law and Political Science has a uniquely inter-disciplinary approach to the study of law with an intensive Law Program housed within the College of Humanities and Social Science, and an expansive Practice Law Center which recently launched the first-ever human rights law clinic in the city of Cali, as well as a new Master's Degree Program in Human Rights and Culture of Peace, coordinated in conjunction with the United Nations University for Peace.

The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law works closely with a group of six core human rights faculty at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali and Universidad Santiago de Cali to coordinate all partnership programming. In addition to participation in ongoing collaborative activities, these faculty have been fully integrated into the WCL community through participation in the law school's prestigious International Visiting Scholars Program. Meet the partnership's Colombian faculty coordinators.

Photo at right: WCL Dean Claudio Grossman meets with Colombian human rights faculty during study visit to WCL.

Learn More

American University Washington College of Law Recieves $1 Million USAID Grant to Expand and Support Human Rights Education in Colombia, Jan. 17, 2013.

Center’s Project on Human Rights Education in Colombia Holds First Faculty Training Workshop in Cali, Colombia, Feb. 25, 2013.

Center Welcomes Delegation of Colombian Human Rights Faculty to WCL, Mar. 28, 2013.

Visiting Human Rights Faculty from Partner Universities in Colombia Participate in Intensive Summer Programming at WCL, Jul. 23, 2013.


For more information, contact Center assistant director and Human Rights Education program director Melissa C. del Aguila by email at