Colombia-U.S. Human Rights Teaching and Research Partnership Program
Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict 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 in order to hold perpetrators accountable. In this context, the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law launched a partnership in 2012 with two universities in Cali, Colombia—Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali and Universidad Santiago de Cali —with the overall goal of strengthening the capacities of law schools in Colombia’s conflict-prone Valle del Cauca region to train future human rights practitioners and advocates.
The three-year initiative, sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED), designed substantive programming to achieve three partnership objectives: (1) strengthen the institutional capacity of Colombian law schools to provide access to and train future legal practitioners in human rights; (2) enhance the outreach capacity of regional law schools to better serve vulnerable populations in Colombia with limited access to and knowledge of the legal system; and (3) increase access to human rights tertiary education programs and equip future legal professionals with an understanding of national, regional, and international standards of human rights, as well the skills to support human rights reform in Colombia.
The substantive programming of the partnership was collaboratively developed by key human rights faculty from each partner institution and was responsive to the needs of both Colombian universities. It also strategically leveraged each of the Colombian partners’ institutional strengths, as well as AUWCL'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. AUWCL faculty conducted a series of faculty training workshops in Cali, and the partnership fostered strategic alliances with a variety of academic, community, and government stakeholders. It also supported study visits and exchanges, in addition to joint research and clinic initiatives, as well as ongoing development of specialized human rights trainings for vulnerable populations across the region.
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