American University Washington College of Law Receives $1 Million USAID Grant to Expand and Support Human Rights Education in Colombia


CONTACT: Melissa del Aguila, assistant director, Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law, 202-274-4180

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2013 - American University Washington College of Law has received a $1 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED) to facilitate a partnership among the law school and two universities in Cali, Colombiato expand and support their teaching of human rights.

The Human Rights Teaching and Research Partnership Program seeks to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in Colombia through this collaborative partnership, coordinated by the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Center) at American University Washington College of Law.

“We are proud to partner with our colleagues from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali and Universidad Santiago de Cali in Colombia on this important initiative, with the common goal of promoting human rights even further through the education and training of a new generation,” said Claudio Grossman, dean, American University Washington College of Law.

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 will focus on strengthening the institutional capacities and commitment of Colombian law schools in the conflict-prone Valle del Cauca region to train future human rights practitioners and advocates.

“The grant supports three years of partnership among American University Washington College of Law, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali and Universidad Santiago de Cali,” explains Melissa del Aguila, director of the Center’s Human Rights Education Program.  “We are very excited to build on the enthusiasm of our partners and, together, catalyze the creativity of their existing programs to integrate models of teaching human rights appropriate for the current reality of transition in Colombia.”  

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 builds on leveraging American University Washington College of Law’s internationally renowned human rights faculty and programs—including participation in the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition, the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and more.  The law school’s faculty will conduct workshops in Cali, which will be interactive and participatory in design and will include substantive and practical focal areas shaped by the priorities of the Colombian partner institutions.  The partnership will also support study visits and exchanges which will enable core human rights faculty from both universities to observe how human rights is taught at American University Washington College of Law; have focused interaction with the law school’s faculty experts teaching on issues of international human rights law, gender and culture, minority rights, indigenous rights, international humanitarian law, disability rights; and to observe hearings and interface with Commissioners and staff at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Key American University Washington College of Law faculty members involved in the partnership include Professors Rick Wilson, Macarena Saez, Jayesh Rathod, and David Baluarte, all of whom will contribute to the project as part of the Partnership Leadership Team along with Center Assistant Director Melissa del Aguila who will be directing the partnership for the law school in her new role as Director of the Center’s Human Rights Education Program.


In 1896, American University Washington College of Law became the first law school in the country founded by women. More than 100 years since its founding, this law school community is grounded in the values of equality, diversity, and intellectual rigor. The law school's nationally and internationally recognized programs (in clinical legal education, trial advocacy, international law, and intellectual property to name a few) and dedicated faculty provide its 1,700 JD, LL.M., and SJD students with the critical skills and values to have an immediate impact as students and as graduates, in Washington, DC and around the world. For more information, visit

The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law was established at American University Washington College of Law in 1990 to provide scholarship and support for human rights initiatives in the United States and around the world. The Center works with students, academics and practitioners to enhance the understanding and implementation of human rights and humanitarian law domestically, regionally and internationally. The Center explores emerging intersections in the law and seeks to create new tools and strategies for the creative advancement of international norms.  The Center has worked extensively on a variety of successful human rights education initiatives and holds an ongoing series of workshops, conferences and trainings to build capacity with students and educators to shape discussions, strengthen teaching and deepen learning about human rights and humanitarian law. More information about the Center can be found at

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.  For more information, visit

Higher Education for Development (HED) mobilizes the expertise and resources of the higher education community to address global development challenges. HED manages a competitive awards process to access expertise with the higher education community in coordination with the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). For more information about HED, visit