U of M Human Rights Program Receives $1.25 Million USAID Grant

November 19, 2012

The University of Minnesota has received a $1.25 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED), to create a human rights law school partnership between the university and four law schools in Medellin, Colombia, to strengthen the capacities of the Medellin schools to teach, research and provide clinical legal representation toward the promotion of international human rights and the rule of law.

The grant covers three years of partnership, which will be carried out by the university’s Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts and the Human Rights Center in the Law School. Faculty in both colleges will conduct workshops and teach courses in Medellin, and Colombian law students and faculty will travel to the university to learn about human rights law and practice and to cultivate mentor relationships with faculty and human rights professionals.

“We are eager to partner with law students and faculty from Medellin,” says Barbara Frey, director of the U’s Human Rights Program. “We know it will be an exciting and rewarding experience working with faculty and students who are committed to the rule of law as an alternative to violence in Colombia. We will certainly learn as much as we will teach.”

Colombia is one of the oldest democracies in Latin America, but has seen intense armed conflicts over the past 50 years involving insurgents and paramilitary groups, along with criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations. With the implementation of a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia in May, and the start of peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government last month, the U.S. State Department and USAID are supporting Colombia’s efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, foster socio-economic development, address immediate humanitarian needs, and end the threats to democracy posed by narcotics trafficking and terrorism.

The four law school partners in Medellin are: Universidad de Medellin, Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana and Universidad Catilica de Oriente.

Human rights education is embedded in numerous units at the University of Minnesota. The Human Rights Program in the College of Liberal Arts and the Human Rights Center at the Law School form the intellectual core of human rights education at the university. Faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts are internationally known for their expertise on the intersections of human rights with judicial trials, small arms, genocides and atrocities, and cultural histories. Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels combine classroom work with activism, regularly taking on issues as diverse as meatpackers’ working conditions, sex trafficking and prolonged solitary confinement.

The Law School houses the Human Rights Center, which assists human rights advocates, monitors, students, educators, and volunteers in accessing effective tools, practices, and networks to promote a culture of human rights and responsibilities in our local, national, and international communities. Their faculty and students routinely partner with the United Nations on human rights monitoring and education. One of its most far-reaching projects is its online Human Rights Library, which houses critical legal resources in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and other languages.

To build upon their mutual interest and expertise in human rights more than 50 faculty members spanning at least six colleges—including education, law, liberal arts, medicine, public affairs and public health—have come together through a voluntary collaboration known as “The Human Rights University.” The collaboration seeks to mobilize knowledge to advance human rights.

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 www.usaid.gov.

Higher Education for Development (HED) mobilizes the expertise and resources of the higher education community to address global development challenges. Higher Education for Development (HED) works closely with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is founded by the nation’s six presidential higher education associations to support the involvement of higher education in development issues worldwide.

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