The UF College of Education, Levin College of Law and Center for Latin American Studies will join together with two Colombian law schools to create a human rights center in the Caribbean region of Colombia.

A grant of about $757,000 from the national Higher Education for Development office will help fund the three-year effort.

The purpose of the center is to build human rights capacity at law schools in this area, said Philip Williams, director of the Center for Latin American Studies and one of the project’s directors.

The Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta and the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla will administer the human rights center, according to a press release.

The center will allow Colombian law students to attain experience in practicing human rights law by working with victims of human rights violations, Williams said. The center will also provide outreach educational programs for the general public, police and military.

“After years of internal conflict, enhancing the protection of human rights for ordinary Colombians is critical to the country’s future democratic development,” he said.

Along with Williams, who will be focusing on administering the grant and bringing UF’s law faculty to develop a curriculum in Colombia, the team of project directors include Jon Mills and Pilar Mendoza.

The Center for Governmental Responsibility’s Annual Conference on Legal & Policy Issues in the Americas will have a focus on human rights in Colombia. There will be a workshop in Gainesville this spring, followed by a conference held in Colombia in spring 2014, according to the Center for Latin American Studies’ website.

Mendoza, an assistant professor in higher education administration in the College of Education, will assess and evaluate the project development and be a cultural liaison, given her Colombian background. To Mendoza, the partnership is a way to go back to her roots.

“People leave underdeveloped countries and turn their back to them,” she said. “For me, this is a way to come back, not necessarily moving back, but to leverage resources.”

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