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Monday, September 16, 2013

University of Minnesota Hosts Colombian Delegation for Human Rights Exchange

Dean's Reception11 (9.10.2013).JPGLast week the Human Rights Program (HRP) and Human Rights Center (HRC) hosted eight professors, law students, and professionals from the Antioquia region of Colombia for a week-long exchange in human rights education and advocacy. The exchange was an important component of the UMN-Antioquia Human Rights Partnership, which aims to promote and protect human rights in Colombia by enhancing human rights legal education.

Members of the visiting delegation are affiliated with four Antioquia universities, including the Universidad de Medellín, Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana and Universidad Católica de Oriente. They have backgrounds in law, public policy and political science and work on behalf of vulnerable women and children, workers, LGBT individuals, displaced individuals and victims of armed conflict, and communities affected by environmental degradation in their home country.
The HRP and HRC constructed a full and rich schedule for the visiting delegation consisting of meetings with key faculty and experts; events and trainings on human rights themes and advocacy strategies; conversations with faculty about human rights pedagogy; and field trips to Twin Cities NGO's The Advocates for Human Rights and The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT).
The week of events kicked off with a well-attended welcome reception hosted by Barbara Frey, Director of the HRP, and David Weissbrodt, Director of the HRC, with remarks by Dean Duvall (College of Liberal Arts) and Dean Wippman (Law School). Other highlights included a series of meetings with UMN and Antioquia faculty and clinical students to set the framework for joint clinical work on Colombia human rights issues, and meetings with faculty and experts on relevant themes including transitional justice the rights of women and children. To this end, the visiting delegation met with human rights leaders Janet Walsch, Deputy Director of the Women's Program of Human Rights Watch, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Dorsey & Whitney Chair in Law at the UMN Law School, and Marsha Freeman, Director of International Women's Rights Action Watch at the UMN Law School.
A two-hour conversation with Abbey Weiss, Clinical Psychologist at CVT Saint Paul Healing Center was outstanding in that it provoked deep and sometimes painful reflection while simultaneously inspiring hope and reinforcing the importance of human rights work. Abbey discussed her experience working with torture survivors, a topic that resonated with the Colombian visitors who regularly work with victims of abuse and armed conflict in their legal clinical work. She articulated two critical messages: 1) with proper care and attention, survivors have the capacity to heal from trauma; 2) people who take it upon themselves to care and advocate for survivors of trauma themselves need to prioritize self-care, particularly given the importance of their work.
By the end of the week, the impact of the exchange was already apparent. With regards to her visit to the UMN, one participant attested:
"Puedo decirles que me siento muy afortunada de hacer parte de este proyecto. Gracias por todos los aprendizajes, por el recibimiento, la calidad humana y por el trabajo que realizan por los Derechos Humanos. Estoy segura que todo lo aprendido será de gran valor para nuestro trabajo en la Universidad." (I can tell you that I feel very fortunate to be part of this project. Thank you for all of the training, for the reception, the human touch, and for the work that you are doing for human rights. I am sure that everything I learned will be of great value for our work in the University.)
By Claire Leslie