CIDA funds York U. Latin American network

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has awarded $3 million to the RedLEIDH project at York University to advance an ambitious agenda of human rights education in Latin America.

The Latin American Human Rights Education and Research Network brings together York University’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and Osgoode Hall Law School in a new network of Latin American universities and civil society organizations to promote human rights education, applied research and capacity-building in the region.

“Canadians and Canada are making a difference in the world by supporting many initiatives in developing countries that help empower and enable locally-based educators and their students to acquire further knowledge in many areas,” said Susan Whelan (left), minister for international cooperation. “Education and human rights are key priorities for CIDA and are issues which Canadians obviously take to heart.”

The Latin American founding partners are the Association of Jesuit Universities of Latin America, based in Guatemala; the Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services, based in Colombia; the Center for Legal and Social Studies, based in Argentina; and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica.

CIDA funding, plus $2 million contributed by the project partners, will support the network for an initial six years, in programs to strengthen democratic governance and human rights protection, foster a culture of respect for the humanistic rule of law and support the struggle against poverty in Latin America. The experience and knowledge of women and indigenous peoples will be a central focus of program activities.

“There is no doubt about the pressing need for this Osgoode-CERLAC partnership with these accomplished organizations in Latin America,” said CERLAC director Viviana Patroni (right).

While right-wing dictatorships are generally considered a thing of the past in Latin America, Patroni said, scholars are concerned that the “low-intensity democracy” currently experienced by the majority of Latin American citizens is increasingly endangered by violent conflict, militarism and gross violations of human rights.

“The neo-liberal economic development model imposed by northern institutions since the 1980s has further excluded indigenous and rural populations and left massive poverty in its wake,” said Patroni.

RedLEIDH is founded on the premise that economic, social and cultural rights are integral to the full realization of human rights. York’s Osgoode Hall Law School contributes research and teaching capacity related to human rights, with strengths in international and transnational law, the interaction of law and globalization, law and indigenous peoples, law and poverty, and feminist approaches to legal analysis.

“Osgoode’s global reputation for ‘law and society’ scholarship and our long and distinguished history of involvement in clinical and practice-oriented education around social justice issues have resulted in a law school culture that is responsive to community needs and practised in co-operative ventures,” said Osgoode Associate Dean Craig Scott.

“I was not surprised when my Osgoode colleagues indicated their enthusiasm for being part of the network’s activities over the next six years,” he added.

CERLAC is Canada’s largest interdisciplinary academic research centre on Latin America and the Caribbean, with an active agenda focusing on education, research, community outreach, international development, and Canadian policy towards the Americas. With a long history of collaborative activity throughout the region, CERLAC has been working to advance human rights in the broadest sense, making it uniquely qualified to coordinate the Canadian side of the project.