Research network promotes human rights in Latin America

While the dictatorships of the 1980s are gone, countries in Central and South America still face challenges relating to the continuing power of the military, the weak influence of the judiciary and the disruption caused by multinational mining and oil companies.

York University will host a number of events today to highlight the work performed by the Latin American Human Rights Education & Research Network (RedLEIDH). The network was offically launched in 2006 during a ceremony at the headquarters of the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights in Costa Rica. It brings together researchers and academics from York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean (CERLAC) and Osgoode Hall Law School with a network of Latin American universities and civil society organizations, to promote human rights education, conduct applied research and build capacity in the region. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has funded the RedLEIDH project for a period of six years and awarded the project $2.7 million in 2003 to help it advance an ambitious agenda of human rights education in Latin America. (See the Dec. 12, 2003 issue of YFile for the full story.)

Today’s events include a special lecture which will be delivered in Spanish, by Diego Morales, director of the Center for Legal and Social Studies, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Morales, a RedLEIDH board member, will focus his remarks on recent litigation dealing with cultural, economic and social rights in Argentine civil society. The lecture will take place at 2pm in room 240E York Lanes. All are welcome to attend.

Following the lecture there will be a reception at 4pm in 280 York Lanes for members of the RedLEIDH board. The reception will include the launch of a new RedLEIDH Web site dedicated to the promotion of human rights education in Latin America. RedLEIDH’s Latin American founding partners include the Association of Jesuit Universities of Latin America based in Venezuela, the Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services based in Colombia, the Center for Legal and Social Studies in Argentina and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights based in Costa Rica. Representatives from each of these organizations who are also members of the RedLEIDH board will be on hand for the launch of the Web site. The RedLEIDH board meets once a year, and this year the meeting is being held in Toronto, Dec. 13 -15.

The network was established by Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Craig Scott (right) and York sociology Professor Viviana Patroni (below, left) of CERLAC and a co-director of RedLEIDH. The project currently has two staff members, program coordinator Beatriz Munarriz and technical coordinator Benjamin Cornejo. 

Among the various activities undertaken as part of the project since receiving the “green light” from CIDA are the development of new masters programs in human rights which were first offered in 2007 at universities in Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and Mexico; the awarding of scholarships to human rights practitioners throughout Latin America who are completing a specialized human rights diploma program; the development of a new virtual library and portal on human rights; the production of important publications that systematize key human rights learnings in the region; and a series of public engagement activities in Canada, including the September 2006 visit to York University of Argentinian human rights leader Nora Cortiñas, and a March 2007 conference held at York which focused on the rights of Colombia’s Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples.

“The RedLEIDH Web site will allow York University and the Latin American partners to collaborate on a number of initiatives including distance education," Cornejo said. “We are also excited about the virtual library which will make human rights materials readily available to students, researchers and teachers.”

“Many of the people we work with have received death threats or have had to flee their country of birth because of such threats," said Osgoode Professor Shin Imai (left), co-director of the project. “Their courage and determination has opened my eyes to a new reality.”

For Patroni, the project is also important for Canada. “There is a general lack of knowledge of the situation in Latin America and through this project we have an opportunity to inform Canadians about things that Canada could be doing to make things better,” she said.

With the RedLEIDH project now up and running, the next phase, says Patroni, will seek to maximize the synergies between the member institutions.

For more information on the project, contact Munarriz at ext. 22270, or e-mail