Thanks to the support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office, the final round of the Seventh Human Rights’ University Contest will take place today in Santa Marta. This contest seeks to promote the inclusion of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) into the country’s undergraduate academic curricula and encourage university students’ commitment to the respect, legitimacy, and guarantee of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Participants who made it to the finals are students from Universidad EAFIT in Medellin and the Universidad Libre in Pereira. The judges of the contest are two auxiliary magistrates from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Horacio Guerrero-Garcia, Delegate Defender for Indigenous Affairs and Ethnic Minorities and Congresswoman Orfinia Polanco-Jusayú, Representative for the Indigenous constituency. Also on the judges panel is Tatiana Rincon-Covelli, Consultant for the Ombudsman’s Office and Human Rights Specialist.
The winning university will receive two tickets to send a couple of students from the winning team to the Annual Human Rights Inter-American Contest organized by the American University in Washington D.C., two internships at the Ombudsman’s Office (either at central or regional levels), and a collection of books on human rights and IHL.
Participants who make it to the finals will have to analyze, under the supervision of a mentor, a hypothetical case of a human rights violation involving government officials. The contest includes mock trials to promote students’ capacity for analysis and investigation, the quality of the written material and how they argue their cases. This year’s hypothetical case issue will involve the rights of indigenous communities. There will be 73 teams from around the country a 46% increase from last year’s event.
The protection and defense of human rights is a priority for the U.S. Government and, in Colombia, it does not focus exclusively high-level dialogues with the Colombian Government, but it seeks to promote academic spaces where these issues may be discussed more thoroughly. The U.S. Embassy supports this contest as a valuable opportunity to raise the level of awareness among young people on the importance of defending human rights.
U.S. Ambassador William R. Brownfield met with representatives from ONIC, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia on January 15, 2010. The Ambassador expressed his concern over the violence against the indigenous population around the country and appealed to the illegal armed groups to put an end to forced recruitment of indigenous children.
“The forced recruitment of indigenous children by illegal armed groups is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and the expression of indifference towards the most basic standards of human values,” said the Ambassador. “We appeal to all illegal armed groups to put an end to this practice,” he added.
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia was founded as a response of the Consensus of Colombian indigenous communities and people during the First National Indigenous Congress in 1982. Its political platform is based on Unity, Land, Culture and Autonomy.
The closing ceremony for the Second Seminar-Workshop on Leadership Training for Afrodescendants and Indigenous Fellows offered by the Fulbright Commission Colombia to a group of 20 afrodescendants and indigenous fellows in Bogota, will take place on Friday, January 29, 2010. The seminar, developed by the Phelp Stokes Foundation, seeks to train these fellows so they may become future leaders of their respective communities, and pass on their newly acquired knowledge as graduate students to their respective communities. The press is invited to the closing ceremony that will take place on January 29 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the AR Convention Center located on Calle 113 No. 7-80, 2nd floor. The event will be led by USAID Director Ken Yamashita; the director for the Promotion of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education María Victoria Angulo and Fulbright Director Ann Mason.
Fifteen of the twenty participants are afrodescendants and indigenous fellows from the Afrodescendants Leaders Program, the Cultural Studies Program and other such programs financed by the Fulbright Commission, in alliance with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture. This group of professional Fulbright fellows, that will earn Masters and PhD degrees in the United States, come from Quibdo, Bogota, Cali, Tunja, Barranquilla and San Andres and one indigenous professional from the Guajira Department.
Five Martin Luther King Fellows will also participate in the seminar. The MLK Program, funded by the U.S. Embassy, offers English scholarships and leadership training to outstanding university students from Quibdo, Cali, Medellin and Bogota.
The Steering Committee for the Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality between the U.S. and Colombia met for the first time at the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 2, 2010, to discuss progress since the Plan’s signing on January 12 during U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s visit to Colombia.
For the U.S. delegation, the Committee was chaired by Deputy Chief of Mission Brian A. Nichols and USAID’s Colombia Mission Director Dr. S. Ken Yamashita. The Colombian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Clemencia Forero and Deputy Minister of the Interior Vivian Manrique.
The Colombian Government outlined the objectives for the Action Plan. The U.S. presented a summary of the cultural, educational and exchange programs available for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. It also put forward ideas for future programs that acknowledge the objectives of the Action Plan. Both Governments agreed to summon their informal work groups to coordinate an agenda during the first session of the Plenary Group – to be held sometime in September or October – to sustain active participation of civil society organizations and the private sector.
The Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality seeks to promote cooperation, understanding, and exchange of information, providing equality of opportunity and eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination. Likewise, they are to work closely in areas already covered under bilateral initiatives and recommendations from the Intersectoral Commission for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal People; as well as many other U.S. Embassy Bogotá programs. The Plan will work to encourage and strengthen key projects such as education, culture, housing, health, work and employment, and an anti-discrimination legislation.
It is important to outline that since 2008, USAID has assigned 15 million dollars in resources to the Productive Ethnic Territories program (TEP) to develop activities that will generate income and jobs. The U.S. Government also finances several scholarship and exchange programs in Colombia, including the Martin Luther King (MLK) Fellows program, the College Horizons Initiative Program and the Fulbright Foundation’s Leadership program.
Bogotá, D.C., June 3, 2010
President Obama today announced United States support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The announcement, made during the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the U.S. Department of the Interior, underscores the U.S. commitment to strengthening government-to-government relationships with federally recognized tribes and furthering U.S. policy on indigenous issues.
The decision to support the Declaration represents an important and meaningful change in the U.S. position, and resulted from a comprehensive, interagency policy review, including extensive consultation with tribes. While the Declaration is not legally binding, it carries considerable moral and political force and complements the President’s ongoing efforts to address historical inequities faced by indigenous communities in the United States.
The President’s speech can be found on http://www.whitehouse.gov. A more detailed statement regarding U.S. support for the Declaration and our recent related initiatives in Indian country can be found at www.state.gov/p/io/.