The Colombian Constitutional Court recently declared that primary public education must be free and obligatory throughout the country, a decision brought about through the work of the Colombian human rights community with the assistance of the Cornell International Human Rights Clinic. Distilling insights from this project, three of the Clinic’s participants have created a model for teaching and advocacy that appears in the spring ’12 issue of the Clinical Law Review.
“Catalysts for Change: A Proposed Framework for Human Rights Clinical Teaching and Advocacy” was written by Jocelyn Getgen-Kestenbaum ’07, Program Director at the Virtue Foundation; Esteban Hoyos-Ceballos, J.S.D. ’13, Assistant Professor of Law at EAFIT University, Medellín, Colombia; and Melissa C. del Aguila, J.D./LL.M.’10, Assistant Director at the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. During the Colombia Right to Free Education Project described in their article, Kestenbaum served as a clinical fellow, Hoyos-Ceballos was an LL.M. student, and del Aguila was a J.D. student.
“[The article] presents a critical reflection of our work on the strategic litigation for the right to free education in Colombia,” says Hoyos-Ceballos, who is a Colombian citizen. “We firmly believe that this reflection can help other clinicians or human rights advocates who wish to play a role as part of local human rights and social justice movements in countries like mine."
Kestenbaum concurs, noting that the project “not only advanced the human rights of individuals on the ground but also shaped our understanding of a collaborative methodology to employ in human rights clinical teaching and international advocacy.”
“Colombia Right to Free Education Project encouraged us to think critically about clinical teaching and advocacy... I feel incredibly proud to have been part of this endeavor."
Cornell Law’s International Human Rights Clinic is taught by Sital Kalantry, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice. “Jocelyn, Esteban, and Melissa contributed significantly to ensuring that all children in Colombia are able to obtain primary education without cost,” she says. “The article also makes a significant contribution to the practice and pedagogy of international human rights clinics around the world.”
-- Owen Lubozynski