The human rights programs at two Colombian law schools will get a boost from the U.S. government and the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has allocated $757,200 for the law school to help establish the Colombian Caribbean Human Rights Center, which will promote research and community service.

The center will train students at the Universidad del Magdalena and Universidad del Norte in international human rights standards, human rights advocacy, and how to assist vulnerable populations including minorities and displaced people. The law schools are located in Santa Marta and Barranquilla, Colombia, respectively.

“Respect for the rights of individuals, especially vulnerable populations, is vital to the development of the democracy and economy of a nation,” said Jon Mills, who heads the law school’s Center for Governmental Responsibility and will help direct the new project. “We are honored to have this opportunity to work with two distinguished Colombian universities on such an important priority for the U.S. government.”

Administrators noted that the recent end of a civil war in the South American country and free trade agreements have made the advancement of human rights there of greater interest to the United States. Colombia is a close trading partner with Florida.

The Levin College of Law will work alongside the UF College of Education and Center for Latin American Studies on the project, which is slated to last three years. Plans call for close collaboration between UF and the partner law schools in mounting workshops in Colombia; creating opportunities for Colombian law faculty and students to study in Florida; and financing research partnerships.

“The higher education sector is rapidly developing in Latin America and the Caribbean,” education professor Pilar Mendoza said. “The University of Florida is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these developments and engage in these types of collaborations.”