Performers from La Palma Negra
Performers from La Palma Negra, a youth dance group of displaced Afro-descendant and mestizo youth in Soacha.

Afro-Colombian Property Rights

In 1993, through Ley 70, the Colombian legislature granted communal land rights to Colombians of African descent. Although Ley 70 provided for the titling of land to facilitate ownership, it is argued that in some cases it has resulted in increased violence aimed at Afro-Colombian communities. In other instances, communities might have secure title but little chance of sustainable development. Moreover, Ley 70 included provisions with regard to education, financial assistance and local government, much of which has yet to have been realized.

In 2007, the Rapoport Center sponsored a spring break fact-finding mission to Colombia to study Afro-Colombian human rights issues. The interdisciplinary student delegation (comprised of law students and graduate students at the LBJ School and LLILAS) met with members of Afro-Colombian communities (those who have been displaced, those who have secure title, as well as those who have not applied for title), members of non-governmental organizations, and government representatives. The goal was to to gather information, write a report, and make a short documentary on the obstacles faced by Afro-Colombians in exercising their communal rights to property.

The report, based on the students’ research, was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for use in assessing the situation of and preparing their special report on Afro-Colombian rights. Furthermore, the students had the opportunity to present their recommendations to US policymakers.

UT delegates meet with a government agency representative

The trip was supported by the Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, and the Human Rights Law Society, all at the University of Texas. It was co-sponsored by the Center for Sociolegal Studies at the Law Faculty of the University of Los Andes and the Social Studies Center of the Humanities Faculty at the National University of Colombia. We are also grateful for the generous contributions of several private donors.

Read student reactions to the trip.

Related Files

Project & Publications Type: Afro-Descendant Land Rights