In this paper, I examine the conditions under which Afro-descendant Colombians have collaborated with international allies in order to protect their rights and their livelihoods in the context of national economic development policies that have resulted in violence and displacement. Looking specifically at Afro-descendant communities in the Uraba region of northwestern Colombia, I invoke two theoretical traditions of social change, each with different implications for strategy and policy. The constructivist and neo-institutional schools emphasize transnational norms, networks and institutions and imply that greater engagement with major international human rights NGOs and institutions is a necessary strategy for the protection of Afro-Colombian human rights. On the other hand, conflict- and dependency-oriented perspectives foreground the importance of underlying economic incentives for human rights abuses and imply that the human rights framework as most widely accepted is too limited to truly address the full set of challenges faced by Afro-Colombians. These theories thus emphasize the key role of social movements and solidarity networks making more fundamental challenges to certain aspects of the global economy. Using these theoretical frameworks, I address the questions: how have Afro-Colombians engaged with the international human rights regime to struggle against the economic forces that threaten their autonomy and livelihoods? To what extent has this engagement been beneficial? What are the unintended consequences, and are there any ways in which internationalization has been harmful? Finally, given this analysis, what are the implications for how international activists and NGOs can most helpfully engage in the struggle for Afro-Colombian empowerment?
Professional paper for the fulfillment of the Master of Public Policy
Local Struggles in Global Paradigms: Afro-Colombians, Human Rights and Development.
Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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