UJ Law and Externado University, Colombia, sign cooperation agreement

The Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) signed a Framework Agreement of Academic Cooperation with Externado University of Bogota, Colombia on 22 September 2016 in Bogota, Colombia.

The purpose of the agreement is to ‘strengthen the South–South opportunities for academic collaboration, engagement and exchange in areas of mutual interest’, says Prof David Bilchitz, Director of SAIFAC and Professor of Law at the University of Johannesburg. SAIFAC is the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law.

Prof Bilchitz is currently Secretary-General of the International Association of Constitutional Law.

The agreement results from an initiative by Prof Bilchitz and Dr Juan Carlos Henao Perez, the Vice Chancellor of Externado University and former Chief Justice of Colombia.

“Colombia and South Africa are both post-conflict societies with high levels of economic inequality, which present multiple opportunities for comparison and mutual learning,” says Prof Bilchitz.

“Colombia is in the midst of negotiating a peace process to bring an end to a 52-year-old civil war. The peace-pact that facilitated South Africa’s transition to constitutional democracy occurred 22 years ago, yet major issues are surfacing around the economic and social disparities between the country’s rich and poor.”

The first project in the co-operation between UJ and Externado University will be in the areas of transitional and distributive justice, he adds.

“Transitional Justice is often conceptualised as relating to criminal law questions of amnesty and punishment for perpetrators of violations in the post-conflict context. Distributive Justice relates to the distribution of resources in society. The two are often considered separately. Yet experience in many countries across the world suggests that a successful transition – to a stable society based upon the rule of law – cannot be achieved without considering questions of distributive justice,” he says.

“This research project will be multi-disciplinary in nature drawing on the perspectives of a range of disciplines including law, political science, philosophy and psychology.”

Another theme to be addressed by the UJ-Externado cooperation is the work and jurisprudence of the Constitutional Courts of both countries in the area of social-economic rights.

A conference is being organised next year to explore both these themes.

Says Bilchitz: “When comparing Colombia and South Africa one sees many similarities. We hope that the academic contributions developed in terms of this collaboration will be important and have relevance beyond both countries, to provide guidance on some of the most pressing questions of our time.

“There have been limited academic relationships between Africa and Latin America, often with barriers such as language coming in the way. We are committed to building this relationship, which we hope will lay the groundwork for academic leadership in the Global South”.


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