Colombia Programs

Since 2019, ABA ROLI has sought to strengthen judicial training in Colombia through funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Through INL’s program, Building Better Justice: Strengthening Judicial Training in Colombia, ABA ROLI seeks to strengthen the capacity of the Rodrigo Lara Bonilla Judicial Training School (JTS) in addressing Colombia’s dynamic justice challenges and the needs of a diverse judicial system. Specifically, the program focuses on improving the JTS' administration of judicial education, especially with respect to criminal law. The training of new judges and continuing education of experienced judges is crucial to Colombia’s judicial system. In that vein, our program is designed to support host country partners in enhancing access to judicial education opportunities for Colombian judges and court personnel.

In 2020, ABA ROLI launched a new effort designed to prevent and respond to human rights abuses of migrants and returnees. The Venezuelan Migrant Human Rights Activity – known as Conectando Caminos por los Derechos (CCD) – is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We are strengthening the capacities of government actors in Colombia to prevent human rights violations, just as we give tools to the legal profession and civil society to effectively address the migration crisis.

Strengthening the operational management of the judicial training system

In 2019, ABA ROLI drew on its extensive experience conducting judicial reform assessments in more than twenty countries to evaluate the JTS’ institutional capacity. Our assessment examined the JTS’ capacity to provide adequate training for judges and court personnel, as well as the JTS’ operational and managerial capacity to implement institutional reforms in the future. A team of ABA ROLI experts interviewed more than 160 judges and court staff in the course of the assessment, as well as key civil society leaders, government ministers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. Through these interviews, participants provided broad input on the JTS’ strengths and weaknesses, including the school’s operational capacity, the quality of the JTS’ substantive legal training curricula, political issues impacting the JTS’ daily operations, and issues with the JTS’ state-sponsored budgeting process. 

Following the assessment, the ABA ROLI expert team compiled a report analyzing 14 factors, adapted from judicial assessments ABA ROLI has conducted in other countries. These factors range from the JTS’ operational strengths, the capacity of the school’s staff, and the observations of the physical facilities and resources of the JTS. In synthesizing the feedback of assessment participants, the report describes various underlying themes that came through in the participants’ feedback for areas of improvement for the JTS. Based upon the analysis, the report includes recommendations based on comparisons to judicial schools in other countries, existing legal frameworks, international standards for judicial education, and practical opportunities for rule of law programmatic interventions.

ABA ROLI’s work in Colombia aims to improve the capacity of the JTS to create and implement an organizational management strategy focused on enhancing its impact and making the best use of limited resources. ABA ROLI has gained more than 25 years of successful experience performing similar capacity-building in countries throughout the world and is applying this knowledge to strengthen the capacity building methods of the JTS in Colombia.

One key aspect of this process is to help expand JTS’ reach throughout the country. ABA ROLI promotes engagements between the JTS and members of the judiciary present in different regions, such as Buenaventura, Catatumbo and the Pacifico Nariñense region, also known as Integral Intervention Zones (ZEIIs) or “Zonas Futuro." A stated principle of the Government of Colombia is to recover its institutional presence in these strategic zones, which are high in crime and violence, as well as located in poor, remote stretches of the country that are rich in natural resources. 


Developing the competencies of judges to adjudicate criminal cases

ABA ROLI is continuing to assess the administration of judicial training in Colombia, strengthen core competencies for judges, update the training curricula of the JTS, and improve the organizational and operational efficacy of the JTS. ABA ROLI collaborates with JTS staff to review and develop training curricula. To determine the specific improvements needed for the curricula, we seek to address common knowledge gaps among judges, relevant to the adjudication of criminal cases. In addition, ABA ROLI is implementing a competency-based model of education to connect each element of the curriculum to the specific competencies it seeks to develop in judges and clerks. These areas include judicial ethics and leadership, case management, and integration of technology in judicial education. 

Among schools writ large, the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic has accentuated the importance of mobilizing online learning resources so that trainees have the necessary resources to flexibly advance their professional development. ABA ROLI is targeting resources to help the JTS rise to this challenge by developing and piloting 10 new courses on a range of issues. These include criminal law, gender-based violence, human rights, procedural justice, and judicial ethics, among others. 


Preventing and responding to human rights abuses of Venezuelan migrants and Colombian returnees

ABA ROLI is launching efforts to fortify the Colombian government’s institutional capacity to prevent human rights violations, just as we empower the legal profession and civil society to respond effectively to the growing migration crisis.

As part of a six-month inception phase for the CCD program, ABA ROLI is probing the technical and contextual dynamics that define the national and sub-national systems related to migration. Through a structured process, we are introducing the program to a wide range of partners and stakeholders, including government institutions and officials, civil society, academic and research institutions, media, private sector actors, and other implementing partners and donors. ABA ROLI is also compiling data and observations as part of a textured political economy assessment, which includes actor mapping, metropolitan opportunity and gap analyses, and policy and legal analysis. Leveraging these foundational assessments, and based on additional consultation with secondary and primary sources, we are incorporating principles of gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) throughout our life-of-activity strategy. These inception activities will help to shape the four-year program’s broader approach to implementation, scheduled to begin in 2021.