From Dictatorship to Democracy: Law and Social Change in the Andean Region and the Southern Cone of South America

Ford Foundation



Case Study Sector


For more than forty years, the Ford Foundation has supported groups that use the law to secure human rights and improve the lives of people in vastly different settings around the world. Funding for law-related projects began in the 1950s in the United States and by the 1970s had been extended to parts of Latin America and South Africa. As we enter the year 2000, the Foundation is involved in sustained grantmaking for public interest law groups in over twenty-five countries through its New York headquarters and eleven of its overseas offices around the globe. Many Roads to Justice: The Law Related Work of Ford Foundation Grantees Around the World includes seven case studies, of which this is one.
The Foundation has supported law-related activities in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru through thirty years of dramatic political upheavals. After an early, largely unsuccessful attempt to transform legal education using U.S. methodologies during the 1960s, the Foundation in the 1970s began to focus its resources on local partners’ initiatives. In the wake of military coups and political violence, Foundation support first helped endangered activists to find safe haven and intellectual independence at institutions overseas. Later, human rights grantees mounted court challenges and documented abuses of these repressive regimes, increasing international pressure on governments and providing a historical record of violations. With the return of democracy to Chile and Argentina and with new programming opportunities arising in Colombia and Peru, Ford in the 1990s supported efforts to use law to address a broader variety of issues—including government accountability, social justice, and environmental degradation. Grantees in the region have also developed innovative litigation strategies, including the use of new and previously ignored legal devices, suits to expand the law’s boundaries, actions before regional tribunals like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and effective media outreach to spread knowledge of significant cases in judicial circles and among the wider public.



  • Field Building
  • Strategy


  • Latin America

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