Humanitarian Engineering Colombia

Why Colombia?

Besides being my birthplace, Colombia presents one of the most interesting, complex, and often contradictory examples of international development gone wrong. Currently, Colombia is a country with one of the highest inequality indexes in the world, despite being one of the first countries in the Americas where modernization and international development models were tried since the mid 1950s under, financed and staffed under the auspices of US foreign policy programs, such as the “Alliance for Progress” and the “Peace Corps”.  Many of the features of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project, coined as one of the most impactful development projects inside of the US, were imported to Colombia to create the Corporacion Autonoma Regional de Cauca. Ironically, like the region encompassed by the TVA, the Cauca region is one of the poorest and unequal regions of Colombia. Colombia is also one of the countries in the world with the most biodiversity and natural resources while experiencing devastating environmental destruction, largely generated by social conflict related to natural resource extraction, especially illegal mining of gold. Furthermore, Colombia is one of the countries in the Americas with the greatest continuity of democratically elected regimes (since the 19th century with one brief military coup from 1953-57) yet today it suffers one of the bloodiest political repression with left- and right-wing violent groups suppressing democratic rights of communities and intimidating locally elected officials and social activists and leaders.


As anthropologist Arturo Escobar states, "Colombia represents one of the most interesting cases of a capitalist and modernizing globalization. Colombia (along with Mexico) have ironically had the privilege of having maintained one of the most cruel and enduring regimes of control by the elites in Latin America, protected from and protecting the development policies imposed by the United States. Currently, these two countries continue to be strongholds of a neo-liberal model that goes against progressive policies for the good of the poorest. Therefore, it is no coincidence that these two countries have one of the highest levels of conflict, violence, inequality, and human rights abuses that exist in the Americas. It is also no coincidence that Colombia - endowed with immense natural resources and a highly trained professional class - continues to generate social movements. The peace processes are only one part of a larger attempt at social transformation generated by many actions. actors such as peasants, Afro-descendants, indigenous people, students, unions, women, and environmentalists, among others. Therefore, Colombia presents a test case of the scope and limits of globalization and also of the efforts of various groups to resist it in order to bring more livable and dignified social and ecological models.” (Escobar, Arturo. 2014. Sentipensar con la tierra. Nuevas lecturas sobre desarrollo, territorio y diferencia. p. 153)

This is why HE Colombia seeks to ally with the most vulnerable communities in the country in the rethinking of development into new forms of empowering sustainable community development projects where the wellbeing of people and the environment comes first. 


Founded in 2003, the HE program was the first of its kind in the US. Since then, it has grown to have three main elements: undergraduate education (minors, focus areas in Design Engineering); a master’s program in Humanitarian Engineering and Science; and a healthy research portfolio including research in engineering and social justice, corporate social responsibility, engineers engaging communities, among others. Throughout this growth, the HE program has become a national and international leader in this field. 


HE-Colombia is a collaboration between the Colorado School of Mines and Colombian universities and community-centered organizations to engage engineers in research, education, and design projects that serve the most vulnerable communities in Colombia. 


An engineering committed to the well-being and good living (buen vivir) of vulnerable communities in Colombia. 

Head Faculty

 Director of Research

 Oscar Jaime Restrepo

Professor and Associate Dean for Research at Facultad de Minas of the Universidad Nacional-Medellín, will have the main responsibility for supervising the research areas of HE-Colombia.

Director of Education 

Juan Lucena

Undergraduate Director of Humanitarian Engineering, Colorado School of Mines (Mines), has the responsibility for overseeing educational activities and reporting the activities of HE Colombia to the Humanitarian Engineering (HE) Program at Mines. 

Founding Partners

Strategic Partners