retrato adriana ruiz


Ruiz-Restrepo is a thinker and legal innovator.

Her work as an attorney, political scientist, philanthropist, human rights defender, and civic advocate reflects her theoretical interest on the correlation of human liberty and utility; the autonomy and heteronomy tension within the course of action of a natural or legal person.

This intellectual inquiry along with the interplay of law, development and civil society in her professional practice, and the field experience gathered through different cultures and languages, are at the basis of her novel approaches and propositions.

Ruiz-Restrepo is an internationally recognized expert in the realm of law, policy, and regulation of Civil Society Organisations. She is the author of the Theory of Alterity as Intention (Ruiz-Restrepo,2011) a system of thought rationalising not-for-profit/charitable organizations of the third/voluntary sector. The theory first unveils the structural reason for constant vagueness and instability around the nebula of pro-social organisations, and then posits their juridical nature -the underlying principle of juridical alterity in civil society organisations- to present them as a logical universe of entities.

As with most innovators, Ruiz-Restrepo applies her insights and findings directly in the field by the creation or initiation of processes of change and reform. Hence, her work is found chiefly in her advocacy for law reform; projects of inclusive policy making, public interest litigation for securing access; citizen-led economy models of community organizing and enterprising, or public statements of opinion as well as bottom-up civic oversight reports.

Most of her insights and findings have helped shape public policy and institutions for inclusive economic growth; increase value in the social dimension of industry; better the outreach and impact of international development programming and empowered civil society practitioners through rights-based/juridical empowerment strategies of structural change. Her most influential contributions include:

  • The promotion of sustainable development by rewarding social value creation of regulated industries of the economy which commit to exceeding the legal and human rights baseline of corporate due diligence in society.
  • Strengthening the understanding of the profit logic and its frontiers with conducts of labour and criminal exploitation.
  • The reconceptualization of the logistics of human trafficking to enslavement and the modalities of enslavement for profit and secure return.
  • The recognition to the right to entrepreneurially access raw materials/secondary commodities to secure the freedom or right to develop and right to life or survival of the vulnerable sectors of civil society.
  • The removal of a market barrier restricting NPOs Not-for-Profit entities from their right to access and compete in the state-planned economy for public procurement contracts and develop and grow as municipal service providers when the service is in strict accordance with their organizational nature and purpose.
  • Positing the principle of alterity underlying all not-for-profit/charity organizations and its use as a rationale for special constitutional treatment (tax exemption amidst other legal prerogatives) to the Third Sector across national legislations.
  • The theory of change for modernising the public service of city sanitation and its urban waste management and value recovery system under a human-rights-based approach to prevent the massive legal impoverishment of waste pickers in the Global South and decrease the global warming of the planet.
  • The public interest litigation strategy that secured the legal victories of Colombian waste pickers trapped in poverty and resulted in the order to graduate them into the formality of public sanitation contracts and tariff retribution and the new circular economy of waste.
  • The use of law as a human development tactic and a poverty reduction strategy.

The legal activation of the principle of solidarity, the right to freedom of association and of freedom of economic enterprise for securing the legal and regulatory space necessary for the operation of the social enterprises of solidaristic economy of vulnerable civil society. Or, in short, the enablement of regulatory space for what she describes as the spring –up enterprising and innovation of the poverty-trapped.

Among other distinctions Adriana has been named woman citizen of the year by the Guild of Women Citizens of Colombia; recognised as a distinguished member of hometown by the regional business and professionals club; her contribution to the social good and peacebuilding through social justice celebrated by grassroots organisations; magazines have recognised her as a key leader of social change and nominated her to  woman of the year. Former presidential candidate and two times major of Bogota Antanas Mockus nominated her to run for the Senate along him and another group of Colombians.  Internationally her work has been distinguished with a UN 21 commendation under the Kofi Annan administration for teamwork and outstanding impact in the counter human trafficking and modern slavery project of which she was a leader in UNODC Colombia. In 2016, Ruiz-Restrepo was officially listed by the Human Rights Council as a candidate to replace Maina Kai as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. This honorary position in the United Nations is currently held by Ms. Annalisa Ciampi.

Ruiz-Restrepo was born and raised in the city of Cali where she attended the British School unlit leaving to Bogota DC to study law in the Universidad de Los Andes. After graduation and two years of practice in both the local and central levels of public administration, she left for Europe to pursue her postgraduate studies in administrative law and political science in the Université de Paris,  Pantheon-Assas. Building on her law school research of 1995 on State and NGOs: reflection on a juridical formula of articulation of the public space, she began in Paris in the year 2000 her Ph.D. research on the range of legal collaboration bonds frequently established between governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations. This intellectual effort was narrowed down and finally substituted in 2005 for an interdisciplinary social and legal dogmatic query to unveil the juridical nature of so-called not-for-profit organisations under the rule of law. In 2006, she left faculty to pursue transdisciplinary and intercultural research on the meaning of NGOs, NPOs, CSOs, also known as organisations of the social and solidarity economy, non-state actors, and groups of interest or pressure.  Her independent quest has been constantly amplified by continuing education on diverse and connecting topics to her theoretical endeavour and courses on the constitutionalisation of ordinary law in the Maghreb (Tunisia) and Development NGOs and Civic Advocacy for policy reform in North America (USA) among many others.

Her trajectory working as  either professional staff, under a services contract, a researcher of the  Think Tank she initiated back in 2001 or through  RRA (Public Law + Social Innovation) the boutique law firm she founded in Bogota in 2009 encompasses her experience in the Congress of Colombia; the Constituent Assembly of 1991; the Institute of Urban Development of Bogota; the Assets Liability Management Team of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit; the Constitutional Court of Colombia; the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; the International Centre for Not Profit, where  she also served for 10 years as an International Adviser, the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor  a UN-hosted  global initiative  of international leaders co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and Hernando de Soto among many other actors of  transnational corporate business, academic research-action, philanthropy or  international development that she has served as clients.

Besides the private practice of law and strategy in RRA, since 2008 her lifelong engagement in civicism, philanthropy, and volunteering is carried through The Civicism and Solidarity Foundation for Systemic Change- CIVISOL. This independent, voluntary, nonpartisan, nonreligious, non-profit, non-governmental organisation of which she is a founder, is both a platform and a hub of empowered citizens practitioners and scholars who, in the cities of Cali, Bogota, New York, Paris, London and Genève, voluntarily converge part of their time and ideas to make democracy deliberative, justice effective, development inclusive and globalisation truly global.


[1] The Extended Essay for graduating from high school, under an international and scientific baccalaureate program suggested an early interest in the topic of the autonomy of the person. Awarded as the best-extended essay in humanities. The philosophical implications of the Genetic Manipulation of the Person, was a brief inquiry under the subject of philosophy and about the Genome Project launched in the mid-eighties in California.  Half a decade later, the interrogation on autonomy-heteronomy was explored with respect to the juridical person.

The thesis for graduating from law school in 1995 was a legal dogmatic research effort on finding the situation and location of the sort of legal persons known as NGOs/CSOs under the rule of law. State and Non-Governmental Organisations: A Juridical Study of a formula for bettering the utility of social capital became the starting point of a quest carried throughout a fifteen-year period for deciphering the constitutive element of the non-profit sector and its array of organisations, foundations, charities, corporation, solidarity economy actors and social enterprises at large.