The environmental impact of the violent conflict in Colombia (ZEFnews 38 Editorial)

April 17, 2019.  

Editorial - Columbia's armed conflict, which began in the 1960s, between different guerrilla groups and consecutive Colombian governments, reveals linkages to historically derived inequalities in access to land and natural resources. These inequalities are related to the expropriation of land, the exploitation and destruction of the environment and the displacement of huge swathes of the rural population.

In fact, Colombia is a country rich in natural resources and one of the Earth's five mega-biodiversity centers. But today, Colombia faces a historical challenge with the 'post-conflict' (posacuerdo) era. The peace agreement signed between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) gives the country a unique opportunity to end the armed conflict.

However, the real challenge lies in achieving a 'sustainable peace', which would need to address issues such as unequal access to land, pluralistic notions of the environment, respective claims for territorial rights and the sustainable use of ecosystems. All these aspects are related to different and competing development models. Whether the Colombian society can jointly find sustainable solutions for using and extracting the common goods will highly depend on solutions that include the rural population in decision-making.

These are the issues that ZEF, together with its Colombian partners at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the National University, seeks to address in its bilateral Doctoral Studies Support Program on environmental peace-building and development in Colombia. With the support of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD, the researchers from Germany and Colombia are exploring how land can be allocated without invoking conflict and how it can be cultivated and used in a sustainable way.


Eva Youkhana

PD Dr. Eva Youkhana