In 2016, the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC) signed a remarkable peace deal. It ended the longest-running armed conflict in recent global history that left more than 220,000 people dead and about 6.7 million displaced. Achieving sustainable peace, however, remains a major challenge.

The ELN, the country’s second largest guerrilla group, continues its fight against the government. Multiple other violent non-state groups operate in Colombia as well, many of them involved in the illicit drug trade and other forms of transnational organised crime. The cross-border effects of the unstable situation in neighbouring Venezuela further contributes to the complexities of a successful transition from war to peace.

Other countries around the world have been facing similar security challenges: post-conflict Central American states for example are now plagued by disputes and alliances among gangs, and countries such as Iraq and Sudan have proved that the security threats linked to the presence of violent non-state groups during armed conflict persist or increase in its aftermath. 

Understanding Security Challenges in Transitions from War to Peace

Against this backdrop, this project explores the changes in the security landscape that come along with transitions from war to peace. In particular, it examines:

(i) how the reshuffling – rather than the disappearance – of violent non-state groups that occurs during such transitions matters for questions related to conflict, security, order and (non-state) governance; 
(ii) the implications for ethics and norms in contexts where the line between armed conflict and organised crime is increasingly blurred;
(iii) how historical turning points such as the end of Colombia’s armed conflict with the FARC are relevant for, and influenced by, broader geopolitical shifts and the world’s evolving security landscape.

Rethinking Colombia’s Security Architecture

In addition to drawing on a wide range of different perspectives including marginalised communities, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other civil society leaders, guerrillas, ex-combatants, displaced people, military and police officials, government representatives and NGO as well as UN staff, the project further explores how Colombia’s security architecture needs to be adapted to these changes in order to adequately anticipate and respond to them with a view to promoting human security in Colombia and internationally. 

Funder: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK 

Principal Investigator: Dr Annette Idler

Advisory Board: Lord John Alderdice, Sir General David Capewell, Prof Laurence Whitehead, Prof Eduardo Posada-Carbo, Malcolm Deas and Joaquin Villalobos