Towards Sustainable Peace in Colombia and the World: A Critical Perspective on Army Transformation

Research Visit to Colombia, August 2016

Research Visit to Colombia, August 2016

In this project, Dr Idler and her team critically analyse the process of transformation of the Colombian army. In particular focus is its role in achieving sustainable peace in the country and contributing to international security.

On 29 August 2016, the Colombian government and the leftist insurgent group FARC initiated a cease-fire. The two parties had reached a remarkable peace accord a few days earlier, hoping to end 52 years of civil war. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the peace deal a formal signing of the peace deal on 26 September, triggering the 180-day demobilisation of the FARC.

Colombia’s armed conflict, the longest-running in recent global history, left more than 220,000 people dead and about 6.7 million displaced within the region. The ceasefire formalises the end of combat activities between state forces and the FARC, formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—and all hostilities against civilians. Achieving sustainable peace, however, still remains a major challenge.

In this volatile security landscape, the Colombian National Army must comply with a triple effort: 1) to be one of the main guarantors of the implementation of the agreements signed between the Government and the FARC; 2) to prevent and control new threats emerging from the activities of new violence-generating groups; and 3) to increase participation in cooperation missions at an international level, in the management of disaster risks and the contribution to the country’s development. 

This project, carried out in partnership with the CAEEF (the Centre for Strategic Analysis of the Colombian Transformation Command), involves:

  •  Academic research based on fieldwork, the review of policy documents and the secondary literature
  • Critical policy-oriented analysis of the process of Army Transformation
  • Three educational courses for senior military personnel of the Colombian Army

Project Director: Dr Annette Idler

Advisory Board: Sir David Capewell, Richard Currie, Justin Holt

Team Members: Andres Gómez, Paul McPherson

CAEEF Coordinator: Rocío Pachón

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

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.