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From Conflict Actors to Architects of Peace: Promoting Human Security in Colombia and Internationally

Photo by US Navy (CC BY 2.0)

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 Ejército de Liberación Nacional (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.

CONPEACE is investigating the impact of these actors on local populations, in Colombia and beyond.


This research also includes four smaller projects: 

Changing Security Landscapes Viewed from the Margins

Colombia’s new president, inaugurated in August 2018, seeks to modify the Peace Agreement to punish former rebels, at a time when the United Nations denounce a lack of progress in the peace deal’s implementation. ELN rebels and other violent groups fill power voids left by Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, whose ex-members are, in some areas, beginning to reunite. Communities are threatened and social leaders killed in their hundreds, while lack of state protection and governance risks increased insecurity from renewed grievances and organised crime.

This project aims to support the transition from warzone to peaceful country in Colombia. By focusing on marginalised groups, Changing Security Landscapes Viewed from the Margins will address the consequences of changing security landscapes in this period of adjustment. 

Changing Security Landscapes Viewed from the Margins is sponsored by the Global Challenges Research Fund.


Promoting Security and Development across Borders

Borderlands communities face complex challenges, often magnified due to conflicts between the government and rebel groups. This project analyses how large groups of people from Venezuela has exacerbated the challenges faced by these borderland communities in Colombia. 

Promoting Security and Development across Borders is funded by a grant from the Canadian government.


Non-state Order, Trust, and Institutions in Marginalised Spaces

Previous research has suggested that, as rebels establish their own governance systems, civil war zones can often appear orderly. Colombia's peace process provides an opportunity to study this phenomenon in depth. Borrowing from sociological theories of trust and confidence, Non-state Order, Trust, and Institutions in Marginalised Spaces aims to conceptualise the relations between civilians and combatants in civil war. 

This project is funded by Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung.


Justice, Peace, and Politics in the Creation of a Lasting Peace in Colombia’s Marginalised Regions

Justice, Peace, and Politics in the Creation of a Lasting Peace in Colombia’s Marginalised Regions explores the transformation of Colombia in the course of the peace process with the FARC, and, specifically, focuses on the ramifications of the transitional justice process on (violent and political) actors in Colombia. 

Working with Professor Sergio Costa (Freie Universität, Berlin), the project aims to produce a framework that can be reproduced in other contexts.

This project is supported by a seed grant from the Oxford Berlin Research Partnership (Ox-Ber).


Find out more on the project website.


Project Objectives

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:

  1. 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;
  2. the implications for ethics and norms in contexts where the line between armed conflict and organised crime is increasingly blurred;
  3. 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. 

Principal Investigator

Dr Annette Idler

Project Start / End

Nov 2016 - Sep 2020