A greener peace: Ensuring environmental sustainability in post-conflict Colombia
Abstract: Despite its small size Colombia hosts 10% of the planet’s biodiversity, in the over 53% of its territory which is covered by different types of tropical and Andean forests. However, decades of war have had devastating effects on the country’s environment, which is threatened with deforestation for the clearing for agriculture areas, mostly for illegal crops; as well as on its population, which has seen forced displacement of an estimated 8.1 million people and human rights violations that have often gone unpunished. A peace accord signed between the Colombian Government and the largest guerrilla group FARC in 2016 was celebrated internationally as a victory that would send Colombia on a new path towards economic and social development. The Program of Substitution of Illicit Crops contained in this accord, has the potential to promote environmental sustainability, improve the life of the most marginalized communities living in the remote rural areas that hosted the war, and to rectify the longstanding land distribution inequality issues which have largely been blamed for being the source of the conflict. Two and a half years after the signing, the implementation of the accord has slowed down, especially in the points directly and indirectly related to the program of substitution. Increases in the extension of coca crops after the signing have emboldened the newly elected administration, into pushing aside the human development components of the substitution program, and focusing on forced eradication, including reinstating the aerial spraying of glyphosate, a practice which had been suspended in 2015 after the WHO raised concerns about its possible negative effects on human health. This thesis aims to contribute to the body of knowledge on the consequences of implementing policies in rural areas, especially of illicit crops, by analysing the environmental and social effects of current practices associated to the cultivation and eradication of coca, and comparing them to those of an alternative crop. Further the study aims to find the necessary steps the state must take to help farmers effectively substitute coca crops, through the analysis of the reasons and motivations guiding farmers’ decision to cultivate coca, increase the extension of their crop, eradicate and relapse.
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