“Development is the new Peace”: A case study on Pastoral Social Pasto’s role as a local actor in the peacebuilding process in the Colombian region of Nariño
Abstract: The aim of this study is to analyze the role of Pastoral Social Pasto as a case of a local actor within the peacebuilding process in the Colombian region Nariño. Colombia suffered from an internal armed conflict that endured over five decades. In 2016, a peace agreement between the national government under president Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s biggest guerrilla group, the FARC-EP, was ratified and drastically reduced the violence throughout the country. However, post-conflict peacebuilding is not a straight- lined process and especially the region of Nariño is experiencing the emergence of new conflict dynamics. Amongst others, it deals with the formation of new armed groups, drug trafficking, forced displacement and the lack of basic human needs in rural areas. As international organizations often fail to grasp the complexity of this current situation, I consider it important to assess the role of a local actor within Nariño’s peacebuilding process. Inspired by the academic debate about the ‘local turn’, I discuss the case of Pastoral Social Pasto, an ecclesiastical organization that has performed humanitarian work in the region for over three decades and therefore possesses an extensive knowledge about Nariño’s peace and conflict dynamics. I used semi-structured interviews to collect empirical data about the organization’s peacebuilding vision, its relationships with other actors and its different lines of action. The data was analyzed using the theory of conflict transformation, in particular the framework of Paul Lederach, and the concept of capacity building. I argue that Pastoral Social Pasto holds the role of a middle-level actor that views peacebuilding as a long-term process which requires varying activities on different levels of society. However, scarce financial resources and a narrow range of influence limit the organization in the implementation of this holistic perspective. Instead, it mainly performs complementary work, filling in where the state fails to take responsibility. Hence, while this function is of utmost importance in Nariño, there is a lack of evidence that these tasks add to the building of sustainable peace.
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