Peacebuilding and responding to the pandemic in Colombia – what works on the ground?

The UN Business and Human Security Initiative at LSE IDEAS together with Rosario University (Bogota), UNDP, UNHCR and PeaceStart Up, supported by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, organised a four-day conference ‘Lessons of the Territorial Peace in Times of COVID-19’ from 23-27 November 2020.

Through a series of online conversations in three interactive working tables that included participants from local communities, business, civil society organisations, policy makers and scholars, culminating in a plenary session, the conference explored experiences and lessons learned from the peacebuilding process in Colombia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim of the conference was to come up with innovative solutions to peacebuilding with a particular emphasis on exploring novel ways of mobilising business and multi-actor contributions to sustainable development, reintegration, reconciliation and human security. It provided a unique opportunity to hear from local stakeholders from multiple localities in Colombia about their efforts to support peace and reconciliation. The discussions highlighted the fundamental role of businesses, the potential of digital technologies and territorial innovation processes in meeting challenges on the ground.

Decades of armed conflict in Colombia have left a legacy of multiple deprivations - from basic infrastructure including a lack of regular and reliable supply of electricity, water, and housing, to low educational levels and widespread illiteracy, underdevelopment, poverty, and structural racism - which have affected various localities and segments of Colombian population with different intensity. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to close pre-existing gaps, as well as created a sense of urgency for reforms.

The report draws attention to particular areas of challenge: the severity of the digital gap experienced by communities such as African/indigenous people and how this limits access to education, employment opportunities and livelihoods; and the need for comprehensive approaches that can respond to the needs in each locality among specific groups and individuals. The report provides examples of initiatives where companies have joined forces with other actors to provide innovative solutions that improve the resilience of communities and contribute to territorial peace. The report argues for a more prominent place given to a critical geography of peace within peace studies. The conference discussions showed that at the core of the peacebuilding effort is the transformation and rebuilding of local space via economic and social relationships in a locality. This space is uniquely defined by the idiosyncrasies of the local context and the report makes a proposal that human security can provide a common language in debating and thinking through the relevant issues and policy actions that can advance peace, development and reconciliation in the aftermath of armed violence.

Read the report in English.

Read the report in Spanish.