Economic-building vs. Peacebuilding The necessity of power redistribution in post-conflict states

September 17, 2019

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Published in General News

Recently I had the opportunity to read a very interesting book chapter that inquired about the strong and complex relationship between peacebuilding, economic growth and globalization. According to scholars and policymakers, one of the essential elements to overcome armed conflicts aftermath is the socio-economic improvement of those affected by the hostilities and the ex-combatants reintegration. Following such paradigm, that encourages the private sector and for-profit institutions to pursue peace and play a key role in peacebuilding processes, Colombia is not the exception. Economic development has been a cornerstone aspect during the peace agreement dialogues and permeates the final agreement, especially the agricultural sector. Thus we have been sold the idea that the peace dividend will improve the country's economic indicators and by default bring social prosperity. Nevertheless, we cannot romanticize the local and national economic improvement without evaluating vulnerable position of Colombia in the global systems and how globalization impacts peacebuilding process dynamics.

Colombian peace agreement between the FARC guerrilla and the State was conceived with the international community support. Multilateral and bilateral cooperation evidences the global concern about the Colombian society order restoration, providing local policy advisement, technical and economic assistance, among others. Organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have established funds for peacebuilding-two out of five- that promise to push socioeconomic projects among the most impacted and vulnerable war-torn communities. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that both financial institutions imposed neoliberalism policies around the globe 30 years ago. They promote foreign investment, openness to new markets, more qualified labor force, something countries and people aim to attract and its not bad. In that order the main issue does not remain in rising GDP levels as western development vision enforced by market requirements will guide businesses to reach those purposes…

We must then, check other indicators, beyond the economic rational. Living in complex times, with high levels of exchange rates, climate change, political instability and a uncertain near future, peacebuilding efforts should be focused on sustainable and effective inclusive initiatives. However, what calls my attention and somehow worries me, is that market liberalization and globalisation may be nurturing a terrifying social gap called inequality. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is an exemplary region in terms of unfair power and resources redistribution, awarding dramatic positions in the international panorama. This unequal distribution also fuels conflict traps, and reduces the participation of the ones in need. That is why, root-causes of conflicts such as poverty, political and economic exclusion have to be urgently attended but again: under a fair trade-off.

Several cases of power imbalances caused by globalization evidence the modern development enterprise crises. Powerful emerging countries like Brazil and Mexico are examples in which economic liberalization and growth do not seem to be linked. Both of them face inequality challenges meanwhile are gaining a global privileged economic status (being the first and second economies of LAC in terms of GDP, respectively). In comparison with Colombia, these countries have not dealt with the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere and its consequences. Then, What would happen in a post-conflict scene? This brief and theoretical approach should makes us rethink about the risks associated with the direction of peacebuilding and global economic models. To avoid falling into the possible side effects arising from the unexplored and multifaceted relationship between globalization and peace, institutions are called be strategic in how and with whom carry out the peacebuilding processes.

Here I expose a short practical approach-out of many examples-that might give you a more clear idea of the issue. Economic reactivation in conflict-affected rural Colombia is one of the peacebuilding priorities. According to the latest DANE report in 2018, multidimensional poverty reached 39.9 percent in rural areas, increasing 2.3 percentage points since 2016. This seems to negatively respond to the expected results of the government and two tax incentive mechanisms for rural development: ZOMAC (areas most affected by the armed conflict by its acronym in Spanish), which aim to improve economic and social situations in rural areas and Public Infrastructure Projects (Obras por Impuestos). These strategies not only focus on restoring and dynamizing the economy, but also providing sanitation, education, connectivity, etc. However, after one year of their implementation, the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP) revealed in February this year that policy adjustments are necessary. It has been shown that there is little local participation in the interventions, only 8 percent of the ZOMACs have been impacted using 88 percent of the available resources and disparities in budget allocation among the territories were identified. Again, a problem of redistribution of power and resources.

Given that peacebuilding itself is a multidimensional process, not only government entities should be responsible for balancing the distribution of power and resources, including the participation of grassroots communities in decision-making processes. The private sector also plays a fundamental role in promoting business practices that seek social cohesion and improve their value chains economic balances. For multinationals this task is even less trivial as they have to understand the Colombian fragile context and be aware that global competitiveness leaves winners and losers. And it is a time when Colombia wants to win and stop losing, especially restoring lives, dreams and conserving its biodiversity. Without being less important are both local and international NGOs and all civil society associations that are looking for a peace society in which everyone wins. All these actors work tied to international policies, conventions and treaties, from there my reflection focused on a holistic and global vision.

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