Beyond Liberal Peacebuilding in post-conflict situations: An ecological and decolonial study of Colombia, 2016-2022

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Social and Policy Sciences


The research concerns the consequences and aftermath of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). It will investigate the efficacy of paz territorial (territorial peace), to what degree it has diverged from the norms of 'top-down' liberal peacebuilding, and how far it corresponds to a purported shift towards 'bottom-up' local peacebuilding. The peace process marked an end to over 50 years of civil, armed conflict and, through the introduction of the concept of paz territorial, proposed a novel approach towards peacebuilding that acknowledged the importance of land inequality and social exclusion, seeking to address both through initiatives for rural development. An implicit shift within this agreement, from market-led to community-led programmes, concurrent with an appreciation of community cohesion, alternative notions of territory, and "multidimensionality", were highlighted upon the peace agreement's finalisation as key diversions away from both 'top-down' development and liberal peacebuilding.
The research will focus on two key areas: multidimensional inequality and natural resource exploitation, evaluating both from a decolonial and ecological perspective that incorporates contemporary debates in peacebuilding, development, and the epistemological exclusion of communities in the Global South. As a contribution to these debates, the project will establish and employ a decolonial and ecological Marxist theoretical framework, which will also allow it to both look beyond and critique traditional, quantitative measures of inequality and environmental sustainability. It will also allow the project to question whether paz territorial's central pledge to broaden and strengthen the socio-political inclusion of Colombia's rural and underrepresented communities has been reflected in a concurrent inclusion of alternative epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmologies, and the socio-environmental implications of this inclusion/omission.
The fieldwork will be carried out in Antioquia, Colombia, with logistical and organisational support provided by REDIPAZ, a Colombian network of academics, researchers, and organisations. The fieldwork will investigate whether, since 2016, there has been any development or change in levels of multidimensional inequality and extractivism in the department, discerning whether this is evidence of a reversion to liberal peacebuilding conventions. Concurrently, it will employ an innovative and introspective methodology that will simultaneously question epistemological processes of data collection through the development, collection, and comparison of two separate data sets:
1. Governmental statistics on multidimensional inequality and extractivism since 2016, gathered from sources such as the Incidencia de la Pobreza Multidimensional, the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
2. A questionnaire carried out on a representative sample across Antioquia, developed through concepts of socio-environmental inequality that will be first explored in and informed by unstructured interviews and focus groups with communities that have typically been excluded from, or underrepresented in, Colombian society, such as Afro-descendants and indigenous people.

As the peace agreement was signed in 2016, there has been limited research on its socio-environmental consequences. This project will therefore contribute to a developing academic literature, whilst also contributing to ongoing efforts to decolonise peacebuilding, ecological Marxism, and research methodologies. Furthermore, the project's foci will feed into urgent global conversations about structural inequality, sustainable development, and climate change mitigation.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2572662 Studentship ES/P000630/1 04/10/2021 03/10/2025 Calum Wheeler