Charlotte Streck: The Nature of Peace

Charlotte Streck: The Nature of Peace

22 January 2015
Charlotte Streck

This week UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, presented a report in Bogotá that analyzes the environmental impacts of Colombia’s peace process. The report shows that the post-conflict dynamics formulate new risks to the environment that reach Colombia’s remote areas alongside the prospect of peace.

War stands in the way of development, depriving population of its benefits, and nature of its potential damages: Decades of conflict have led to great ecosystem damage through land mines, deforestation driven by illicit crops, and outbreaks of violence in protected areas. However, the conflict and inaccessibility of large parts of the Colombian territory has also protected some of the most pristine landscapes and some of the most valuable ecosystems. These regions will stand in the limelight of the peace process. And it is in these regions that the impact of many important development decisions will be felt.

The peace process invites the world to visit formerly closed territory and allows good as well as bad to enter formerly inaccessible parts of the country. If oil and large-scale agroindustry conquers the tropical savannahs of the Llanos Orientales or the vast forestlands of the Amazon region, if urbanization threatens the fragile ecosystems of the Paramós and if mining destroys the unmatched biodiversity of the Chocó, local communities will see nothing but the sinister grimace of development. If instead, however, Colombia accepts the challenge and uses the post-conflict scenario to pioneer community-driven, local development that provides opportunities for rural populations to develop in harmony with their surrounding environment, Colombia could set an example for the world. Not only for countries that emerge from war, but also for those who are looking to define the meaning of sustainable development and translate it into concrete opportunities to increase income, education, and public services in rural areas.

The UNDP report “Environmental considerations for the construction of a stable, long-term and sustainable peace in Colombia”(“Consideraciones ambientales para la construcción de una paz territorial estable, duradera y sostenible en Colombia”) issues a number of recommendations, noted below, that should frame the post-conflict discussions in Colombia:

  1. Accelerate the current land-use planning process with the goal to construct a sustainable peace through a consultative process that involves national and local governments, the private sector and communities.
  2. Develop a broader vision for rural areas that go beyond their agricultural potential and look at local development models that make positive use of Colombia's enormous biodiversity and its ecological services.
  3. Carefully review the role of extractive industries and the role that resource exploitation has on building peace.
  4. Strengthen institutions that deal with environmental concerns and build capacities that contribute to a sustainable peaceful future.

The SINFONÍA TRÓPICO team fully supports these recommendations as well as the general conclusions of the report. We strive to contribute our part to its implementation when we trigger discourse and debate in regions with a history of conflict that enables local communities to appreciate their environment as an integral part of their wealth and local identity. 

SINFONÍA TRÓPICO travels to regions exposed to rapid transformation and development challenges. Over the course of this year, we will highlight the great environmental treasures: regions as diverse as of Urabá, Orinoquia, Amazonia, Chocó and the Páramos, as well as the developments that threaten them. We also hope to add our contributions to bridging the gap between the urban and the local, to bring the realities of post-conflict regions to decision-makers in the urban centers of Bogotá and Medellín. It is Colombia’s unique natural wealth that should serve as an inspiration to leave the path of destruction and lead the way for new, sustainable development models.

22 January 2015 Charlotte Streck