The conflict involving the FARC in Colombia is often associated with issues such as drug trafficking. However, an equally important driver of the long conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC is related to the country’s high levels of economic and social inequality.
In fact, representatives from the government and FARC have recently been making progress on land reform initiatives during peace negotiations in Havana. It is expected that a preliminary agreement will be announced by both sides later this month.
The negotiations involve deciding how to distribute land to the poor and determining to what extent (if any) foreign investment in agribusiness should be allowed. The implementation of similar programs in Guatemala and El Salvador can serve as successful examples for Colombia to follow.
In the case of Guatemala, where a civil war raged for 30 years due to the unequal distribution of land, peasants now have access to credit to purchase land and subsidies are provided to help rural communities subsidize their farms. As a result, the country has not lapsed back into civil war, although it still endures violence related to drug trafficking.
There was also a civil war related to land disputes in El Salvador, this one lasting 12 years. The institution of reforms has led to the transfer of 10% of the country’s agricultural land to 36,000 beneficiaries. As a result, violence has decreased and is concentrated mainly in urban rather than rural areas.
Although neither of these programs is perfect, they help to show that social inequality breeds conflict and that reductions in inequality can help generate peace, illustrating how land reform in Colombia can bring peace and reduce inequality. If it is able to come to an agreement, Colombia would do well to learn from both the experiences and mistakes made by Guatemala and El Salvador.
In addition, it is important for the international community to play a role in the negotiation process. Although many countries have expressed their support for the negotiations, no specifics regarding their participation have been determined. One possibility involves the development of an international verification mechanism to track the progress in the redistribution of land. This would hold the Colombian government accountable and allow international donors to contribute resources for land purchases and loans.
Through these joined efforts, the Colombian government and the international aid community can help bring stability and peace to Colombia, helping to ease inequality and set the foundation for further economic and social development among communities affected by conflict.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: Foreign Affairs
Photo: Latino Fox News