Social and Economic Dimensions of Conflict and Peace in Colombia
Alberto Chueca Mora, Country Manager for Colombia, World Bank
Hernando Gómez Buendía, Director, Human Development Report 2003, United Nations Development Program, Bogotá
Jean Pierre Schaerer, Chief of Mission, International Committee of the Red Cross, Bogotá
Alberto Chueca Mora of the World Bank expressed optimism regarding the outlook for economic development in Colombia, noting that the country's growth rate of 3.64 percent in 2003 was the second highest in Latin America. Chueca Mora attributed economic improvements to international factors including the recovery of the U.S. economy, as well as domestic factors, particularly an improved security situation as a result of President Uribe's democratic security policy. He underscored the conflict's impact on growth (estimated at 2 percent of GDP annually) and its human costs, reflected in the number of deaths, internally displaced persons, and emigration, particularly of highly educated Colombians. Chueca Mora noted the approval of necessary but insufficient tax, labor, pension, and other public sector reforms. Of the many challenges ahead, he emphasized the need for higher growth as well as mechanisms to reduce inequality and generate social capital formation.
Hernando Goméz Buendía of the UNDP discussed the multiple roles of Colombia's guerrilla and paramilitary organizations, which function as armed bureaucracies, local powers, actors in social conflicts, and criminal organizations, among other roles. Underscoring the need for both a military and political response to the country's armed actors, he outlined several policy priorities, including enhancing citizen security, providing widened humanitarian assistance, preventing recruitment into illegal armed organizations, and reducing drug trafficking. He emphasized local state capacity building, addressing social conflicts over land and labor issues, and "rediscovering politics" as keys to human development in the midst of conflict.
Jean Pierre Schaerer of the ICRC noted that since the collapse of the Pastrana government's peace process with the FARC in 2002, the methods of the armed actors have radicalized and polarization increased. He condemned the armed groups' "total disregard" for the distinction between civilians and combatants, stating that pressure to participate actively in the conflict exposed the civilian population to greater violence and retaliation. The unwillingness of the armed actors to recognize the applicability of international humanitarian law was exacting an unacceptable toll on the civilian population, as different armed groups attempted to control large segments of territory through terrorizing the local population. The peace process between the government and paramilitary groups, meanwhile, had led to reductions in certain kinds of violations, but the number of selective executions, indiscriminate attacks, disappearances, and forced displacement remain unacceptably high. Mass arrests carried out by the government could worsen if and when a proposed anti-terrorist law goes into effect.