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From conflict to conservation

21 July, 2023

Recent news on global conflicts may paint a bleak outlook for the future, but Colombia’s experience shows how peace can bring significant benefits for not just people but also the environment. 

Colombia’s remarkable ecosystem, securing it a ranking as the second-most biodiverse country globally and the most biodiverse for bird life, has been facing significant threats due to domestic conflicts. The prolonged conflict with FARC, dating back to 1964, has had devastating effects on both human and ecological life. Deforestation intensified during the conflict, and the signing of peace accords in 2016 failed to halt this, as criminal organisations engaged in a land grab which meant that former FARC territory and conflict areas continued to experience heightened deforestation rates.  

But now the new President Gustavo Petro is taking a new approach – which puts the environment front and centre – and it appears to be having striking results. Recent government figures show a decline in deforestation by 29% across the country and by 26% in the Amazon region. As the Norwegian environment minister, who was part of the peace negotiation, put it: “there is an enhanced understanding that you cannot build a new Colombia on the basis of the further deterioration of nature, so you have to find an economic, social, political, inclusive process that is more respectful towards nature than before.” 

Issues of peace and sustainability are indelibly intertwined, and at a time where the news is often full of stories of global conflicts and challenges, it’s useful to remember that the future can also hold the potential for positive change and progress. By addressing issues related to peace, justice, and the environment collectively, we can work towards a more sustainable future. 

By Alex Gibbs

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