Angelika Rettberg / Ralf Juan Leiteritz / Carlo Nasi

Different Resources, Different Conflicts? A Framework for Understanding the Political Economy of Armed Conflict and Criminality in Colombian Regions

2014

Abstract
This is the introductory chapter to our edited book on Different Resources and Different Conflicts: Varieties of Armed Conflict and Criminality in the Colombian Regions. In the context of an ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the two remaining guerrilla groups, the book addresses the sources of risk for the Colombian post-conflict. It centers on the connections dating back several decades between legal natural resources and the dynamics of the armed conflict and criminal activity in different Colombian regions. Our focus on the sub-national level as well as on the mechanisms linking different resource extraction mechanisms and production schemes to conflict and criminality complements the existing literature on the political economy of armed conflict and peacebuilding. In this chapter we lay out our analytical framework, suggesting that the links between resources, armed conflict, and criminality are three-fold: In some cases, resources are the motivating factor attracting illegal actors to certain regions, confirming the prevailing prediction of the scholarly literatur linking resources to war. In other cases, illegal actors complement their finances with income from resources, which however do not explain their presence in a specific region. Third, we account for the possibility that, even in a war-torn country such as Colombia, the propensity of natural resources to fall prey to violence can not only be limited but also prevented and even reverted. Indeed, some legal resources have developed institutional mechanisms accounting for their resilience to war-related looting. We examine how these mechanisms unfold and account for different forms of conflict dynamics and intensity in regions linked to the production of oil, coal, gold, emeralds, coffee, flowers, and bananas. In selecting these cases, we intentionally sought to distance ourselves from the prevailing emphasis on the drug trade and its role in fueling the Colombian conflict. In brief, our study calls for the need to broaden our view beyond drugs in terms of identifying the sources of material support for illegal actors, to consider the sub-national level in providing insights into the differing mechanisms linking resources to armed conflict and criminality, and to pinpoint some of the risks related to the legacies of regionally-specific war economies the country will face in its upcoming transition.

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