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Research Report

Local Justice and Security Programming in Selected Neighborhoods in Colombia

Eric Scheye
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2011
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 36

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. None)
  3. (pp. i-ii)
  4. (pp. 1-6)

    This report, based upon research carried out in Colombia in April 2010, is the second phase of a larger, three-step, research project into the role of local justice and security providers and nonstate actors in fragile states.¹ The principal objective of the overall research project is to examine methods by which donors can include these actors into wider Security Sector Reform and Development (SSR) efforts, which, typically, involve questions of state and institutional capacity building.² This objective of this part of the larger project, however, was designed to look at how, in Colombia, local justice and security networks deliver services...

  5. (pp. 7-10)

    From the outside looking in, Colombia’s current spasm of civil war and armed conflict -- whose death toll began to accelerate in 1988 through 2002-03 -- appears unique. In fact, armed violence has been endemic and is the historic norm, for Colombia has experienced only brief interludes of peace throughout its history. Between 1820 and 1879, for instance, approximately 3.5% of the country’s population died in civil strife. Renewed bouts of armed conflict raged between 1899-1902 (The Thousand Days War) with up to 100,000 killed and, again, in the 1940-50s (La Violencia) with approximately 300,000 dead. Thereafter, a twenty-year hiatus...

  6. (pp. 11-12)

    Colombia is not a ‘fragile state;’ nor is it a post-conflict one. Nevertheless, it appears that in some parts of the country the structures of the centralized state are incapable or unwilling to deliver the public goods and services expected by the population. Thus, as one interviewee admitted, some urban and rural areas of Colombia “suffer from the absence of the state.” According to another interviewee, despite the fact that Colombia is a “rich state,” it “does not want to deliver basic public services. The state has the resources, but does not care…”10 For example, in the poor urban neighborhoods...

  7. (pp. 13-16)

    In the absence of adequate and trusted public goods and services delivered by the centralized structures of the state, local Colombian communities and neighborhoods have, often, sought to provide for their own access to justice and security through the instruments and institutions to which the state has, effectively, delegated a significant percentage of its activities at local levels. In Colombia, the research indicates that there are, at a minimum, five different types of local service providers: Juntas de Acción Comunal (JACs); Jueces de Paz (justices of the peace); Conciliadores en Equidad (mediators); neighborhood watch groups; and Indigenous Administration. With the...

  8. (pp. 17-22)

    According to the interviews, a number of neighborhoods of Colombia have organized themselves to undertake local safety initiatives, despite fear of illegal armed groups and the police. For example, in a rural community outside Bogotá, the state security services had been active in the 1980-90s. However, these services were not welcomed by the local community as they became a principal source of insecurity in the area, and, as a result, were eventually removed by the state. For the past few years, there has been no police presence at all. The absence of state-provided security services, however, does not imply that...

  9. (pp. 23-30)

    Given the justice and security situation in Colombia, there are a number of concrete and practical entry points for donors with which to initiate programs to support better local justice and security service provision. It should be noted, however, that, while these recommendations are pragmatic and operational, further exploration and analysis is required, as the three-week research upon which this report is written was never intended to be sufficient to draft of a fully fleshed out program design.27

    Nevertheless, as highlighted in the previous section, donors can underwrite and undertake the various types of systematic and comprehensive training regimes for...