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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Inclusive economic growth for sustainable peace? Assessing development mechanisms and conservation efforts in post-conflict Colombia

PI: Laura Bernal-Bermúdez (, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
U.S. Partner: Tricia Olsen, University of Denver
Project Dates: April 2021 - April 2023

Project Overview:
9-269 Bermudez video pic
PEER Project PI Laura Bernal-Bermúdez, Ph.D.,  explains the concept of the project
Scholars have sought to understand the impact of peace projects in territories affected by violence, poverty, and inequality, but the evidence base remains weak. This project asks: which development pathways are most capable of fostering enduring peace, building inclusive rural development, and promoting environmental sustainability in regions affected by conflict, inequality, and poverty? Using data from Colombia, this project explores the impacts of two development programs: one empowering the private sector (Zones Most Affected by the Armed Conflict, or ZOMAC in Spanish) and one empowering local communities (Development Programs with a Territorial Focusl, or PDET in Spanish). Using impact evaluation methods, the project team will assess the differential effects of these development programs on enduring peace, inclusive rural development, and environmental sustainability. The team will also conduct four qualitative case studies to provide contextual evidence for their quantitative findings.

This study is innovative, as it leverages variation in development interventions in Colombia to (1) establish a rigorous evaluation design; (2) conduct policy-relevant research that assesses which characteristics of development interventions shape the outcomes of interest; and (3) shed light on the environmental footprint of these initiatives. Thus, this project overcomes previous shortcomings. First, most research focuses on firm-level outcomes and overlooks societal consequences, especially as they relate to conflict recurrence, inequality, and environmental conservation. Second, many studies lack a comparative public policy perspective that compares “from below” (community-led) to “from above” (business-led) interventions. Third, extant research overlooks the importance of environmental sustainability as a tenet of enduring peace.

Systematic analysis is needed to identify which mechanisms—or combinations of mechanisms—are most effective and where tradeoffs in outcomes may occur. The team’s mixed-methods approach will provide technical assistance to both public and private institutions in Colombia to promote enduring peace, inclusive development, and environmental sustainability. The outcomes of the study will come at a time when the agencies in charge of the implementation of the policy will be working on the mid-life revision of these programs (2023). Given the principal investigator’s numerous contacts across the Government of Colombia (e.g., National Planning Department, Agency to Renew the Territory, Truth Commission), civil society (e.g., Dejusticia, Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural, Fundación Ideas para la Paz, Christian Aid), and key business associations (e.g., Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia, Proantioquia, Chamber of Commerce), there are increased chances that findings will be heard and have the potential to shape policy and practice in important ways.

Project updates

During April-June  2022 reporting period the team planned and implemented a writing workshop at Universidad Javeriana during April 18-20, 2022.  Professors Tricia Olsen and Kelly Jones participated in the workshop, and it was a very interesting learning experience for the Colombian members of the team, in terms of planning and writing academic papers, and for the US colleagues in terms of the theory and empirical findings from the Colombian case. During these three days, the team also held further policy-oriented meetings, including a virtual meeting with the staff from the USAID Mission in Colombia at which time the team presented some of their preliminary empirical findings. They also held a meeting with officials from different Directorates of the Agency for the Renovation of the Territory. In this meeting, they not only presented their findings, but also heard from the agency about the evaluation that they are conducting of the PDET and the Works for Taxes programs. 
During June 26-30, the team conducted their last field visit to the municipality of El Bagre, Antioquia. This is the PDET municipality with high levels of private investment through the Works for Taxes program. The team convened two focus groups with 16 community leaders. Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with state actors and employees from Mineros S.A., the company operating in this municipality and involved in Works for Taxes. The team also visited several of the PDET projects being implemented, the offices of local business initiatives and some gold extraction sites in the Nequí river. This visit allowed the team to finalize the qualitative data collection and finish the coding process, which includes interviews and document data from the PDET participatory processes. 
Since April the team also have been working on the organization of an Impact Event where they expect to bring together academia, government, business and community actors to (i) share some of the findings and insights from the project and, more importantly, (ii) use those findings as a guide a participatory exercise around the mid-life revision of the PDET and ZOMAC programs. In dialogue with the Agency for the Renovation of the Territory, and considering the change of government on 7 August, the team decided to hold the event on September 9th in Medellín, so that the memoirs of the meeting will reach key policy stakeholders at a time when the new government is still defining their agenda. 
In the next months the team will work on the non-academic report to send participants of the impact event, designing a participatory methodology for the event, inviting key actors in the new government, holding the event and producing a summary report of the results of the event to send to key stakeholders. They will continue to work on the academic outputs, including revising the book chapter when we receive comments from editors, and producing a draft version of one of the academic papers. 

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