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Security for whom? Stabilisation and civilian protection in Colombia


This paper focuses on three periods of stabilisation in Colombia: the Alliance for Progress (1961–73) that sought to stem the threat of communist revolution in Latin America; Plan Colombia and President Alvaro Uribe's ‘democratic security’ policy (2000–07) aimed at defeating the guerrillas and negotiating a settlement with the paramilitaries; and the current ‘integrated approach’, adopted from 2007, to consolidate more effectively the state's control of its territory. The paper assesses the extent to which these stabilisation efforts have enhanced the protection of civilians and ultimately finds that in all three periods there has been a disconnect between the discourse and the practice of stabilisation. While they have all sought to enhance security, in actual fact, they have privileged the security of the state and its allies at the expense of the effective protection of the civilian population. This has not only led to widespread human rights abuses but also has undermined the long-term stability being pursued.

Samir Elhawary