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Environmental sustainability in post-conflict countries: insights for rural Colombia


Post-conflict countries (PCC) guide their priorities toward restoration of socioeconomic conditions and relegate sustainability objectives to the background. With the aim to provide insights for the current discussion on rural environmental sustainability in today’s post-conflict Colombia, we analyzed the environmental dynamics of seven PCC. We found that (1) deforestation and land use conflicts were frequent impacts in both conflict and post-conflict scenarios, that (2) return of displaced population, the infectiveness of land use planning, and the dependence on the primary sector were frequent drivers of environmental change; and that (3) natural resources extraction tends to be intensified in post-conflict period. We discuss these findings in light of the current environmental problems of Colombia and the post-conflict environmental challenges. We conclude that in order to ensure environmental sustainability in post-conflict scenario, Colombia should act on structural aspects that go beyond the environmental objectives proposed in the peace agreement between the government and FARC: strengthening environmental institutions, integrating long-term environmental objectives across all sectors, and deintensifying the dependence of the economy in the extractive sector.

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  1. We found literature addressing environmental impacts in countries such as Afghanistan (UNEP 2003; Habib et al. 2013), Irak (UNEP 2007c), and Congo Democratic Republic (Debroux et al. 2007; Ijang and Cleto 2013; Burt and Keiru Huston 2014; Katunga and Muhigwa 2014). However, these countries are nowadays facing armed confrontations and therefore they were not included in the analysis.


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We thank Universidad De la Costa (Barranquilla, Colombia) for funding the project ‘Conservation agriculture and environmental sustainability strategy for Colombian post-conflict.’ We also appreciate the valuable suggestions of Ph.D. C. Botero-Saltarén, W. Hossack, J. Zúñiga-Barragán, and peer reviewers for their valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Andres Suarez.

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Suarez, A., Árias-Arévalo, P.A. & Martínez-Mera, E. Environmental sustainability in post-conflict countries: insights for rural Colombia. Environ Dev Sustain 20, 997–1015 (2018).

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  • Armed conflicts
  • Colombia
  • Environmental impacts
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Post-conflict countries
  • Natural resources extraction
  • Social metabolism