University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana , USA
In Colombia’s “post-conflict” period, there is an urgent need to disentangle causal relationships between land cover land use change (LCLUC), conflict, and peacebuilding. Since the 2016 Peace Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia has experienced significant deforestation and environmental degradation, especially in the Amazon. Environmental change, in turn, is perceived to be heightening the risk of conflict relapse. Existing scholarship argues that FARC’s demobilization, in conjunction with weak state presence, is driving LCLUC. However, much of this research has focused on measuring LCLUC after 2016 to gauge the effect of the peace process. This is problematic because it fails to consider historical patterns of LCLUC and thus risks drawing inaccurate conclusions about long-term LCLUC drivers, as well as the factors shaping opportunities for building durable peace. There is thus a critical and unmet need to integrate remote sensing with social science research to elucidate LCLUC-conflict-peacebuilding causal relationships. We address this need by drawing on a socio-ecological concept model that employs LCLUC as a lens to examine conflict and peacebuilding dynamics, focusing specifically on 1) how the sociopolitical and economic drivers of conflict produce LCLUC and 2) how LCLUC in turn shapes conflict-peace transitions. Our approach combines NASA satellite remote sensing data, advanced image processing, and geospatial analysis with multiscalar socio-political and economic analyses across two regions in Colombia (Montes de Maria and Caquetá) from 2000 to the present. Our analysis centers on three time periods: (1) Plan Colombia (2000-onward); (2) the demobilization of paramilitary groups (2005-onward); and (3) the Demobilization of FARC/peace process (2016-onward). We thus attempt to account for both the spatial and temporal complexity of the Colombian conflict to show how LCLUC-conflict dynamics have shaped possible peacebuilding trajectories across Colombia.