Monday, September 28, 2015

Perspectives on Transition and Development

Opinion article by: David Ricardo Murcia Sánchez*
Analyst at the Trade, Investment and Development Observatory
Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

In this short column I aim to make some observations about the relationship between development and transitional process (war to peace) in societies. In the procedure, I’ll put the discussion to serve as interpretive remarks of the Colombia’s peace negotiations context.

The central hypothesis I’ll defend, states that the transitional process form war to peace in Colombia should be seen as an opportunity for development that goes beyond the conjuncture of the peace negotiations process with FARC guerrilla. Thus, beyond the reduction of the levels of violence (murder rates) in the social interactions. It should be taken, in stand, as a chance to strengthen the social capital and the formal institutions that bondage the people and the state.

First, it is necessary to make some notes on the subject of transitional justice. This academic area studies the organizational structure that the government and the society acquire to make a transition from either war to pace, dictatorship to democracy, or both. About it Ivan Orozco Abad (2005), a Colombian lawyer and political scientist, explain that in this field of research there are two streams of thinking. The first: human rights defenders, place their interest in the guard of justice as supreme value in the social life. In this sense, they make it necessary to implement some sort of law framework that reward or restore the affections taken by those who were damage during the conflict, for it is just. The second stream: peace builders, concern deeply about finding the possible ways in which the social capital in a society can be strengthen, thus permitting the stabilization of social relations outside the formal institutions: the government and the law. In this way, peace builders give concessions to social stability prior the satisfaction of grievances.

The possible opposition between peace builders and human rights defenders is based in the emphasis both of them make in the circumstances of the transition. The firsts consider the importance of having practical ways to facilitate a nation to make the transition, avoiding the reproduction of social conflicts in the head of retributive justice, which could let to violence. The second ones, in contrast, sustain that the transition need to be constructed as a way to pay back to society the damage inflicted; in this sense the human rights defenders place the exigence of justice as unavoidable to build a durable peace.

Although, it could be interpreted that these two ways of study are opposite, such an opposition could be false. As Orozco himself expose, there could be a mid-way where justice framework could be constructed in a fashion, it could not dissect society between victims and victimizers, breaking the bondages in society; but one that seek the normalization of the social institutions, both formal and informal (Orozco, 2005).

This initial approach to the discussions within the transitional justice, arose the necessity of having a process that give both, juridical guaranties to the grievances of the different social populations, and also studies the ways in which the unity of the political body can be sustain without the explosions of violence as a valid social dynamic. At the bottom of the argument, it is the question of constructing a better society.

Academy shows examples of good policies for development. One is the case of community-driven reconstruction (Cliffe, Guggenheim & Kostner, 2003; Kyamusugulwa, Hilhorst & van der Haar, 2014; Thorsell, 2013), where the government involves the social capital already active, in the programs to reconstruct the state in a bottom up direction. Although, the measure can be improved (Kyamusugulwa, Hilhorst & van der Haar, 2014), its basic argument can be defended. As the analysis of the irruption of violence after the firm of the pact shows, it is necessary to understand the institutional arrangements that societies have to make it easy and sustainable to control crime and violence (Archer & Gartner, 1976; Godnick, Muggah & Wasznik, 2002).

This approach to the process of transition leave some reflections on the nearby transitional process that Colombia would undergo after the definitive firm of a treaty of peace whit FARC. Thus, the governmental structure (McMichael, 2014), the media (Esser, 2014), and the society in general should focus their scope not only in the variation of aggregated data, like murder rates, or others indicators (Godfelow & Smith, 2013), for it could led to mistake the apparent change in indicators, with the change of the institutional arrangements that make it possible for the conflict to emerge.

If we accept that peace goes beyond statistics, we also have to accept that without them, peace wouldn’t be reachable, for them are indispensable methods to read social reality. The argument that I want to place is that it depends on the kind of data not being studied. The experience of the transitions in Central America shows that the attention put in crime records let to measures incapable to control crime. But in other cases, were the emphasis was put in the analysis of social capital, the resulting policies were more fruitful (Jütersonke, Muggah, Rodgers, 2009).

Transition, as it has being shown, represents to a nation an opportunity to enhance its social interaction, and construct a better path towards development. This perspective goes harmoniously whit the new global development agenda: the Objectives of Sustainable Development (ODS), especially number 16, that put forward the need of strengthen the social institutions as a step in development (PNUD, 2015). 

Concluding, it is necessary to open our view of the conjuncture that the peace process represent for Colombia, in attention of the development opportunity it offers.


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