A Global Research Institute of Queen's University Belfast


Afghanistan and Columbia: Conflicts around the World


written by Lauren Webb, University of South Florida

Today, we had lectures that primarily focused on conflicts around the world- specifically those conflicts in Afghanistan and Columbia. We also had a lecture on media and art, showcasing the impact that media and art have had and continue to have on conflict filled societies.

My favorite lecture of the day was the one by Dr Andrew Thompson; Dr Thompson focused on the conflict in Colombia. It was an interesting lecture for me because, not only was I not aware of the conflict in Colombia but also how current everything is going on there. It was just a few weeks ago that the leaders of the two sides, the FARC and the Colombian government, met in Havana, Cuba for the peace talks. Dr Thompson began the lecture explaining that the conflict has gone on for over fifty years, over those fifty years many peace attempts have been made.

Dr Thompson then delved deep into the background of the conflict, he broke the conflict into three sides:

  • the guerrilla left wing
  • the Colombian government
  • the paramilitaries

The main left wing groups are the FARC and the ELN, these left wing groups were created after the time referred to as the La Violencia during the mid twentieth century (1948-58). During La Violencia lots of peasants and farmers were sick of the government and decided to move into the more wild untouched areas to create their own independent groups.

The Colombian government was angered that these groups were avoiding taxes and fought against them, this soon lead to the creation of the FARC and the ELN, the FARC becoming more powerful over time ending up in control over a large amount of land. Over the years of conflict the FARC lays down their weapons in a ceasefire in the late 1980s in attempts at peace, however the FARC was massacred by the pro-government paramilitaries and rouge government forces. They ended up killing thousands of FARC members, which of course furthered the conflict. It brings up the issue of credible commitment, how are people on either side of the conflict supposed to trust the other side with the disarmament of weapons? What if the other group decides to cheat and still have weapons while the other side is unarmed?

Dr Thompson compared it to the well known game theory and the prisoner's dilemm, the 1980s also grew the will known drug problem. The 1990s saw a rise in paramilitaries, however in the 2000s when US aid was given to the Colombian government to deal with the drug problem and the conflict this led the government to end the use of the paramilitaries that they used against the FARC. Ending up in the present where the two sides are trying to reach a peace agreement and making sure they are able to get these agreements into policy. The example such as the conflict in Northern Ireland that we've been studying over the past couple weeks is a great look into how conflicts like Columbia could become resolved.

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