Stabilization and Development: Lessons of Colombia's "Consolidation" Model

Stabilization and Development: Lessons of Colombia's "Consolidation" ModelColombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, and humanitarian emergency since the mid-1960s, and since 2000 has been by far the number-one recipient of U.S. military and police assistance beyond the Middle East. About four years ago, faced of governing territory under illegal armed groups’ underwent an important shift in strategy.

The model now being pursued in Colombia is called “Integrated Action” or “Consolidation.” Several small, historically ungoverned regions of the country have been chosen as targets for a phased, coordinated “hold and build” effort. A new agency in Colombia’s central government, the Center for Coordination of Integrated Action (CCAI), coordinates military efforts to establish security conditions in these territories, and then civilian efforts to introduce the rest of the government and the services it provides. The desired end state is that violent, lawless zones become integrated into national civic and economic life, with their inhabitants becoming full citizens, supporting the state and abandoning illegal activity.

In some zones, the Consolidation experience has operated long enough to make evaluation possible. Some aspects of this experience appear to be working well: drug production is reduced, and security, particularly in town centers, has improved. Other aspects, however, pose risks that threaten the success of the entire Consolidation effort. These issues include “militarization,” lack of civilian agencies’ coordination and participation, local corruption, human rights abuse, and land tenure, among others.

The United States, and other donor states, are facing similar stability, development and peace building challenges elsewhere, particularly Afghanistan. In our view, Colombia offers not a model to be copied exactly, but a series of lessons for policymakers and practitioners working in other parts of the world.

For this reason, the Center for International Policy and the U.S. Institute of Peace held a conference on December 9, 2010 to discuss the Colombian experience with practitioners whose expertise goes beyond Colombia and Latin America. The goal of the conference, titled “Stabilization and Development: Lessons of Colombia’s “Consolidation Model,” was to engage people working on and making policy on the same issues, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Speakers at the conference represented several U.S. and Colombian agencies, as well as non- governmental experts and activists from several disciplines. The agenda and list of speakers is at the end of this report. However, since the discussions took place on a not-for-attribution basis, speakers are express consent to be quoted.