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Land Restitution in Colombia: Progressive Policy and Political Opportunity?

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Title: Land Restitution in Colombia: Progressive Policy and Political Opportunity?
Author: Ricci, Melissa
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Program: Rural Planning and Development
Advisor: Devlin, John
Abstract: This paper studies the policy changes that have led to the design and early implementation of the land restitution program in Colombia. I use the land reform literature to frame land reform efforts in Colombia within the larger ideological discussion on land reform. The study maps out the roles of the main actors that influenced the actions of government regarding land reform and their role in shaping the present policies affecting land restitution. The paper argues that although the land restitution program provides an opportunity to initiate a peace building process and should be seriously considered as a measure to compensate the victims of the armed conflict, the present rural development model is an impediment to its success. Although, the more progressive coalition was able to achieve the approval of the land restitution program, the success of the program relies entirely on the wider rural development model being currently embraced in the country. The present rural development model puts an emphasis on the exploitation of extractive resources and other mega projects responding to global market demands; while illicit crops continue to provide an easy and profitable livelihood opportunity for many in the countryside. Such development does not support the livelihoods of returnees and thus does not compliment the land restitution program. The success of the land restitution program thus remains in doubt. The reason is that powerful actors support a neoliberal development model that continues to dominate the political agenda.
Date: 2012-08
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