Land Reform as a Counterinsurgency Policy: Evidence from Colombia
Journal of Conflict Resolution, Forthcoming
50 Pages Posted: 23 May 2011 Last revised: 30 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 24, 2012
Can targeted land reform reduce levels of civil war conflict by mitigating the factors that contribute to rural rebellion? This paper uses new micro-level data on land reform and insurgency at the municipal level from Colombia from 1988-2000, a country with high rates of land inequality and informal land ownership, to test whether land reform undercut subsequent guerrilla activity. The reform had two distinct aspects. Politically powerful large landholders blocked most large-scale reform, which resulted primarily in an enduring, low-intensity and geographically dispersed reform that spurred low levels of insurgent activity. Larger-scale reforms were only implemented in areas that threatened serious violence and had the potential to harm elite interests, and in these limited areas reform reduced guerrilla activity. This suggests that while land reform can be an effective counterinsurgency policy, it may be politically difficult to implement at a sufficient scale because it threatens the status quo.
Keywords: Insurgency, civil war, Colombia, land reform, land titling
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