Illicit behavior and state-building: The case of Colombia

Dr. Abbey Steele, University of Amsterdam

Successful state-building after a long period of de facto dominance of non-state actors relies on the extent to which local populations trust the state institutions and reduce collaboration with illegal armed groups. In the last decade, the Colombian government and the international community have invested hundreds of million of dollars in an effort to consolidate state capacity in areas formerly controlled by illegal armed groups after a five-decade long internal conflict. We evaluate the impact of such efforts on the engagement of local communities in activities such as collaboration with non-state actors and growing illegal crops. Yet these behaviors are difficult to measure directly. To that end, we administer two list experiments to a sample of over 20,000 households in the municipalities that have received consolidation investments, as well as in a sample of matched-control municipalities. Our findings indicate that the overall level of engagement in illegal activities has decreased during the intervention period, but not differentially so in treated municipalities. However, this result is more nuanced when heterogeneous effects are explored.

About the speaker

Abbey Steele is an assistant professor of political science (with tenure) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and holds a PhD in political science from Yale University (2010). Her research interests include civil wars, displacement, and state-building. Her book, Democracy and Displacement in Colombia’s Civil War (2017, Cornell University Press), draws on nearly two years of fieldwork in Colombia, and explains how democratic reforms led counterinsurgent groups to engage in political cleansing. She is currently researching state-building and the peace process in Colombia, and resettlement patterns of the displaced. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the Journal of Peace Research, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management and Peace Science, and the American Political Science Review.  

Venue: 0.16/0.17

Date: 19 September 2019

Time: 12:00 - 13:00  CET