Moving towards a peaceful Colombia

Conflicts between local communities and park administrations can be extremely damaging both for local peoples’ livelihoods and the natural environment. There is an urgent need to better understand these conflicts and their causes, and also to define the most appropriate ways to constructively address them.  The aim of this thesis is to address this knowledge gap in the research literature, by focusing on park-people conflicts and co-management in the complex case of Colombia′s national protected areas (NPAs).
More specifically, our research project addressed the following research questions:
1. What specific park-people conflicts exist within Colombia’s NPAs?
2. What are the causal factors that underlie or trigger these park-people conflict manifestations?
3. Does socio-economic diversity, as expressed by gender, ethnicity, age and/or    income level, play a role in who experiences park-people conflicts and if so, why? 
4. What is the possible role of co-management in mitigating these conflicts?
Both qualitative and quantitative data analyses were used to address the research questions. Overall, we interviewed 601 people living within or very near 15 Colombian NPAs. A further 76 interviews were conducted with administrative officials and representatives from conservation organisations working in these areas.
The most important result of this research thesis is that co-management of NPAs can be successful in reducing conflict at grassroot levels, as long as some critical enabling conditions such as trust and effective participation, are realised not only on paper, but also in practise (see Figure 1). This finding contradicts the increasingly widespread idea that co-management is not effective and should be abandoned. Critics of co-management generally favour classic approaches to nature protection, like the Yellowstone model, with strictly enforced national parks that exclude local people.


De Pourcq, K., Thomas, E., Arts, B., Vranckx, A., Léon-Sicard, T., Van Damme, P., 2015. Conflict in Protected Areas: Who Says Co-Management Does Not Work? PloS One, 10(12). Available online.

De Pourcq, K., Thomas, E., Arts, B., Vranckx, A., Léon-Sicard, T., Van Damme, P., 2017. Understanding and Resolving Conflict Between Local Communities and Conservation Authorities in Colombia. World Dev. 93, 125–135. Available online.

De Pourcq, K., Thomas, A., Léon-Sicard, T., Van Damme, P., 2017. Análisis de los Conflictos entre Comunidades Locales y Autoridades de Conservación en Colombia. Causas y Recomendaciones. Accepted in Revista Gestion y Ambiente.

De Pourcq, K., Thomas, E.; Elias, M.; and Van Damme, P. Exploring Park-People Conflicts in Colombia Through a Social Lens.

De Pourcq, K., Thomas, E. and Van Damme, P. A preliminary assessment of factors influencing conflicts related to indigenous and local communities’ access to natural resources in protected areas across Colombia.  International Bioversity Meeting on gender and access to resources, Cali, Bogota, Sept. 30 – Okt 2, 2013.

Arts, B. and De Pourcq, K. Governing forests and parks: the need for inclusive approaches. Seminar Integral Rural Reform, Bogota, Colombia, February 13-15, 2017.