Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.

Since the formal declaration of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, illicit drugs and crops have been regarded primarily as a security problem. However, without a comprehensive development strategy and deep transformative reform addressing structural issues (land, resources, market access, etc.), it is a war bound to be lost despite enormous human suffering.

In Colombia, agrarian development came as the first topic in the agenda between the FARC-EP and the government during the latest peace negotiations (2012-2016), recognising its intimate link to illicit drugs. This recognition went against the grain of dominant discourses. However, the agreement fell short of much needed transformative reform. Moreover, it also failed to engage with the governance mechanisms –enforced and sustained by the rebels- which were key to social order in many drug-producing regions.

By exploring the case of Argelia, in South-Western Colombia, I will argue that a transformative approach to peace-building was needed, as rural development and engagement with local governance mechanisms in drug-producing regions are paramount to address effectively the problem of illicit crops.