It has been widely documented that the relationship between armed conflict and development is circular. On the one hand, conflicts have been more frequent in less developed countries. On the other hand, in the course of conflict, conditions favorable to development tend to deteriorate, causing new conflicts to emerge and old ones to linger (Collier, and others, 2003; (1) Gates, and others, 2014). Even when armed conflicts end, by military or negotiated means, the legacies of violent confrontation remain. These legacies include the atrophy of crucial social institutions, weak democratic regimes, corrupt practices in the distribution of natural resources, the ongoing circulation of weapons and the transformation or proliferation of crime. In sum, conflicts have lasting negative impacts on society.
At the same time, the peacebuilding record is not as bleak as suggested by this vicious cycle. Some countries do emerge from conflict and political instability. In fact, the number of armed conflicts at the global level is actually decreasing (Marshall and Cole, 2014; Pinker, 2011). Against the odds, some countries have managed to build imperfect, yet durable peace (i.e., the absence of armed conflict) in contexts of still faulty development. Therefore, it seems that we should attempt to better understand those cases that have neither overcome violence in their societies, despite having ceased armed conflict, nor solved pressing structural social and economic issues, yet have nonetheless managed to avoid a relapse into armed conflict.
Latin America is suited particularly well to analysing the tense relationship between armed conflict and development and the challenges this poses for lasting peace. Once marked by several active armed conflicts and civil wars in countries such as Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru, the region is currently on the brink of witnessing the end of the oldest and last remaining armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. As a result of successful peace talks in Colombia, chances run high that, by the end of 2016, Latin America will be free from armed conflict for the first time in over 55 years.
The effects of armed conflict on social and political institutions, as well as many ongoing development challenges, are, however, widely visible across the region. Despite improvements in gross national income per capita, life expectancy, education, poverty rates, the size of the middle class, and economic growth...