Broad political participation is widely accepted as a crucial element of transitions from armed conflict to peace. As such, reforms to increase access to participatory democracy are often written into peace accords. Yet despite this connection between peace and participation in policy, we know relatively little about how the two interact in practice. Who uses participatory institutions? Does civilians’ experience during armed conflict affect how they participate after war ends? This article examines an unlikely case of post-conflict participation in Colombia to answer these questions: the activation and organization of local referenda from below – that is, by conflict-affected communities themselves – to contest the national government’s mining and oil policy. Using an original dataset of 95 municipality-level attempts to organize these referenda (consultas populares), I find that both conflict intensity and insurgent group presence have significant and positive effects on consulta activation. The impact of insurgent group presence, however, is mediated by the timing of armed groups’ consolidation of territorial control. I further explore this relationship through a qualitative case study. The results highlight the importance of considering the lingering impact that armed conflict may have on democratic participation beyond electoral politics. Even when communities explicitly avoid references to conflict or victim status in their discourse, experiences during armed conflict can still shape local dynamics of political participation during post-conflict transitions.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.