Globalization, migration and security: the case of Colombia

Subject: Sociology
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 15
Word count: 3774
Topics: Globalization, Immigration


The modern world is faced with rapid technological advancements and better relationships between countries that have increased the concepts of globalization. There is a great increase in culture traffic as many states have opened their borders to people from other nations. Therefore, there is a rapid unification of the global political, cultural and economic factors. The rapid pace of global change has led to new trends that have amazed governments, academia, and the media. The world is slowly achieving the status of the “global village” as the connections between people are increasing each day (Bhalla, 2002; Milanovic, 2007). Nevertheless, the increased globalization has also exposed the world to new threats that did not exist in the previous years. Threats of terrorism have become surreal with the criminals acquiring better technologies each day. Therefore, the praise accorded to globalization is only overshadowed by the security threats. On the other hand, globalization has been pinpointed as the only solution to these security threats. Colombia is known to have one of the longest running conflicts within the country. Whereas the security situation in the country has continued to improve over the past decade, a number of insurgent groups along with remnant as well as emergent criminal bands that are involved in drug trafficking as well as illegal economic ventures are active and are a continual threat to the civilian population as well as government institutions. Considering the rugged terrain, changes in state capacity, drug trade, along with external networks that support insurgents within the Colombian context, the country grapples with multiple issues ascribed to globalization and migration. This paper analyzes the relationship of migration, globalization and security in the light of the Colombian Conflict.

Globalization, Migration and Security


Globalization is a broad concept in its very definition. It has been defined as “the compression of the world and intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole” (Bussmann & Schneider, 2007). Therefore, the process of globalization has led to the connection of the social links in distant places. It begins from the local transformations that extend laterally to other places across space and time. Globalization has been defined as a revolutionary concept that has shaped modernity. However, it has not led to the increased sense of trust, security, and certainty that modernity is expected to provide to international and societal relations. There are significant shifts in the understanding and the actors of security relations with the increased religious and ethnic extremism and environmental hazards. These religious and ethnic extremisms are caused by the new need to maintain an identity that is rapidly disappearing through the globalization processes.


Security is a broad concept that entails the general efforts to ensure that people are kept safe from physical, mental, economic or political harm. The broad nature of security means there are numerous definitions that exist in literature. For the purpose of this paper, the security will be narrowed down to internal state security. Internal security is the act of ensuring that peace is maintained within the borders of a sovereign body such as a state (Duffield, 2014). It entails upholding the national laws and defense against any form of threats within the borders. The increased globalization means that people are facing new threats caused by the interaction with other cultures. As a result, the new security measures have also expanded to include protection the identities and ecologies of the people. Different actors can meet to discuss means to solve and stop any security threats through the process of globalization.


At the center of this intricate relationship between globalization and security is migration. Migration, the movement of people, is one of the causes and consequences of globalization. The movement of people leads to transfer of culture and values, while also causing resistance as people strive to maintain their identities (Castles & Davidson, 2000). Migration changes the outlook of the receiving and sending countries’ social and cultural organizations, which create the increasingly intricate and multilayered facet of globalization.

Globalization and the internal conflict

The concept of globalization has received mixed reactions from different spheres and stakeholders. While it has been praised as revolutionary, some people have considered the closer contacts of people as harmful and detrimental to the growth of countries, especially the emerging nations. Therefore, there is great disagreement on whether globalization leads to benefiting developing countries or exploiting them (Hegre, Gissinger & Gleditsch, 2003). Social research has focused on the economic and political effects of the globalization processes. The modernization and neoliberal theorists have maintained that closer economic contacts have helped in the modernization of emerging countries and led to peace and stability (Douma, 2003). On the other hand, the structuralist theorists argue that trade and foreign direct investments are harmful as they lead to capitalist exploitations and promote poverty, which results in disarray and conflict (Robinson, 2007). Therefore, the assessment of the impact of globalization on the internal security of Columbia can be assessed through these two lenses.

The liberal model advocates that globalization can result in peace and stability of the country. A closer look at the situation in Columbia illustrates that the lack of globalization was one of the causes of the sustained internal conflict over the years. An open economy results in improved economic developments. According to Hegre, Gissinger, and Gleditsch, (2003), the nations with open economies have a tendency for better economic growth rates. These developments will create peace, both directly and indirectly. They create a firm foundation for the country, which secures the ground for international and domestic peace (İçduygu & Keyman, 2000). It is apparent that Columbia, for most of its history, has worked in a closed economic system. The closed model of the economy prevented the interaction of the country with other nations through trade and foreign exchange that could boost economic development. Additionally, evidence from countries such as Vietnam and China shows a boost in economic growth and stability after modernizing their economies and engaging in foreign trade.

The rebellions against the governments can only be carried out by rebel groups that are financially viable regardless of their motivation. These rebel groups need to control the nation’s resources because they are driven solely by greed. Internal conflicts often arise when the country relies on the primary commodity exports, which makes the control of these commodities result in disagreements and war (Douma, 2003). The development of the economy can prevent the development of rebellion by increasing the recruitment costs for the rebel groups. These groups will face many opportunity costs because it will be challenging to recruit people who are performing well economically than those languishing in poverty. The scenario also leads to a reduced financial viability of the rebels because the citizens have other options for income.

The structurist theorists, on the other hand, perceive globalization as the primary cause of internal conflicts and civil wars. They portray globalization as a dark cloud that promotes the hegemony of western culture and multinational corporations. The capitalistic nature of globalization means that the poor countries will be exploited for cheap labor (Robinson, 2007). There is also an increased threat to the environment, and the overall process undermines social stability and the foundations of democracy. Globalization subjects the national political institutions to the economic forces of change, which are beyond the control of national governments. Globalization can also be perceived as being uneven in its effects and processes. The inequality and injustice created by the globalization processes will lead to revolts and the inevitable civil wars when using this perspective (Milanovic, 2007).

The Colombia Internal Conflict

Historical Perspective

Columbia is presently facing a turning point in its internationalization process. Nevertheless, the country is still marred by big challenges as it strives to catch up with globalization that has been blocked by decades of internal conflict. The internal conflict has created a long-standing impact on the globalization and migration processes of the country. The conflict, coupled with drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, has prevented the state from shifting to globalization in the past years (Bagley, 2012). As a result, the country has often been viewed as one with economic and political isolationism.

The Columbian conflict can be traced back to the post-World War II conflict of La Violencia. The conflict was triggered by the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a populist political leader of the country. The aftermath saw the United States backing the anti-communist repression in the rural areas of Columbia in the 1960s. The result was the reorganization of the communist and liberal militants into forming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The long-lasting conflict has been sustained since the 1960s and involves a low-intensity war between the left-wing guerrillas (for example FARC), the government, the crime syndicates and the paramilitary groups. All these groups have been fighting to increase their influence over the territory of Columbia (Sanín, 2006).

The conflict’s reasons vary among the groups involved. The guerilla movements, including FARC, claim that they want to protect the poor Columbians from the violence of the government, and create communism that will result in social justice. On the other hand, the government contends to be fighting for stability and order in a bid to protect the citizens’ rights and interests. On the other hand, the paramilitary groups want to stop the threats caused by the guerrilla movements. Nevertheless, the two groups (paramilitary and guerilla) have been blamed for their engagement of terrorism and trafficking (Sossai, 2005). The long-lasting war has led to the loss of numerous civilian lives and the violations of various human rights. It has also led to forced migrations and internal displacement, creating the second largest internally displaced population in the world (Ibáñez, & Vélez, 2008). However, there have been new efforts to end the war, with the current president Juan Manuel Santos having led a four-year negotiation with the guerillas that resulted in the signing of a peace deal.

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Globalization and Migration in the Columbia Conflict

As the nation gets into a phase after conflict and directs its focus to stability and peace, the key focus of the country is to address the essential contributors to internal displacement along with developing functional strategies that function to make immigration services better. Additionally, Colombia faces several issues ascribed to international migration such as irregular migrants’ transit flows from far beyond the continent as well as Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis. The country’s profile depicts the historical trends which defined the policy and history of Colombia’s migration and looks at the present and future pitfalls that the country which is steadily emerging from war constantly grapples with. The migration policy of Colombia along with its institutional frameworks have continued to evolve slowly. In spite of the multiple efforts geared at regulating immigration and developing initiatives that promote immigration, the country only started to develop far-reaching policies ascribe to migration in the early 2000s. Columbia has often trended towards economic and political isolationism. The isolationism is caused by its limited openness to immigration, the rugged geography, the closed economic model and low foreign investment flows. Historically, the country has received the fewest immigration waves compared to other Latin American countries (Riaño‐Alcalá, 2008). Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, which are neighboring countries, received great numbers of European immigrants in the periods of the First and Second World Wars. On the other hand, Columbia just received few immigrants who formed closed communities. Additionally, the immigrants who went to Columbia only engaged in small businesses that do not require heavy investments of capital. The poor immigration patterns prevented the establishment of strong links to the rest of the world.

Columbia is also composed largely by a rugged topography. The country is divided into the central highlands and the coastal lowlands. The jagged geography forms a natural border between the rest of the country (especially coastal areas) and the inner highland zones. As a result, Columbia experienced a great wave of internal migration as people moved to the uninhabited areas. The movement created a form of colonization undertaken by people of their own country (Sanín, 2006). It was one of the factors that resulted in the long-lasting internal conflict that was experienced in the country over the years.

The rugged geography of the country coupled with unfavorable foreign policies further closed the country’s doors to globalization. The adoption of the “Import Substitution Industrialization” model of the 1960s blocked the entrance of foreign industries into the Columbia market (Ibáñez & Vélez, 2008). The ISI model was based on strong state interventions in the nation’s economy through price controls, new industry subsidy and high quotas and tariffs among other mechanisms. It also created an anti-export bias in the country, virtually closing the economy. Nevertheless, the policy began to be changed after the adoption of the economic liberalization of the early nineties (Sanín, 2006). However, these reformist trends were short-lived as institutional crises, and drug trafficking claims on the government led to their reversal. The country returned to the protectionist trade policies, which included the attempts to increase tariffs and application of non-tariff barriers.

The worsening security because of the internal conflicts led to worsening of Columbia’s globalization and immigration prospects. The guerilla groups also allied with the drug traffickers creating magnified impacts and more violence (Bagley, 2012). The rule of law was undermined, and there was an escalation of armed conflict and terrorism in the late nineties. These factors combined to push the country away from the globalization process into further isolation. On the other hand, there were unprecedented emigrations as the citizens wanted to escape the horrors of the wars and the escalating economic crisis (Riaño‐Alcalá, 2008). Therefore, the early 2000s were marked by mass outward movement of Columbian citizens with few international immigrants.

Columbia has faced massive challenges in its globalization process also as a result of the polarization and distrust of its neighbors. Political polarization in the region prevented some regions from adopting the renewed efforts of Columbia to open its borders and expand into the regional markets. These were also escalated by the increasing local instability and the distrust of the Columbian drug traffickers who had spread their bases of operation to other countries in the region (Bagley, 2012). Other factors such as the bombing of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia by the Columbian government further fuelled political distrust from other countries, further undermining the country’s globalization efforts.

Nevertheless, globalization efforts can be seen in the business of drug trafficking and firearm trade. It has resulted in the oppression of the civilians because the state and the guerrilla fighters often forfeit the rights of the citizens they are “fighting for” in the name of state rights or market rights (Gwynne & Cristobal, 2014). This form of globalization has increased the numbers of the people who are denied their freedoms and rights. As a result, the grassroots have developed descent for the neoliberal movements and globalization efforts, which have hampered the efforts of the state and the rebels to find an amicable way to end the five-decade long war. Morality has been forfeited and replaced with the state and guerrilla entities that justify systematic misery and death. Nevertheless, the globalization has also provided new awareness to the Colombian citizens, some of whom have opted to flee the country rather than risk losing their lives.

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Internal Security in the Columbian Conflict

The security crisis in Colombia can be attributed to the empirical weakness of the state. The government of the country has failed to create complete control over the nation through the five years of the internal conflict. Additionally, it casts doubts about the emerging global order that has led to the development of intricate interplay of international and domestic security domains (Duffield, 2014). There is a growing discontinuity between borderless processes and the fixed, territorial states. Therefore, the lack of international efforts to act on the internal conflict in Colombia casts a shadow on the overall effects of globalization. Nevertheless, the country has been isolated from much of the world in terms of economic and political aspects, which makes it hard to blame globalization for its security conundrums.

The insecurity in Columbia is caused by numerous actors, including the guerrilla groups, the state, subnational groups, and the society at large. These groups have different sets of security values ranging from national security interests to societal and individual concerns. The security paradigm also expands beyond the ubiquitous massacres, attacks, kidnapping, forced conscription, displacement, and torture in the country. They grow to the democratic institutional guarantees and basic services access (including health care, education, and employment) (Duffield, 2014). These internal security risks are also entangled with the regional and global security dynamics, making the issue of security in Columbia to be increasingly complex.

The Columbian security crisis began with selfish ambitions such as power and control of the natural resources in the country. However, these issues have grown to become entangled with the global and trans-regional processes such as the trade of firearms, drug trafficking, US security operations and the terrorist and criminal networks. Columbia harbors some of the most destabilizing criminal groups as a result of their ability to generate massive revenues from the global drug market. Therefore, globalization has contributed to the strengthening of the guerilla groups that are involved in the drug trafficking and terrorist activities (Jung, 2003). The paramilitary group and FARC have been implicated in the cultivation, production, and trade of heroin and cocaine to fund their activities (Kenney, 2007). The money received from the drug trafficking is used to purchase firearms, which are also sold in global and regional black markets. The effect of globalization in Columbia, therefore, has been the expansion of these illegal activities that have further exacerbated the conflict.

The Columbian internal conflict is not an internal affair if the factors of drug sale and arms purchase are put into consideration. The transactions for these items occur through complex transnational associations of criminal and terrorist groups. These activities happen at and within the edges of the Andean region but are consequences of much larger and intricate global parameters (Mejía & Restrepo, 2008). They lead directly to dense trans-border networks that are made up of multiple global actors (Kenney, 2007). These are realities that the government of Columbia alone cannot handle even if it was fully operational. They require a collective activity of multi-state actors to develop conceptual tools that can deal with this menace. Therefore, as globalization has been the primary cause of the intricate insecurity, the solution also lies in another approach to globalization.

The relationship between security, globalization and migration in the Colombia Conflict

The migration strategies of Colombia are based on tight immigration rules that have seen little movement of people into the country. The country is also faced with long-standing turmoil that has discouraged the movement of people into the country. The country has seen increased emigration as the citizens try to escape the conflict in the country (Riaño‐Alcalá, 2008). Therefore, the migration in the country has not had a direct bearing with its globalization, but is a consequence of the continued strife. On the other hand, the migration strategies have made the country to create a closed economy for most parts of its history, which have further hampered the globalization process.

Globalization in the country is primarily caused by the desire to control the country’s national resources. As a result, the conflicting groups have resorted to different mechanisms to finance their activities. One of the biggest financers of the conflict is the drug trafficking from the non-state groups. The funds are used to purchase arms from other criminal global networks. These drug and arms networks are intricate and multilayered global systems (Jung, 2003). They are a result of the globalization efforts in the world. Therefore, Columbia is faced with problems that are directly resulting from globalization in as much as it has secluded itself from the rest of the world for much of its history. Therefore, global efforts are also needed to stabilize this failed state through enhanced efforts against black markets that deal with drugs and weapons.

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Despite the fact that the peace agreement offers unparalleled progress that aims at a Colombia free of conflict, thousands still face displacement risks owing to the continuing conflict between right-wing parliamentary factions, remaining gorillas, along with criminal gangs as they grapple over the illegal drug trade rural zones and illicit mining sites. Indigenous, rural and Afro-Colombian community groups are in essence quite vulnerable. Given the chance for safe relocation or return, IDPs could potentially become the key to reconciliation and sustainable peace. Still under struggles to recover from decades of war, the country experiences emergent challenges which will test migration, the policies it has instituted and otherwise. In midst of the recent association with extra-continental migrants as well as Colombians returning from Venezuela, the country experiences an increasing demand for services directed at asylum seekers retuned migrants and refugees. Most essentially, the era following the conflict is bound to be continually defined by the requirement for the out-and-out integration of internally displace persons into the future of Colombia by espousing the sustainable development of urban areas which have become the habitat for very many and seeing to it that individuals relocating or returning to rural areas do not risk becoming victims once again. It is essential to encourage the development of strategies that seek to facilitate local integration, protect at-risk populations, like Afro-Colombians and indigenous groups, and facilitate active participation by internally displaced persons along with the diaspora in the peace deal’s implementation.


Globalization is a relatively new concept that has drawn mixed reactions from different scholars. One of the factors of globalization that has been thoroughly examined is its effects on the internal securities of countries. The liberal model shows that globalization may lead to internal security of the countries by increasing the economic conditions of the citizens. On the other hand, the structuralist model shows that globalization may lead to internal strife as a result of its capitalistic nature and the possible exploitation of citizens from emerging countries. At the center of the globalization and internal security debacle is migration. The movement of people leads to transfer of culture and values, while also causing resistance as people strive to maintain their identities. Therefore, migration may also result in the cause of civil wars. The case of Colombia shows the effects of globalization on the internal security of the nation through the effects of drug and arm dealing. The internal conflict that resulted has led to increased emigration from the country. Therefore, globalization is a primary causative agent for the continued conflict, which has hampered state security and caused increased emigration.

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