Title: The business and conflict of criminality
Name: Eduardo Moncada
Year: 2010
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

In this book project I argue that business is a pivotal actor in the political economy of urban violence in Latin America. Introducing business into the study of the politics of urban violence results in a stronger understanding of the factors and processes that shape the diverse ways in which cities respond to urban violence. The empirical analysis centers on the politics of urban violence in Colombia's three principal cities: Bogota, Cali, and Medellin. The study draws on over 200 semi-structured interviews conducted in Colombia between 2006 and 2011 with business owners, representatives of business institutions, politicians from the local, regional and national levels of government, leaders of grassroots civil society organizations, former and active members of varied local armed groups, and police and military officials. The study also draws on public and private sector archival materials.

My first key finding is that business engages the politics of urban violence not only because violence generates significant economic costs, but also because policy responses to violence can threaten or strengthen the privileged political position that business has historically enjoyed within local political orders. Different policy responses to urban violence have distributive implications that either favor or endanger the political power of business.

Second, business is not a monolithic actor with regards to its security policy preferences; instead, private sector preferences vary across economic sectors due to cross- sectoral variation in relations to space and violence. Goods producing sectors are more likely to favor the status quo of policy responses that prioritize the physical security of specific geographic spaces, particularly transport routes and infrastructure, and which are vital for firms to bring their goods to national and international markets. In contrast, while service sectors also value physical security, their concerns extend to the general perceptions of security conditions associated with their city as a whole among existing and potential clients. Because perceptions cannot be remedied through coercive force alone but instead also require the careful transformation and management of a city's image, or brand, the service sector is more willing to support policy responses that break with the status quo and that can serve as the foundations to rebrand cities in ways that advance business' economic interests.

Third, I conclude that business institutions, from sectoral associations to economic groups, serve as vehicles for the private sector to coordinate collective action to advance, amend, or derail policy responses to urban violence. And finally, a fourth key finding is that the institutional outcomes of the politics of urban violence often vary in important ways from those envisioned by both political incumbents and business. To account for this difference between actors' policy preferences and institutional outcomes, we must analyze the nature of relations between business and local government. These relations are shaped by the strength of pre-existing linkages between business and local government and the degree of convergence between their initial policy preferences.


Moncada, Eduardo. "Business and the politics of urban violence in Colombia."Studies in Comparative International Development 48.3 (2013): 308-330.

Moncada, Eduardo. "The Politics of Urban Violence: Challenges for Development in the Global South." Studies in Comparative International Development 48.3 (2013): 217- 239.

The findings from this study were also recently incorporated into the United Nations Development Programme's 2013-2014 Human Development Report for Latin America, Citizen Security with a Human Face, on which I served as a Principal author.1

1. For more on this report, see: Human Development Report for Latin America 2013- 2014©