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Colombia’s chronic war is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Amid armed actors, pervasive violence, and increasing militarisation, many citizens experience hostility from all sides. This violence continues the historical marginalisation of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and campesino communities and is intensified by the ‘global war on terror’. Some ‘peace communities’ are rejecting violence and seeking ways to survive within war – becoming protagonists in their own protection. This is risky: it draws accusations, threats, and attacks by all armed actors, including the state. Over time, the lack of sustainable livelihoods, weak internal cohesion, and antagonistic external dynamics test the determination of such communities. This article examines four peace communities and explores factors that generate and sustain grassroots protagonism. It ends by suggesting ways in which development organisations can enhance community-level protection and reinforce local peace processes, in order to contribute to broader peace building.

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