The objective of this article is to show how the environment should be considered by the State as a national interest that deserves its protection, thus sustaining environmental damage as a new threat that must be appropriately mitigated by the State. Therefore, the thematic guidelines that will be developed in this text are: i) security as an end of the States, ii) national interests, iii) the environment as a national interest, iv) environmental damage, a new threat, v) strategic guidelines to mitigate environmental damage. This leads to the conclusion that at present the environment, due to its close relationship with the needs of humanity, should be considered as a national interest and therefore it is necessary to plan strategies to mitigate the threats affecting the environment.
National Interest, Threats, Environment, Environmental Damage.
This research seeks to support the categorization of the environment as a national interest, which sustains environmental damage as a new threat that must be mitigated by the State; proposing strategic guidelines that allow the exercise of institutional control against these threats. In this way, it is necessary to recognize the changes that the development of humanity has generated on the environment and how these have materialized through multiple damages, which currently represent a great risk for the survival of the species.
This is taking into consideration how the environment is facing multiple threats that day after day generate increasingly negative impacts, such as climate change, damage to the ozone layer, the transformation of the water cycle, deforestation, prolonged droughts and uncontrolled floods. These are many of the cases that demonstrate a progressive damage to the environment, not to mention the numerous species of fauna and flora that have become extinct. This reality implies that the human species is facing possible extinction, because without an environment in which it can obtain the different resources for its survival, it cannot ensure its existence.
Within this context, the international community has been promoted since the seventies, with the Club of Rome and its report on the limits of growth in 1971, together with the subsequent United Nations conference on the human environment held in 1972, as the first group of nations concerned about the environment and denoting the need for changes in relation to the interaction between man and the environment; promulgating a declaration where approaches are made to the need to protect the environment. Subsequently, summits were held, such as the Earth Summit in 1992, and Rio Plus 20 in 2012, until the COP 21 of 2015 where the objectives of sustainable development were stipulated, which configured the 2030 agenda, in which the different premises for the protection of the environment are stipulated as a commitment of the State, business and society.
For the Colombian case, a similar development is evidenced with different regulatory changes on the environment, from the code of renewable natural resources and the environment, as well as the Political Constitution of 1991, Law 99 of 1993, and the different decrees that have dealt with the management of natural resources, the environmental sanctioning power, and other regulations in this regard. Demonstrating a clear concern on the part of the State in this matter. However, the persistence of environmental damage continues to be a reality that must be addressed by the State, since, not only is a legislative understanding of the matter necessary, but a State policy that protects the environment is clearly required, for which the support of this as a national interest is mandatory.
This will allow the development of a State policy that makes use of the different means available to Colombia among its different authorities, in order to establish clear guidelines to address the threat posed by environmental damage. Consequently, the research question from which this article starts is to determine which are the strategic guidelines that the Colombian State must develop when recognizing the environment as a national interest in the face of the threats represented by environmental damage, for which a methodology of deductive character will be developed where the concepts of national interest, environment and environmental damage will be established in a first moment and in a general way, with the purpose of studying in the Colombian case the presence of a new threat that affects the national interests in this respect.
- National interests and national security and defense.
In order to understand the concept of national interest, it is necessary to make preliminary mention of the very origin and functionality of the State, since these interests are linked to the existence and survival of the States. Thus, the State must be considered in terms of Morgenthau (1986) as a living being, which is born and can be extinguished. The latter occurs in those cases in which it does not fulfill the purposes for which it originated. Referring this analysis to the contractualist theorists Hobbes, Loke and Rousseau for whom the origin of the State lies in an agreement or so-called social contract in which individuals give up their natural right of self-protection to create an entity superior to each of them and which will be responsible in the first place for providing security and protection to private property.
In this way, the interests of the State are not only focused on the guarantees and individual rights but also in relation to the rights and interests of society and the nation, finding that each of the interests that are related to the fulfillment of the purposes for which it was constituted are considered as of national character and on which security and defense are based to protect them against the threats that may affect them.
These national interests in the words of Muñoz-Alonso (2006) “are projected within the international system as the way in which States interact with each other, but especially define the way in which they project themselves within their international relations, in this way, these interests seek the “defense and promotion of natural and essential objectives of a State in the political, economic, social and cultural area” (Castro, 2010, p. 19). 19), therefore it can be established that the components that make up the national interest are “the survival of the State, the attainment of maximum wealth; and finally, the preservation and promotion of the values of the national community” (Torres, 2010, p. 9).
Taking into account the above conceptual clarification, its relationship with security and defense can be established since, as will be noted in the following paragraphs, clarity in relation to the threats that may affect them, given that security is a state in which a certain object is free from threats. In this way, clarity with respect to these interests makes it possible to determine the type of threats and the ways in which they can be mitigated.
These precepts of both national interests and threats are transforming along with the evolution of mankind, so that there is evidence of a change in the different approaches to security. Also, historical and geopolitical contexts have changed the national interests of the State, as an example of the above, we find fossil fuels that only acquired value due to the industrial revolution. The same happens nowadays in which natural resources, the environment, water, climate change and others have become new national interests.
In order to establish how these new interests have been protected, the evolution of the concept of security must be related, since this allows us to understand the relevance of the environment as a national interest.
In this way, at first, the classical concept of security should be studied, according to which the objective of the State is “the survival of the State in the face of threats of a military nature” (Barbé, 2007), a perspective by which States seek “their own security by increasing their power through their military capacity” (Font & Ortega, 2012, p. 162), finding in this reason the basis of the so-called national security, this approach being marked in theoretical foundations of Machiavelli and Hobbes where sovereignty and borders are the national interests of the State, focusing on threats exclusively from other actors.
Subsequently, and as a result of the changes that took place during the last decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the present century, the consideration of new threats has become indispensable and these approaches have evolved. Under these changes, there is a tendency to consider the inclusion of “society at the center of the problem, as well as other sources of security not derived from the military, such as domestic, economic or environmental factors” (Maghroori & Ramberg, 1982), therefore, ”military security does not constantly dominate the agenda” (Keohane & Nye, 2011, p. 41). At this point, it is relevant to bring to this study the theoretical contributions of Professor Ximena Cujabante (2009) for whom the post-Cold War period has represented an increase in the orbit of security, which represents a problem for security studies if clarity on national interests is not taken into consideration, as these will allow understanding which threats really affect States in the face of this diversity of threats.
In this sense, both human security and multidimensional security are easily understood in relation to the object or interest they seek to protect. Thus, with regard to human security, the following can be taken as a first input for analysis:
The triumph of hope over fear and poverty; that children no longer die of hunger or disease; that more jobs are created; that epidemics are controlled to avoid humanitarian disasters; that conflicts are overcome peacefully so that they do not degenerate into violence, with high human costs; that opponents are not silenced, tortured or eliminated by agents of the state. In the end, life and human dignity triumph over violence, injustice and the abusive and thoughtless management of economies that generate poverty” (Contreras, 2007, p. 162).
Finding that the objectives that are covered or contemplated by this approach are closely related to the human person, taking therefore as national interest of the States the person, placing him/her at the center of protection by the institutionality. Consequently,
security in the face of threats that, such as hunger, disease or political repression, can be considered chronic. And that, secondly, it means protection against sudden and detrimental alterations in daily life, whether in relation to housing, work or community” (Gonzales, 2014, p. 167).
It is clear that the threats considered by this approach are those that affect the development of people, in their different elements and characteristics such as housing, education, work, family, among others, always having human integrity and dignity as the axis of understanding. This is based on the transformation generated since the post-war period, both the Second World War and the Cold War, where the person acquires a greater participation within the international system, and generating a greater commitment on the part of the State with respect to the dignity of the people.
In the case of multidimensional security, it is necessary to analyze how,
The new threats or “emerging threats” as they are also called, comprise in turn a variegated set of possibilities that originate in different social spheres ranging from public security to health or social exclusion and for which our States are also responsible” (Blackwell, 2015, p. 155).
The above allows establishing that multidimensional security recognizes the phenomena that arise after the Cold War, reconciling not only the interests of the State but also the interests that orbit the integrity and dignity of people, assuming that today’s society faces new threats of diverse origins that not only affect people, but currently represent a great risk to the very existence of States.
The importance of multidimensional security lies in recognizing the dynamics generated in a globalized world where the telecommunications revolution generates an environment that transcends even physical borders, thus offering “a coherent and comprehensive view of the set of security threats that our nations and our citizens must face and the equally integrated and coherent way to do so” (Blackwell, 2015, p. 155).
The relevance of this new approach lies in the understanding of an increasingly anarchic world, in which threats are not only found in the present but a study is made of possible scenarios that may originate new threats due to causes that the present does not contemplate, and it is in this case where history itself gives it the grounds to evidence the lack of understanding of the world as a major cause of the negative effects of such threats; For example, analyzing the problems of religious terrorism are not found in September 11, it has its incidence in the lack of understanding of the ethnic and religious problems of the Middle East since the First World War. The justification for this approach is to be found in the consideration of this approach,
it is necessary to understand it as more than a simple definition, but as a real paradigm shift. This implies that in reality a new dimension emerges that is added to the national and the international and that until now had dominated the discussion in international relations” (Prieto, 2015, p. 79).
Therefore, the understanding of the environment is made in an integral way both of the phenomena present within nations and also of regions, hemispheres and the entire globe, recognizing within this approach the non-existence of purely local problems, since in the midst of a global village all local problems are the product of transnational dynamics, and no local event is extensive of producing global effects. Consequently, this way of studying the world,
Consequently, this way of studying the world brings with it the understanding that insecurities or threats are multidimensional in nature. This implies that this new paradigm considers that social, political and economic phenomena in general, but especially the factors of insecurity are of a cross-border nature and that the only way to act to eliminate or mitigate the insecurities brought about by this new dimension, is the imperative need for cooperation, which must become cross-border and multidimensional” (Prieto, 2015, p. 79).
What is described by Professor Prieto (2015) in the preceding paragraph allows emphasizing how the threats contemplated by this approach have such a level of complexity that cooperation is the way to mitigate them.
Both the concepts that are derived from human security and multidimensional security are relevant theoretical inputs for the present research, given that, its two objects of protection as the threats that are considered demonstrate the importance of the environment for the present time not only for the State but for the world as a whole, finding a national interest on the part of nations both in their natural resources and also in their ecosystems.
- The environment as a national interest
In development of the previous premise, it can be specified as considering the person, his integrity and dignity as the center of human security, his development within a propitious ecosystem, which allows him to obtain the necessary resources for his development, in this way the damages to the environment and to the right of a healthy environment for the Colombian case are threats contemplated by this approach. For its part, multidimensional security recognizes natural disasters among its threats, as well as environmental damage, as is the case of the threats contemplated by the 2003 Declaration on Security of the Americas, where the island countries that were threatened by environmental damage have a relevant epicenter within the hemispheric security of nations, in addition to considering environmental damage in this same declaration. Reiterating how climate change and other environmental damage are threats that have an impact on the very existence of the human species, and therefore is an element that must be considered by the entire planet.
The preceding paragraphs show how the threats that affect the environment are considered as threats to human security and multidimensional, however, it is important to give a greater theoretical development in order to demonstrate the environment as a national interest, in this sense, it can be indicated that,
The theoretical foundations allow evidencing the relevance of natural resources (not only those that generate energy), through critical geopolitics, as geopolitical factors in this new century; however, it was possible to verify that there are also foundations of classical geopolitics that allow making the same consideration of these resources beyond their strategic quality” (Moreno & Diaz, 2018, p. 28).
According to what has been said above the environment and its natural resources should be contemplated as a national interest, given that, from what Moreno & Diaz (2018) said, power within the relations between States has diversified to the point of contemplating the environment as a geopolitical factor, even more so considering how currently the global agenda has been focused towards this factor with the so-called Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. along with this analysis it should be mentioned how,
The South American region has a potential in biodiversity and natural resources that allow it to develop a geopolitical projection within the new centers of power; in the Colombian case, its diversity of resources can position the country as a regional middle power. Even, factors intrinsic to natural resources and the environment, such as climate change, are already evidencing its relevance in global geopolitics, especially, on the grounds that it is a means by which States and nations can deter others in the international system” (Moreno & Diaz, 2018, p. 28).
Verifying from the above paragraph how the region has ecosystems of significant value not for the exploitation of energy resources, but for biodiversity factors, in addition to the water resource itself, which become national interests that allow a relevant position in the face of the scarcity of these in other places on the planet, such is this panorama, that
The issue of natural resources has gained great relevance in the strategic relationship of States; thus, nowadays, those regions or areas possessing such resources have strongly attracted the attention of those States in which they are scarce and need to obtain” (Cujabante & Librado, 2018, p. 49).
Therefore, it is considered that the countries that have this type of resources have acquired a relevant role within the international system, even more so, considering how the scarcity of these in other parts of the planet give them a greater value, consequently for the States that have this type of resources and the environment itself are consolidated as a national interest. It is clear that the environment in the regional context of Colombia is a premise that should be subject to the country’s security and defense policies, since they not only represent a necessary link or environment for the protection of Colombians, but also represent a factor of power in relations with other nations in the face of the coming collapse due to environmental damage.
- Threats against the environment
Starting from the clarity about the environment as a national interest for Colombia not only because of the dynamics within the international system that has turned to an agenda in favor of sustainable development and therefore the protection of the environment, but also because of the characteristics that it acquires by becoming a relevant factor for the country by allowing the obtaining of power and development of the environment itself. Therefore, a study must be made in relation to the threats that may be presented against this national interest, for this objective it is necessary in the first place to know properly what is the object of protection; although throughout what has been described up to this moment the theoretical foundations have been given for which the environment must be considered as a national interest, this element has not yet been conceptually described; a situation that will be dealt with in the following paragraphs.
To begin this conceptualization, we must consider how “beings develop their lives in a physical space surrounded by other organisms and the physical and socioeconomic environment. The biotic and abiotic factors interact with each other generating a place of their own and this space is called environment” (Marino, 2011, p. 1), with this description it is verified that the environment is that system in which the whole planet is enveloped by the biotic and abiotic factors where the human being is simply part of this great system, in which the gear of each of its components determines the prevalence of the system.
This definition is complemented with the different pronouncements made by the United Nations in the different conferences that have been held on the environment, starting with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in the city of Stockholm in 1972, where it is determined that,
Man is both the work and the architect of the environment that surrounds him, which provides him with material sustenance and gives him the opportunity to develop intellectually, morally, socially and spiritually. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this planet, a stage has been reached when, thanks to the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform, in innumerable ways and on an unprecedented scale, his surroundings. Both aspects of the human environment, the natural and the man-made, are essential to human well-being and to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including the right to life itself” (UN, 1972, p. 3).
Marking with this declaration the united nations the close relationship between man and the environment, finding in this declaration the bases by which the environment is considered for the protection of the integrity and dignity of humanity, however, it cannot be left aside that since these years, there is a real impact of the environment on the survival of the human species, later for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it is determined that, “human beings are at the center of concerns related to sustainable development. They have the right to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature” (UN, 1992, principle 1), emphasizing the relationship between nature and humanity. To achieve this goal, the inclusion of each of the actors present in the States and the international system is required, to the point of considering for the year 2012 at the Conference of Nationals on sustainable development, that “we renew our commitment to sustainable development and to the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations” (UN, 2012); making an extensive inclusion of the actors that should be related to the environment. All of the above has led the United Nations to consider in the Paris Agreement (2015) that climate change represents a pressing threat to the environment.
represents a pressing and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and therefore requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions” (UN, 2015).
Each of the concepts set forth by the United Nations allows us to verify that the environment refers to the entire system that integrates biotic and abiotic elements on the planet, where the role of man is only one of its components, being affected by each of the changes that within this system may arise.
Each of the descriptions mentioned in the previous lines allows a clearer understanding of the threats faced by the environment as a national interest, and which must be duly mitigated by the State. To this end, it should be mentioned that the threats analyzed theoretically comprise three dimensions in terms of professors Torrijos & Balaguera (2017), which are explained by professor Pankratz (2016)
The first of these is the capacity and potential to cause harm, the second is understood as the intention to assault or endanger the integrity of another actor, and finally, the third dimension refers to cases in which the actor has the potential to violate the security of a third party, but does so unintentionally” (Pankratz, 2016, pp. 18-19).
From the dimensions that were exposed in the previous section it is verified that for the case of the environment the threats that affect it are all those damages that affect the environment or the entire biotic and abiotic system, threats that have a variety of authors who have analyzed them as is the case of Buzan (2008) for whom the acid spill, the greenhouse effect, the hole in the ozone layer can constitute security problems, in the form of threats to national security, therefore “there is widespread awareness of the fact that many of the goods that are produced and the chemicals needed to maintain the modern system of life, carry risks” (Pardo, 2003, p. 9), deterioration caused by “the deterioration of the environment” (Pardo, 2003, p. 9). 9), deterioration caused “to the indiscriminate use of natural resources and the insufficient attention, in general, given to the solution of the negative effects that this produces on living beings, including human populations” (Rodríguez Morales, Alfonso, Leticia, & Mirabal Jean-Claude, 2011, p. 9), in this way, it is asserted as there are multiple threats that affect the national interest of the environment being worse its consequences.
- Strategies to protect the environment
In the Colombian case, it is possible to establish a clear development from the State on the environment, specifically in the promulgation of different norms that are in tune with international developments such as the decree on renewable natural resources and the environment, as well as the different constitutional articles on the environment, in addition to Law 99 of 1993 by which the National Environmental System is created, and the National System of Protected Areas, together with an additional number of laws and decrees that support a relevant legal development in this regard.
Additionally, environmental policies that have been consolidated since 1993 have been configured for the protection of the environment and have been accompanied by jurisprudential pronouncements in which a diversity of concepts and pronouncements on the rights and duties regarding the environment have been developed, making it clear for this research that the environment has been a concern for the Colombian State, which will facilitate the identification of this as a national interest.
This legal and institutional description is also materialized within the National Development Plan of the current president in which the environment has become one of the elements and characteristics that have been the object of the country’s public policies, not only in this national development plan but also in the sectorial policies, including those of the Ministry of Defense and plans and programs of the General Command of the Military Forces, since environmental damage is considered as a threat.
However, it is still present a conclusion regarding the validity and actuality of these threats, for which a consideration must be made before the strategies that can allow the Colombian State to effectively mitigate this type of threats, recognizing the diagnosis that has been made on the advances that have been given in the Colombian case, however, However, it must be implemented strategies that allow an effective protection of the environment, for which, considerations stipulated on the multidimensional security will be taken up again, since it is clear that there are two first components that must be considered on the one hand, there is the national awareness of the environment as a concern on the part of all the actors of the nations. In addition, to consider the importance of international cooperation in this matter, since the transnational effects of these threats are an inherent characteristic.
Secondly, in order to effectively mitigate these threats, it is necessary to concentrate each of the capacities of the Colombian State, given that their characteristics are not exclusive to the mitigation by the State’s military capacities but by each of the country’s authorities. Such as judicial accompaniment, social and economic intervention and other aspects that allow mitigating environmental damages.
From what has been exposed in this research it is verified in the first place that the concepts of security have evolved along with the demand for an effective protection, where the threats as well as the objects of protection have varied from the dynamics that the contexts have generated. In this way, it was shown how the environment has become one of the criteria of greatest consideration for the possibility of the extension of the human species.
Emphasizing the consideration of the environment as a national interest in which it is constituted as such not only to respond to the current dynamics of the international system, but it should be considered as in the current dynamics of geopolitics factors that generate power are considered as geopolitical, in this way, the validity of natural resources was verified, Biodiversity and water, as elements that will give relevance to the States, even more considering the scarcity of them in the great world powers, even for Buzan within his considerations on security shows the relevance of the environment because in it is the very existence of humanity and the States themselves.
Being multiple the threats that can be considered on this interest because multiple are the activities that can be considered as a risk for the environment, for which a greater concern is demanded on the part of the public policies and especially those related to the security and national defense, because in the Colombian case there is a clear legal component in this respect but it demands an institutional appropriation that materializes them starting from the own national culture that see the relevance of the environment, and strengthening the cooperation to achieve it.
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Descargo de responsabilidad: Los puntos de vista y opiniones expresados en este artículo son los del autor. No necesariamente reflejan la política o posición oficial de ninguna agencia del gobierno de los EE. UU., la revista Diálogo o sus miembros. Este artículo de la sección de Academia fue traducido por máquina.