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Engaging Armed Nonstate Actors on Humanitarian Norms & Civilian Protection

Engaging Armed Nonstate Actors on Humanitarian Norms & Civilian Protection

Context:

With the increasingly prominent role that armed nonstate actors play in violent conflict today—posing a threat, along with state actors, to civilian communities in war zones worldwide—more attention is being devoted to strategies for influencing their wartime behavior in ways that can help keep civilians safe.

In the News:

“Engaging non-state armed groups (NSAGs) is an essential tool for the protection of civilians (POC), a priority mandate and core objective for peace operations. Beyond the use of force to prevent or stop armed groups from threatening local populations, multidimensional missions can use a wide range of unarmed strategies, such as dialogue and engagement, to counter hostilities from non-state actors…Civilian protection is ever more urgent, and engaging NSAGs is crucial to this work. A pragmatic approach, anchored in POC considerations, can help guide missions through potentially polarizing debates and safeguard UN principles while simultaneously allowing them to adapt more effectively to the challenges they face.”

Insight from Peace Science:

With the increasingly prominent role that armed nonstate actors (ANSAs) play in violent conflict today—posing a threat, along with state actors, to civilian communities in war zones worldwide—more attention is being devoted to strategies for influencing their wartime behavior. The fact that states are the official parties to the international conventions that together constitute international humanitarian law (the so-called “laws of war,” which aim to limit the methods of warfare and protect non-combatants during war) complicates these efforts, as it is debatable to what extent these conventions apply to ANSAs.

  • Signing a commitment banning landmines appears to influence armed nonstate actors (ANSAs) away from the use of landmines, suggesting that deeds of commitment can influence ANSAs’ behavior.
  • The same factor that may account for a government signing the Mine Ban Treaty—its previous non-use of landmines—may also account for its compliance with that treaty, suggesting that signing itself does not exercise any independent effect on state behavior.
  • State and nonstate actors’ behavior with regards to signing and complying with humanitarian treaties should be viewed as interdependent, where actors make decisions based in part on what their opponents do.

References:

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