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BigLogo.gif UN Member States on the Record

UNSSC online consultation initiative: "Engaging Non-State Armed Groups"

The United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) is pleased to announce a new learning initiative aimed at creating awareness and building capacity to deal with the phenomenon of “Non-State Armed Groups”.
CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND: In the last decade, maintaining peace and security has become more complicated by an increase in the violence perpetrated no longer exclusively by national armies and armed oppositions but also by an increasingly assertive and brutal range of hybrid actors, such as illegal armed groups, criminal organizations, youth gangs, transnational networks of illicit trafficking, and warlords operating in countries such as Afghanistan, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Myanmar, Honduras, El Salvador, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, and sometimes affecting entire regions such as the Sahel. The impact is so significant that the violence resulting from these situations exceeds many on-going civil wars (UNODC, Intentional Homicide Data, 2013). Indeed, a recent quantitative analysis of global violence indicates that only 1 out of 10 killings is the result of terrorism or armed conflict and that more than three-quarters of worldwide fatalities occurs in allegedly “non-conflict settings” (Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2011). 

Understanding and engaging these new types of armed groups presents novel analytical and practical challenges for the United Nations and other international partners as these groups differ substantially from the armed groups driving civil conflicts. The definition of Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) has been kept broad and loose enough to capture all different organizations that make use of violence in order to pursue goals as diverse as political power, economic return, social strife, religious mobilization, terrorism, etc. NSAGs, therefore, include organizations whose structure, goals and means are not yet well-defined and are currently referred to by using some of the following, and often overlapping, terms: 

• paramilitaries
• vigilante groups
• youth gangs
• pirates
• criminal networks
• drug cartels
• warlords
• terrorist groups
• rebels and insurgent groups
• mafias
• private security companies.

ONLINE CONSULTATION: As first step of the initiative, the Staff College is launching an online consultation, which is part of an extensive scoping process aimed at collecting resources, identifying existing capacities and mapping out possible stakeholders to be involved in the next phases of the project. 

Below are 3 categories of inputs that we are currently collecting and we warmly encourage you to share:

1. Analytical frameworks and dilemmas: How can we better assess and understand the nature, structure, and internal morphology of such a broad array of Non-State Armed Groups? What analytical categories do we currently employ?

2. Operational and Field dilemmas: How do we contact, access, and engage with these groups? What types of interactions do we observe? What are the key operational challenges and pitfalls the UN and its partners are currently facing?

3. Needs and Lessons Learned from engagement: What capacities (skills, knowledge, institutions) are required in order to meaningfully engage with these increasingly critical stakeholders? What have different international organizations (humanitarian, political, developmental) learned from dealing with NSAGs?

Besides addressing the three categories of inquiry above, we would be extremely grateful if you could share the references of documents, institutions, scholars, initiatives and other resources that are related to such a critical issue. 

Please send your contributions to Mr. Fabio Oliva ( by February 28.