Armed non-state actors and displacement
Militia, freedom fighters, rebels, terrorists, paramilitaries, revolutionaries, guerrillas, gangs, quasi-state bodies... and many other labels. In this issue of FMR we look at all of these, at actors defined as being armed and being ‘non-state’ – that is to say, without the full responsibilities and obligations of the state.
Some of these armed non-state actors behave responsibly and humanely, at least some of the time. Others seem to have no regard for the damage, distress or deaths that they cause – and may actually use displacement as a deliberate tactic – in pursuit of their goals of power, resources or justice. This issue of FMR looks at a variety of such actors, at their behaviours and at efforts to bring them into frameworks of responsibility and accountability.
The UN and other international and regional organisations are increasingly trying to hold armed non-state actors (ANSAs) accountable at the international level for violations of international norms.
To persuade fighters to respect the rules of warfare, one must understand why violations occur, how armed groups operate, what can be done to prevent violations and how to engage in dialogue with these groups. This article reflects the ICRC’s many years of experience in this area.
Experience of engagement with armed non-state actors on the landmine ban may point the way to innovative approaches to preventing forced displacement and other abuses of human rights.
Despite being a relatively marginal armed group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has triggered forced displacement on a massive scale. But why have national, regional and international responses so far failed to dismantle the group and to protect civilians effectively?
Until a government of Burma is able to accept the role of non-state armed groups as providers for civilian populations and affords them legitimacy within a legal framework, sustained conflict and mass displacement remain inevitable.
One of the ways that non-state armed groups get their funding is by exploiting displaced populations.
State security functions normally carried out by national armies or police forces are being outsourced to private military and security companies in countries where conflict is displacing many people.
Colombia provides an instructive case-study of the relationship between non-state armed groups and the forced displacement – and return – of civilian populations.
Humanitarian actors would do well to listen to IDPs’ advice when planning assistance for those affected by the presence of non-state armed groups in their home areas.
Non-state armed groups are often considered to lack legitimacy as potential counterparts in building security institutions but when they are in fact in control, this point of view has to be reviewed.
For 20 years armed groups have been permanent fixtures of the conflicts in Somalia and have been direct participants in human rights and humanitarian law violations. Now there are some international moves to hold them to account.
While the presence of non-state armed group al-Shabaab is primarily concentrated in Mogadishu and central Somalia, their influence has extended beyond the borders out into the lives of Somali refugees who sought to escape the violence.
A recent study sought to explore the internal dynamics of the Mai Mai militia in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to consider what factors might be most influential in restraining violence.
Drug-related violence in Mexico has escalated to catastrophic levels and is driving Mexican people from their homes and cities in droves.
Local tribal councils have organised traditional forms of militia to resist displacement caused by the Taliban in Pakistan’s borderlands with Afghanistan.
The creation of the Sahwa forces, an unofficial armed group outside the control of the Iraqi government and state, was a convenient product of US military policy.
The Kampala Convention imposes a number of obligations on armed groups in order to better protect IDPs; the challenge now is to encourage such groups to recognise these obligations.
Although some non-state armed groups protect and promote education, many others neglect it or even attack schools and students.
When US Chief Justice Roberts handed down the judgment in Holder v Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), he revealed the Supreme Court’s tragic under-estimation of the potential of engagement with non-state armed groups.
Norway’s experience with its integrated foreign policy of engagement makes the case that better prevention, protection and assistance should be sought by states through international law and dialogue with non-state armed groups.
Walter Kälin served for six years as the UN Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons. On the occasion of his retirement from this post, we publish his reflections on those six years and the future for IDPs.
The profiling of people who move is being increasingly institutionalised. They may be labelled the ‘migrant worker’, the ‘refugee’ or the ‘trafficked person’ but people’s life experiences resist being so neatly categorised.
The Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation is promoting solar energy in all the refugee camps in Tamil Nadu with the aim of encouraging those returning to Sri Lanka to take the commitment and technology with them.
A substantial group of Central American immigrants have been filing asylum cases in the USA based on fears of gang-based persecution.
My experience of working as an immigration lawyer on unaccompanied asylum-seeker children’s cases has highlighted a number of serious flaws in the processes which determine their futures.
There has been a marked failure to incorporate youth and adult education as a standard component during displacement.
A scoping study conducted by the Feinstein International Center (Tufts University) in November 2010 explored the interaction between migration, debt repayments, remittances and livelihoods among Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel. 1
The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has provided valuable data in its Refugee Rights Report Cards but further analysis produces even more useful information.
Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
FMR is an Open Access publication. Users are free to read, download, copy, distribute, print or link to the full texts of articles published in FMR and on the FMR website, as long as the use is for non-commercial purposes and the author and FMR are attributed. All articles published in FMR in print and online, and FMR itself, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) licence. Details at www.fmreview.org/copyright.