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Engaging non-state armed groups: A promising attempt for reducing violence against civilians?

Stefanie Herr
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Stefanie Herr
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Open Panel

Abstract

Engaging non-state armed groups: A promising attempt for reducing violence against civilians? This paper examines strategies in dealing with politically motivated non-state armed groups (NSAGs) to reduce violence against civilians. As NSAGs pose a severe threat to the human security of civilians in many conflict-prone regions worldwide, it is highly important that efforts to protect civilians in situations of armed conflict address also NSAGs. In recent years, non-governmental initiatives have shown that it is indeed possible to alleviate their peace-threatening potential. One pioneering non-governmental initiative in eliminating indiscriminate violence of NSAGs is Geneva Call, which is dedicated to engage armed non-state actors towards compliance with international humanitarian law. This paper will investigate the success of Geneva Call on a concrete example: the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). After a bad human rights record in the beginning, thanks to Geneva Call the SPLM/A not only declared to stop the use of mines but also adopted a code of conduct that forbade certain forms of violence against civilians. The paper will first take stock of the peace-threatening potential of NSAGs, before shedding light on Geneva Call''s record of success. Thirdly it will investigate the SPLM/A''s commitment to humanitarian norms in more detail. Last but not least, the paper will identify conditions under which efforts by development and/or conflict prevention organizations are more or less promising in addressing violence against civilians. These findings are part of an ongoing PhD project and are based on interviews conducted in the field (Kenya and Southern Sudan).