Violent non-state actor
In international relations, violent non-state actors (VNSA) (also known as non-state armed actors or non-state armed groups) are individuals and groups, which are wholly or partly independent of state governments, and which threaten or use violence to achieve their goals.
VNSAs vary widely in their goals, size, and methods. For example, VNSAs may include narcotics cartels, popular liberation movements, religious and ideological organizations, corporations (e.g. private military contractors), self-defence militia, and paramilitary groups established by state governments to further their interests.
While some VNSAs oppose the state governments, others are allied to them. Some VNSAs are organized as paramilitary groups (adopting methods and structure similar to those of state armed forces), while others may be informally structured and use violence in other ways (for example, by kidnapping, using improvised explosive devices, or hacking into computer systems).
Some common and influential types of VNSAs are listed here:
- Criminal organizations, such as drug cartels, which may carry out assassinations, kidnappings, thefts, extortions, operate protection rackets, and defend their turf from rival groups and the military. Criminal organizations and gangs are essentially illegal business organizations: "Crime for them is simply a continuation of business by other means".
- People's movements or sections of them that have chosen guerrilla tactics (also known as asymmetric warfare) to pursue their aims. An example is the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in central India.
- Private military companies, and corporations that either have their own, or hire, private military services. An example is floating armouries in the Indian Ocean.
- Religious or ideological groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and elsewhere, that espouse armed violence as a moral or sacred duty.
- Citizen militia, which may form to protect a locality from (or threaten it with) attack, such as the anti-balaka movement in the Central African Republic.
- Paramilitary groups, which make use of military methods and structures to pursue their agenda, such as the now-decommissioned Irish Republican Army.
- Warlords, who are leaders using armed violence to exercise military, economic, and political control over territory within a sovereign state. Warlords have a long history in Afghanistan, for example.
Phil Williams, in an overview article, identifies five types of VNSAs:
Relationship to terrorismEdit
There is no commonly accepted definition of "terrorism", and the term is frequently used as a political tactic by belligerents to denounce opponents whose status as terrorists is disputed.
An attempt at a global definition appears in the working draft of Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism, which defines terrorism as a type of act, rather than as a type of group. Specifically, "terrorism" in the draft refers to the threatened or actual intentional injury to others, and serious damage to property resulting in major economic loss, "when the purpose of the conduct, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act".
Since the definition encompasses the actions of some violent non-state actors (and of some state actors) and not others, disagreements remain and the treaty has yet to be agreed. For example, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has called for acts of terrorism to be distinguished from "the legitimate struggle of peoples under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination in the exercise of their right to self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law".
Use of childrenEdit
Violent non-state actors have drawn international condemnation for relying heavily on children under the age of 18 as combatants, scouts, porters, spies, informants, and in other roles (although many state armed forces also recruit children). In 2017, for example, the United Nations identified 14 countries where children were widely used by armed groups: Afghanistan, Colombia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Not all armed groups use children, and approximately 60 that used to do so have entered agreements to reduce or end the practice since 1999, according to Child Soldiers International. For example, by 2017 the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines had released nearly 2,000 children from its ranks, and the FARC-EP guerilla movement in Colombia agreed in 2016 to stop recruiting children. In other situations, the use of children was increasing in 2017, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria, where Islamist militants and groups opposing them intensified efforts to recruit children.
Thomas, Kiser and Casebeer asserted in 2005, "VNSA play a prominent, often destabilizing role in nearly every humanitarian and political crisis faced by the international community".
As a new species of actors in international relations, VNSAs represent a departure from the traditional Westphalian sovereignty system of states in two ways: by providing an alternative to state governance and by challenging the state's monopoly of violence. Phil Williams stated in 2008 that in the 21st century, they "have become a pervasive challenge to nation-states".
Williams argues that VNSAs develop out of poor state governance but also contribute to the further undermining of governance by the state. He explains that when weak states are "unable to create or maintain the loyalty and allegiance of their populations", "individuals and groups typically revert to or develop alternative patterns of affiliation". That causes the family, tribe, clan etc. to become "the main reference points for political action, often in opposition to the state".
According to Williams, globalization has "not only... challenged individual state capacity to manage economic affairs, it has also provided facilitators and force multipliers for VNSAs". Transnational flows of arms, for example, are no longer under the exclusive surveillance of states. Globalization helps VNSAs develop transnational social capital and alliances as well as funding opportunities, which have flourished.
Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute propose that engagement with VNSAs, which they call armed non-state actors, is essential to humanitarian efforts in conflicts, as it is often necessary to do so to facilitate access to those affected and for providing humanitarian assistance. However, humanitarian agencies too often fail to engage strategically with them. The tendency has strengthened since the end of the Cold War, partly because of the strong discouragement of humanitarian engagement with VNSAs in counterterrorism legislation and donor funding restrictions. In their opinion, further study is necessary to identify ways in which humanitarian agencies can develop productive dialogue with VNSAs.
The International Security Department, together with the International Law Programme at Chatham House, are seeking to understand the dynamics that will determine support for a principle-based approach to engagement by humanitarian actors with VNSAs.
- Hofmann and Schneckener 2011, p. 2-3.
- Chatham House 2016, p. 8.
- Williams 2008, p. 15.
- Economist 2006.
- Daugaard 2012.
- Holtom and Chapsos 2015.
- Drake 1998.
- UN Secretary-General 2017, p. 30-31.
- Child Soldiers International 2016b, p. 4.
- Coll 2004, p. 4.
- Williams 2008, p. 9—16.
- Emmerson 2016, p. 10-11.
- Halibozek et al 2008, p. 4-5.
- Williamson 2009, p. 38.
- Sinclair and Antonius 2012, p. 14.
- UN General Assembly 2005, p. 8-9.
- European Parliament 2015.
- Child Soldiers International 2016a.
- UN Secretary-General 2017.
- Child Soldiers International 2012.
- Child Soldiers International 2016a, p. 4.
- UNICEF 2017.
- UN Secretary-General 2017, p. 41.
- Human Rights Watch 2016.
- Thomas, Kiser & Casebeer 2005, p. [page needed].
- Williams 2008, p. 4.
- Williams 2008, p. 6.
- Williams 2008, p. 6—7.
- Casebeer & Thomas 2002.
- Bartolomei, Casebeer & Thomas 2004.
- Thomas & Casebeer 2004.
- Shultz, Farah & Lochard 2004.
- Jackson 2012.
- Chatham House.
- Bartolomei, Jason; Casebeer, William; Thomas, Troy (November 2004). "Modeling Violent Non-State Actors: A Summary of Concepts and Methods" (PDF). IITA Research Publication, Information Series. Colorado: Institute for Information Technology Applications, United States Air Force Academy (4).
- Casebeer, William, (USAF, USAF Academy); Thomas, Maj. Troy (USAF 1st Fighter Wing IN.) (December 2002). "Deterring Violent Non-State Actors in the New Millenium". Strategic Insights. I (10):[page needed]. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008.
- Child Soldiers International (2012). "Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers". Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- Child Soldiers International (2016a). "A law unto themselves? Confronting the recruitment of children by armed groups". Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- Child Soldiers International (2016b). "Des Milliers de vies à réparer (in French)". Retrieved 18 January 2018.Humanitarian Engagement with Non-state Armed Groups. Chatham House. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
- Coll, S (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin. p. 4. ISBN 978-0141020808.
- Daugaard, C A (August 2012). "Blackwater and Private Military Contractors". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
- Drake, C J M (21 Dec 2007). "The role of ideology in terrorists' target selection". Terrorism and Political Violence. 10 (2): 53–85. doi:10.1080/09546559808427457.
- Emmerson, B (2016). "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism" (PDF). www.un.org. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- European Parliament (2015). "Understanding definitions of terrorism" (PDF). www.europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- "India's Naxalites: A spectre haunting India". The Economist. 2006-04-12. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
- Halibozek, Edward P.; Jones, Andy; Kovacich, Gerald L. (2008). The corporate security professional's handbook on terrorism (illustrated ed.). Elsevier (Butterworth-Heinemann). pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-7506-8257-4. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
- Hofmann, Claudia; Schneckener, Ulrich (September 2011). "Engaging non-state armed actors in state and peace-building: options and strategies" (PDF). International Review of the Red Cross. 93 (883). doi:10.1017/S1816383112000148.
- Holtom, P; Chapsos, I (2015). "Floating armouries in the Indian Ocean and the risk of diversion involving private maritime security companies" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Human Rights Watch (17 February 2016). "Afghanistan: Taliban Child Soldier Recruitment Surges". Retrieved 25 January 2018.
- Jackson, A (2012). "Briefing Paper: Talking to the other side: Humanitarian engagement with armed non-state actors". Overseas Development Institute.
- Thomas, Troy S.; Casebeer, William D. (March 2004). "Violent Non-State Actors: Countering Dynamic Systems" (PDF). Strategic Insights. III (3). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 1, 2009.
- Shultz, Richard H.; Farah, Douglas; Lochard, Itamara V. (September 2004). "Armed Groups: A Tier-One Security Priority" (PDF). INSS Occasional Paper. USAF Institute for National Security Studies, USAF Academy (57).
- Sinclair, Samuel Justin; Antonius, Daniel (7 May 2012). The Psychology of Terrorism Fears. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-538811-4.
- Thomas, Troy S.; Kiser, Stephen D.; Casebeer, William D. (August 2005). Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-state Actors. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-1190-1.
- UNICEF (4 December 2017). "UN Officials congratulate MILF for completion of disengagement of children from its ranks". Retrieved 25 January 2018.
- United Nations General Assembly (2005). "Draft comprehensive convention against international terrorism" (PDF). www.un.org. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- United Nations Secretary-General (2017). "Report of the Secretary-General: Children and armed conflict, 2017". www.un.org. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- Williams, Phil (28 November 2008). "Violent Non-State Actors" (PDF). Zurich: International Relations and Security Network.
- Williamson, Myra (2009). Terrorism, war and international law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-7403-0.
- Bryce, Hannah (2016). Humanitarian Engagement with Non-state Armed Groups.
- Gillard, Emanuela-Chiara (2017). Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The International Legal Framework.
- Jones, Kate (2017). Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The UK Regulatory Environment.
- Keatinge, Tom; Keen, Florence (2017). Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The Impact of Banking Restrictions on UK NGOs.
- Lewis, Patricia; Keatinge, Michael (2016). Towards a Principled Approach to Engagement with Non-state Armed Groups for Humanitarian Purposes.
- Mulaj, Klejda (2010). Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics. London: C Hurst & Co. ISBN 9781849040174.
- San-Akca, Belgin (2009). "Supporting Non-state Armed Groups (NAGs): A Resort to Illegality?". Journal of Strategic Studies. 32 (4): 589–613.
- Thomas, Troy S.; Kiser, Stephen D. (May 2002). Lords of the Silk Route: Violent Non-State Actors in Central Asia (PDF). INSS Occasional Paper 43. USAF Institute for National Security Studies USAF Academy, Colorado.