From Syria to Mali, Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the majority of today’s armed conflicts are non-international in character and involve one or several armed non-state actors (ANSAs).
ANSAs are key players in today’s armed conflicts. They directly impact civilian populations and pose an increasing global challenge for States and non-State actors, such as humanitarian NGOs. Yet, the international community often struggles to understand and engage with them.
While it is not controversial that international humanitarian law (IHL) applies to ANSAs this, however, has largely assumed a ‘top-down’ approach of the international legal system, employed to impose international obligations on ANSAs without considering their actual views or interpretation of the rules, or their capacity to implement them. This trend may in turn explain the lack of ownership of, and compliance with, international law by these actors.
To address these issues, the Geneva Academy started researching on ANSAs back in 2009 via a series of projects, which:
These projects and their outputs were not only based on solid academic research, but were also policy-driven and considered the views of practioners, NGOs, international organizations as well as States. The UN Secretary-General relied on the results of our research in his 2010 report on the protection of civilians (at para 54).
‘We also mainstream the question of ANSAs in all our research, teaching and training on armed conflict, including in our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal, which provides, for each non-international armed conflict, a detailed analysis of the various ANSAs involved’ underlines Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
As one of the leading research institutions on the study of ANSAs, we continue to work on this issue via two dedicated research projects.
The first project aims at finding policy solutions to the difficult theme of human rights obligations of ANSAs.
The second will potentially impact the scientific and broader international community by:
Our Strategic Adviser on IHL and Senior Research Fellow Dr Annyssa Bellal is recognized worldwide as a leading expert on ANSAs. She is the author of several publications on this issue and is regularly invited at conferences and experts meetings to discuss the different aspects of ANSAs’ impact on international law and relations.
Her intervention before the United Nations Security Council for the 70th anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions highlighted, as contemporary challenges in armed conflicts, the prevalence of non-international armed conflicts and the need to increase ownership of humanitarian norms among ANSAs.
In 2020, the Geneva Academy received through Dr Bellal a major grant from UKRI to conduct, in collaboration with Geneva Call, research on ANSAs and their practice and interpretation of IHL and human rights norms.
Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of this conflict, including information about parties and applicable international law.
Our Research Fellow Dr Domenico Zipoli just defended with success his PhD thesis The Power of Engagement: Assessing the Effectiveness of Cooperation between UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and National Human Rights Institutions.
VOA, via Wikimedia Commons
This online IHL talk aims at shining light on some of the many legal, political and protection-related challenges stemming from the situation in Afghanistan.
The 2021 Annual Conference will discuss the connectivity between national human rights actors and the Geneva-based international mechanisms.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, examines the sources of international humanitarian law (IHL). It provides an introduction to the key principles and terminology of IHL.
Dave Klassen/The EITI
This project aims to further identify and clarify policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts project (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). It is primarily a legal reference source for a broad audience, including non-specialists, interested in issues surrounding the classification of armed conflicts under IHL.