Non-State Actors

Is the protection afforded by international law during armed conflicts robust enough in light of the nature of today’s conflicts where armed groups often control large populations and territories? What is the role of armed groups in the creation and implementation of the rules they are expected to respect? What are the responsibilities of business enterprises operating in conflict zones? What about the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity by their staff? 

‘Non-state actors’ – whether armed groups or large multinational business companies – are important actors in contemporary international relations. Most armed conflicts are today of a non-international character, involving numerous armed groups who can control a territory or a population, raising issues about the suitability of the existing protection framework afforded by international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Similar challenges arise in relation to the activities of businesses or transnational companies, notably when they operate in conflict zones or situations of armed violence. 

Our research in this domain explores the extent to which these actors are bound by international law, whether the existing legal framework provides adequate protection and proposes concrete solutions to address these contemporary challenges. 

OUR PROJECTS

Past projects

RESEARCH

Human Rights and Gender Equality in the Context of Business Activities

Completed in 29 February 2020

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RESEARCH

Human Rights Responsibilities and Armed Non-State Actors

Completed in 1 March 2021

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RESEARCH

Armed Non-State Actors and the Human Rights Council

Completed in 31 December 2016

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RESEARCH

‘Foreign Fighters’ and Counter-Terrorism

Completed in 1 June 2018

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RESEARCH

Armed Non-State Actors and the Protection of Civilians

Completed in 31 December 2015

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RESEARCH

Rules of Engagement

Completed in 31 December 2011

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RESEARCH

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

Completed in 31 December 2010

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Related News and Events

Philippines, Lanao del Norte, Iligan City. This woman’s son has been missing since the conflict in Marawi City. He used to make a living as a construction worker there. News

New Paper Calls for a Revised Definition of Enforced Disappearance to Address the Growing Number of Disappearances Committed by Non-State Actors

27 September 2021

Our new Working Paper Non-State Actors and Enforced Disappearances: Defining a Path Forward discusses the growing phenomenon of disappearances committed by non-state actors and the need to rethink the current definition of enforced disappearance to address this reality, improve the situation of victims and ensure proper accountability of non-state actors.

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Syria - Kurdish province - Road to Raqqa. A road sign from the north indicating an important crossroads to come. Raqqa is located in the center of Syria. News

A Field Mission to Syria as Part of a Major Research on Armed Non-State Actors

13 September 2021

Our Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on IHL Dr Annyssa Bellal travelled this summer to North-East Syria with colleagues from Geneva Call – Ezequiel Heffes and Pascal Bongard – as part of the research project she leads that examines the practice and interpretation of ANSAs on core IHL norms.

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FARC fighters in Colombia News

‘From Words to Deeds’: Groundbreaking Studies on FARC-EP and MNLA and Dedicated New Website

9 March 2021

The first of a longer series aimed at producing a global comparative analysis, they provide a unique insight on how two armed non-State actors perceive international humanitarian law and some selected rules contained therein.

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