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 February 2020

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RESEARCH

Armed Non-State Actors and the Human Rights Council

Completed in December 2016

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RESEARCH

‘Foreign Fighters’ and Counter-Terrorism

Completed in June 2018

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RESEARCH

Armed Non-State Actors and the Protection of Civilians

Completed in December 2015

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RESEARCH

Rules of Engagement

Completed in December 2011

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RESEARCH

The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

Completed in December 2010

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Related News and Events

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Dr Annyssa Bellal Receives a Major Grant to Conduct Research on Armed Non-State Actors

25 February 2021

Our Strategic Adviser on International Humanitarian Law and Senior Research Fellow Dr Annyssa Bellal received a two-year grant from UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) to conduct research on armed non-state actors and their practice and interpretation of IHL and human rights norms.

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10 Years of Expertise on Armed Non-State Actors

25 February 2021

We have been conducting research for more than 10 years on armed non-State actors, and continue to do so via two leading projects.

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The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will Turn 10: Our Contribution

7 July 2020

The Geneva Academy supports the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights' project for the 10th anniversary of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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