Engaging Non-State Armed Groups In Humanitarian Action

The persistent rise of intra-state conflict and the concerns for national and human security across borders that accompanies this trend makes the need for giving heightened attention to non-state armed groups unavoidable. In the humanitarian field, however, organisations are faced with vast shortcomings regarding an articulative and universal legal foundation, so that international relations with non-state armed groups have primarily been reliant on cease-fire agreements and peace treaties, which in many cases used to be the only legal way of interaction with non-state armed groups.

However, recently, the urgency of engaging non-state armed groups has been increasingly addressed mainly by non-governmental organisations, which are less bound by state-centric frameworks. This paper addresses the differences, commonalities, and difficulties for state and non-state actors engaging non-state armed groups.

The paper will demonstrate how non-governmental organisations present the possibility to fill a gap in the international legal regime by employing lower-key initiatives that avoid political issues like legitimisation or recognition of non-state armed groups. Moreover, the paper argues that “small agreements” in the humanitarian field with regard to engaging non-state armed groups bear the capacity to contribute enormously to prospective peace processes.