Armed non‐state actors and displacement in armed conflict
This report was stimulated by a conference on armed non-State actors (ANSAs) and the protection of internally displaced people organized in 2011 jointly by Geneva Call and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The conference itself followed on from a special edition of Forced Migration Review magazine on ‘Armed non-state actors and displacement’.
ANSAs have many different modes of interaction with displaced people, ranging from being the causes ― deliberately or otherwise ― of the displacement through to actively taking protective action towards displaced people. People may choose to displace themselves or not partly dependent on the link they have with ANSAs. That relationship is not fixed but will change over time and as a result of factors internal or external to that relationship.
There exists a well-established legal and normative framework applicable to displacement contexts (international humanitarian law, human rights law, international criminal law, refugee law, and internal displacement norms), which however leaves gaps and unclear areas in relation to ANSAs. There are both challenges and opportunities for strengthening ANSAs’ compliance with those laws and norms.
ANSAs operate within a broader environment, locally and internationally, of those who would protect or assist displaced people and who would have opportunities to engage with ANSAs. Again, there are both limitations to the engagement with ANSAs by humanitarian organizations and opportunities in the various approaches taken on displacement-related issues both by these other stakeholders and by ANSAs.
A set of summarized key findings emerge from the examples offered in the analysis. These address how ANSAs operate in relation to displaced people and how the institutional, social, and political contexts must be understood in order to make engagement with ANSAs both feasible and positive for the sake of displaced people.
From these findings a set of recommendations is offered for States, the diaspora, the United Nations, a range of international and local civil society organizations and humanitarian and human rights actors, and research institutions.