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Engaging non-state armed actors in state and peace-building: options and strategies

30-09-2011 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No 883, by Claudia Hofmann and Ulrich Schneckener

Drawing on international relations theory, this article assesses particular strategies for engagement with armed groups, and their suitability and applicability with regard to specific actors.


Armed actors dominate contemporary conflict environments dramatically. Their degree of dispersion, influence, and effect on international politics make it necessary to establish strategies for interaction with them. This article makes a contribution by assessing particular strategies and their suitability and applicability with regard to specific actors. First, it delineates options for dealing with armed actors based on three perspectives from international relations theory: realist, institutionalist, and constructivist. Second, it matches these perspectives to the capabilities of international actors. Finally, it offers an assessment of the difficulties that arise from the plurality of forms of armed actors, as well as of external actors.


Claudia Hofmann is a visiting scholar at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Her current research concentrates on non-state armed actors, civilian approaches to conflict management, and criminal networks. Ulrich Schneckener is Professor of International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. His research focuses on international conflict management, state-building and peace-building, and non-state armed actors.