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Recent Publications

  • Searching for Stability: Perceptions of Security, Justice, and Firearms in Libya, August 2014. Security Assessment in North Africa Issue Brief No. 1

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  • Fire and Forget: The Proliferation of Man-portable Air Defence Systems in Syria, August 2014. Issue Brief No. 9.

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  • Protective Measures: Local Security Arrangements in Greater Upper Nile, July 2014. HSBA Issue Brief Number 23

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Research Notes

Research Notes on armed groups:

Armed Groups

Armed groups are armed organizations that challenge the state’s monopoly of legitimate coercive force. They include a variety of actors, including opposition and insurgent movements, pro-government militias, and community-based vigilante groups. Even though armed groups possess less than one per cent of the world’s small arms, they can often procure sophisticated types of weaponry.  Roughly 60 armed groups have reportedly accessed man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) and anti-tank guided weapons between 1998 and 2012, for instance. Some armed groups are also reported to deliberately use their small arms against civilians during armed conflicts, in contradiction with international humanitarian law. 

The Small Arms Survey maps and documents the origins, motivations, structures, and membership of a variety of armed groups around the world, whether they fight against the state, against other actors, or in support of the state. Field research has made it possible to produce detailed profiles, including on arms holdings and sources of weaponry, of several dozen armed groups, notably in the PhilippinesSudanUganda, and West Africa. The Survey also contributes to a better understanding of some of the key questions related to armed groups, such as the factors that contribute to their respect—or lack thereof—for humanitarian norms, their impact on human security (including the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict), and lessons learned from disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programmes.

Small Arms Survey Publications

  • Searching for Stability: Perceptions of Security, Justice, and Firearms in Libya, August 2014. Security Assessment in North Africa Issue Brief No. 1

    Download (318.61 KB)
  • Fire and Forget: The Proliferation of Man-portable Air Defence Systems in Syria, August 2014. Issue Brief No. 9.

    Download (589.63 KB)
  • Protective Measures: Local Security Arrangements in Greater Upper Nile, July 2014. HSBA Issue Brief Number 23

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  • Feeding the Fire: Illicit Small Arms Ammunition in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, July 2014. Issue Brief No. 8.

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  • Rogue Rocketeers: Artillery Rockets and Armed Groups, by Matt Schroeder, July 2014. Working Paper No. 19

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  • Libya’s Fractious South and Regional Instability, by Wolfram Lacher, February 2014. Security Assessment in North Africa Dispatch No. 3 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Foreign Jihadism in Syria: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, by Laurent Vinatier, April 2014. Security Assessment in North Africa Dispatch No.  4

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  • At an Impasse: The Conflict in Blue Nile, by Claudio Gramizzi, December 2013. Working Paper No. 31

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  • Pendulum Swings: The Rise and Fall of Insurgent Militias in South Sudan, November 2013. HSBA Issue Brief Number 22

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  • Dividing lines: Grazing and conflict along the Sudan–South Sudan border, by Joshua Craze, July 2013. Working Paper No. 30

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  • Armed Groups’ Holdings of Guided Light Weapons, June 2013. Research Note No. 31, Armed Actors (also available in BCMS and Bulgarian).

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  • Ad Hoc Arsenals: PSSM Practices of Selected Non-state Actors, May 2013, Armed Actors Issue Brief No. 2

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  • The Missing Middle: Examining the Armed Group Phenomenon in Nepal, May 2013. Nepal Armed Violence Assessment Issue Brief No. 1 (Also available in Nepali)

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  • Rebel Forces in Northern Mali: Documented Weapons, Ammunition and Related Materiel. Co-published with Conflict Armament Research, April 2013.

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  • Demobilization in the DRC: Armed Groups and the Role of Organizational Control, April 2013, Armed Actors Issue Brief No. 1

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  • New War, Old Enemies: Conflict Dynamics in South Kordofan, by Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana, April 2013. Working Paper No. 29

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  • Internal Control: Codes of Conducts within Insurgent Armed Groups, by Olivier Bangerter, November 2012. Occasional Paper No. 31

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  • My Neighbour, My Enemy: Inter-tribal Violence in Jonglei, October 2012. HSBA Issue Brief Number 21 (also available in Arabic)

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  • After the Fall: Libya's Evolving Armed Groups, by Brian McQuinn, October 2012. Working Paper No. 12 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Armed Groups in Libya: Typology and Roles, June 2012. Research Note No. 18, Armed Actors (also available in Arabic).

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  • Reaching for the Gun: Arms Flows and Holdings in South Sudan, April 2012. HSBA Issue Brief Number 19 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Regulating Armed Groups from Within: A Typology, January 2012. Research Note No. 13, Armed Actors.

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  • Fighting for spoils: Armed insurgencies in Greater Upper Nile, November 2011. HSBA Issue Brief No. 18 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Armed Violence in the Terai. co-published with Interdisciplinary Analysts, Nepal Madhes Foundation, and Saferworld, August 2011.

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  • A Legacy of War? Perceptions of Security in Liberia, September 2011. Liberia Armed Violence Assessment Issue Brief No. 1

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  • Creating Facts on the Ground: Conflict Dynamics in Abyei, by Joshua Craze, June 2011. Working Paper No. 26 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Urban Violence in an Urban Village: A Case Study of Dili, Timor-Leste, edited by Robert Muggah, October 2010

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  • Arms in and around Mauritania: National and Regional Security Implications, by Stéphanie Pézard with Anne-Kathrin Glatz, June 2010. Occasional Paper No. 24 (also available in French)

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  • Primed and Purposeful: Armed Groups and Human Security Efforts in the Philippines, by Soliman M. Santos, Jr. and Paz Verdades M. Santos with Octavio A. Dinampo, Herman Joseph S. Kraft, Artha Kira R. Paredes, and Raymund Jose G. Quilop, edited by Diana Rodriguez,  published by the South-South Network for Non-State Armed Group Engagement and the Small Arms Survey, April 2010. 

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  • The Central African Republic and Small Arms: A Regional Tinderbox, by Eric G. Berman with Louisa N. Lombard, December 2008 (also available in French).

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  • Blowback: Kenya's Illicit Ammunition Problem in Turkana North District, by James Bevan, June 2008. Occasional Paper No. 22 (Executive Summary also available)

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  • Crisis in Karamoja: Armed Violence and the Failure of Disarmament in Uganda’s Most Deprived Region, by James Bevan, June 2008. Occasional Paper No. 21 (Executive Summary also available)

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  • Allies and defectors: an update on armed group integration and proxy force activity, May 2008. HSBA Issue Brief No. 11 (also available in Arabic)

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  • Quoi de neuf sur le front congolais? Evaluation de base sur la circulation des armes lLégères et de petit calibre en République du Congo, by Robert Muggah and Ryan Nichols, published with the UNDP–Republic of the Congo, December 2007. Special Report No. 8

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  • Small Arms, Armed Violence, and Insecurity in Nigeria: The Niger Delta in Perspective, by Jennifer M. Hazen with Jonas Horner, December 2007. Occasional Paper No. 20

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  • Avoiding Disarmament Failure: The Critical Link in DDR—An Operational Manual for Donors, Managers, and Practitioners, by Peter Swarbrick, February 2007. Working Paper No. 5

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  • No Refuge: The Crisis of Refugee Militarization in Africa, edited by Robert Muggah, co-published with BICC, published by Zed Books, July 2006.

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  • La République Centrafricaine: une étude de cas sur les armes légères et les conflits, by Eric G. Berman, with the support of UNDP, July 2006. Special Report No. 6

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  • Deadly Diversions: Illicit Transfers of Ammunition for Small Arms and Light Weapons, by Mike Bourne and Ilhan Berkol, 2006. In Stéphanie Pézard and Holger Anders, eds. Targeting Ammunition: A Primer.

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  • Securing Haiti’s Transition: Reviewing Human Insecurity and the Prospects for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, by Robert Muggah, November 2005. Occasional Paper No. 14 (also available in French)

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  • Gun-running in Papua New Guinea: From Arrows to Assault Weapons in the Southern Highlands, by Philip Alpers, June 2005. Special Report No. 5

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  • Armed and Aimless: Armed Groups, Guns, and Human Security in the ECOWAS Region, edited by Nicolas Florquin and Eric G. Berman, May 2005 (also available in French).

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  • A Fragile Peace: Guns and Security in Post-Conflict Macedonia, by Suzette R. Grillot et al., commissioned by UNDP and co-published with BICC and SEESAC, June 2004. Special Report No. 4

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  • Small Arms in Kyrgyzstan: A Small Arms Anomaly in Central Asia? by S. Neil MacFarlane and Stina Torjesen, February 2004. Occasional Paper No. 12 (also available in Kyrgyz)

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  • Stray Bullets: The Impact of Small Arms Misuse in Central America, by William Godnick, with Robert Muggah and Camilla Waszink, October 2002. Occasional Paper No. 5 (also available in Spanish)

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  • Small Arms Availability, Trade, and Impacts in the Republic of Congo, commissioned by IOM and the UNDP, by Spyros Demetriou, Robert Muggah and Ian Biddle, April 2002. Special Report No. 2

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  • Re-Armament in Sierra Leone: One Year After the Lome Peace Agreement, by Eric Berman, December 2000. Occasional Paper No. 1 (also available in French)

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The Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment project has produced more than three dozen in-depth reports on aspects of armed violence, small arms, and insecurity in Sudan. These reports can be accessed via the HSBA publications page. 

Other Publications

  • Buchanan, Cate, ed. 2011. Armed Violence in Mindanao: Militia and private armies. Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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  • Buchanan, Cate, ed. 2011. Conflict Resolution: Learning Lessons from Dialogue Processes in India. Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Delhi Policy Group. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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  • ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). 2011. Armed Groups: Understanding Armed Groups and the Applicable Law. International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 93, No. 882. June. Geneva and Cambridge: International Committee of the Red Cross and Cambridge University Press.

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  • Buchanan, Cate, ed. 2011. Conflict Management in Indonesia - An Analysis of the Conflicts in Maluku, Papua and Poso. Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and Current Asia. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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  • Couldrey, Marion and Maurice Herson, eds. 2011. Armed Non-State Actors and Displacement. Forced Migration Review, No. 37. March, pp. 4-42.

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  • Hangzo, Pau Khan Khup and Manpavan Kaur. 2011. Pro-Government Armed Groups: A Source of Peace or Multipliers of Conflict? NTS Alert No. 2. Singapore: Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

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  • Geneva Call. 2010. Fact Finding During Armed Conflict: Report of the 2009 Verification Mission to the Philippines to Investigate Allegations of Anti-Personnel Landmine Use by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Geneva: Geneva Call.

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  • Davis, Diane. 2009. Non-State Armed Actors, New Imagined Communities, and Shifting Patterns of Sovereignty and Insecurity in the Modern World. Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2. August, pp. 221-245.

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  • Becker, Jo. 2008. Child Soldiers and Armed Groups. Notes for a Presentation to the Conference on “Curbing Human Rights Abuses by Armed Groups,” Centre of International Relations, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 14-15 November.

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  • Geneva Call, PSIO (Program for the Study of International Organization[s]), and UNIDIR (United Nations Institute of Disarmament Research). 2008. Exploring Criteria & Conditions for Engaging Armed Non-State Actors to Respect Humanitarian Law & Human Rights Law.
 Conference Report, Geneva, 4-5 June 2007. Geneva: Geneva Call.

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  • Florquin, Nicolas and Elisabeth Decrey Warner. 2008. Engaging non-state armed groups or listing terrorists? Implications for the arms control community. Disarmament Forum - Engaging non-state armed groups. No. 1. Pp 17-26.

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  • Williams, Phil. 2008. Violent Non-State Actors and National and International Security. Zurich: International Relations and Security Network. 

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  • International Crisis Group. 2007. Colombia’s New Armed Groups. Latin America Report No. 20. Brussels: International Crisis Group.

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  • Geneva Call. 2007. Armed Non-State Actors and Landmines Volume III: Towards a Holistic Approach to Armed Non-State Actors. Co-published with the Program for the Study of International Organizations. Geneva: Geneva Call.

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  • Clapham, Andrew. 2006. Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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  • Sassòli, Marco. 2006. Transnational Armed Groups and International Humanitarian Law. Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Occasional Paper Series No. 6. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

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  • Capie, David. 2004. Armed Groups, Weapons Availability and Misuse: an Overview of the Issues and Options for Action. Background Paper prepared for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue meeting, Bamako, Mali, 25 May 2004.

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  • Ziegveld, Liesbeth. 2002. The Accountability of Armed Opposition Groups in International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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  • Bruderlein, Claude. 2000. The role of non-state actors in building security: the case of armed groups in intra-state wars. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

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Further Resources