The effectiveness of United Nations field operations, whether development programmes, humanitarian aid, political missions or rule of law interventions, are increasingly contingent on UN staff’s capacity to analyse and strategically engagenon-state armed groups. The proliferation and evolving hybridity of these organisations blurs simple distinctions between politically oriented insurgents and organized crime or gangs. Adding to this complexity is the emergenceof community-based groups that are perceived to play positive roles by their communities, for example, providing security to local neighbourhoods when the state is absent. Moreover, NATO’s recent intervention in Libya, which supported the groups rising up against Qaddafi’s government, illustrates both the prominence of non-state armed groups and the international community’scomplex relationship with them.
Meeting this challenge requires UN staff to be adept at both understanding and negotiating with these non-state groups. To date, learning in the UN on this topic has been decentralized and disjoined – reducing the effectiveness of staff and the potential of experience sharing across the organization. In response, the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) has introduced a learning initiative to advance UN staff capacity to understand and strategically engage non-state armed groups. The purpose of this report is to survey the available policy and academic resources for developing this learning initiative: Analyzing and Engaging Non-State Armed Groups in the Field. Given that it is a preliminary survey, it is not comprehensive; rather, its objective is to frame the challenge, highlight critical resources, and suggest potentially successful approaches to address it (for a description of the scoping process see Annex A).