In the last decade, maintaining peace and security has become further complicated by an increase in violence perpetrated no longer exclusively by national armies and armed oppositions, but also by an increasingly assertive and brutal range of hybrid actors, such as illegal armed groups, criminal organizations, and transnational networks of illicit trafficking. The impact is so significant that the violence resulting from these situations exceeds many ongoing civil wars.

Analysing and understanding these new types of non-state armed groups presents novel analytical and practical challenges for the UN as these groups differ substantially from the armed groups driving civil conflicts.

In 2014, the Staff College launched the UN-wide learning initiative called “Analysing and Understanding Non-State Armed Groups” to document and strengthen UN staff skills on this topic. This inter-agency initiative involves several UN entities (EOSG, DPA, DPKO, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNODC, UNU) and the University of Oxford.

A product of this initiative is this course which focuses on multidisciplinary investigative approaches to explore the political context driving the genesis of armed violence and the forces shaping group cohesion, resource strategies, internal structures and levels of violence.



Upon successful completion of this course, participants will:

  • Apply enhanced capacity to analyse and understand non-state armed groups;
  • Benefit from strengthened ability to analyse the evolution, composition, motives and interests of armed groups;
  • Be equipped with country examples and good practices in analysing non-state armed groups.

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

The course will engage participants with adult learning methodologies, characterized by a participative and interactive training style. Case studies will allow the practical application of analytical frameworks to real-life situations.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 

The first two days of the course will establish the theoretical and analytical foundations to understand the genesis and evolution of unconventional armed groups. The training will use concrete country cases and real life examples to look at recruitment strategies, rebel governance, economic incentives underlying group formation, the role of rituals and memory in forging group cohesion, and a whole range of new inquiries looking at the micro-elements of armed organizations. The third day and a half will be devoted to the practical application of the analytical framework to a real situation.

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

Mid-level UN personnel (both national and international staff) who are either deployed in duty stations that are affected by the presence of non-state armed groups or whose job description involves the analysis, interaction, and possibly engagement with non-state armed groups.

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

The course fee of 2,000 USD covers full participation in the 3.5-day course, all training materials, access to the UNSSC learning platform, as well as coffee breaks during the training. Participants – or their sponsoring UN organizations – will be responsible for covering expenses related to travel and accommodation/meals.

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