This inter-agency programme, delivered in collaboration with the Global Security Programme at Oxford University, equips UN personnel and partners with theoretical and practical skills to analyse and understand the genesis and evolution of unconventional armed groups in violence-affected countries.


In the last decade, maintaining peace and security has become further complicated by an increase in the violence that is perpetrated no longer exclusively by national armies and armed oppositions but 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 on-going civil wars.

Analyzing and understanding these new types of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) presents novel analytical and practical challenges for the UN. The Global Security Programme at Oxford University collaborates on this project by integrating findings and tools from the Changing Character of Conflict project into the course content. Dr. Annette Idler is the academic lead for the courses. By focusing on multidisciplinary investigative approaches, this course explores the political context driving the genesis of armed violence and the forces shaping group cohesion, resource strategies, internal structures and levels of violence. The course aims at building the capacity of UN staff and partners to better understand the nature of the armed violence and the actors involved in it. 


Upon successful completion of this course, participants will:

  • Apply enhanced capacity to analyse and understand non-state armed groups;
  • Benefit from a 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

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

Course contents

Day 1 focuses on issues, challenges and the changing global context. It provides the theoretical and analytical foundations to understand the genesis and evolution of unconventional armed groups.

Day 2 and Day 3 focus on tools and methodologies required to understand the above and the application in a real context.

Day 4 aims to pull it all together.

The training uses 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 range of tools and approaches drawn from ethnographic methods, political economy analysis, anthropology and psychology, amongst others. This analytical framework presents a great opportunity to increase the understanding of unconventional armed groups.

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 armed groups or whose job description involves the analysis, interaction, and possibly engagement with armed groups.

Open to selected representatives from INGOs and NGOs, academia, think tanks, bilateral donors, International Financial Institutions, foundations etc.

Cost of participation

The course fee is $3,000 which covers the costs of the training team, training materials and location. Travel-related costs (ticket and accommodation) are not covered by UNSSC. Sponsoring organizations are responsible for the travel and accommodation of their participating staff.