Aid and Non-state Armed Groups

23rd December 2019
Author: Siân Herbert

This rapid literature review collates lessons related to aid (conditionality) and non-state armed groups (NSAGs). This is a companion paper to Herbert (2019) which looks more broadly at lessons from the use of aid conditionality in peace processes, that paper includes greater detail on what conditionality is. While the question posed sought to find information on where the following three issue areas collide: aid conditionality; influencing NSAGs; and the provision of basic services and governance by NSAGs. This rapid review did not find one article focussed on this specific question, nor did it find information on different combinations of just two of these issue areas. Due to this dearth of information, this query collates lessons on related issues, including: lessons from external actor-NSAG relations; aid conditionality used in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS); and negotiations and cooperation between NSAGs and humanitarian actors. There may be various reasons for this lack of information. Firstly, as it is obviously very difficult for international actors to fund NSAGs, and even just dialogue is subject to increased scrutiny and controls. Second, as aid conditionality is most relevant when there is a high level of leverage over the actor, and this is typically very limited with NSAGs who do not directly receive much aid. Third, if they do receive or benefit from aid, much will likely be humanitarian, not development, aid. And the consensus is that it is not ethical, practical or legal to use conditionality with humanitarian aid. Aid is almost most likely to be given related to the achievement, or implementation, of peace agreements. Fourth, if (and when) aid is provided to NSAGs, it is unlikely to be documented in publicly available papers due to sensitivities. Fifth, this whole enquiry is complicated by the fact that most aid is conditional (to some degree), and the term and understanding of conditionality is not clear, and is often not used in the literature. Notably, the language of conditionality has become more unpopular as the international community has favoured principles of partnership, local ownership, and selectivity (Goodhand, 2006). This all complicates the search for literature for this paper, and the criteria for inclusion.

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Suggested Citation

Herbert, S. (2019). Aid and non-state armed groups. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


23rd December 2019


Continent: Global