Engaging non-state armed groups or listing terrorists? Implications for the arms control community
It is argued the experience of the global civil society movement supporting the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines may provide useful direction on engagement of NSAGs within broader international arms control efforts. In signing, NSAGs commit to the same norms as contained in the Mine Ban Treaty, starting with the total prohibition of use, transfer and production, as well as cooperation in mine action activities and external monitoring of compliance by Geneva Call and its partners. This inclusive approach has met with significant success - 35 NSAGs have signed the Deed of Commitment as of January 2008. Several additional groups have made unilateral declarations in support of the mine ban. However, terrorist labeling is likely to pose an obstacle to arms control efforts.
Key concluding points include:
- as decision makers continue to strive to reduce the suffering caused by cluster munitions and small arms, they must carefully consider how they choose to refer to NSAGs
- the value-added from terrorist lists is doubtful - blacklists in their current form are extremely problematic in conflict resolution and humanitarian actors' efforts to mediate conflict and provide humanitarian assistance to populations living in areas under NSAG control
- this inclusive approach could theoretically also be pursued with other weapon types that contradict international humanitarian law (IHL) by design, such as cluster munitions
- there are several ways in which NSAGs can be engaged in preventing small arms misuse - IHL and human rights law dissemination, promotion of safe stockpile management and policy-relevant research.