Non-State Actors

A signature strength of the Sié Center is its attention to the roles of non-state actors in security. Our group activities in this area have generated new data sets and developed innovative concepts, and many of our faculty members attend to the roles of these actors in their individual research.


Related Faculty

Featured Research Areas

Civil Action, Civilian Protection and Non-Violent Events

With generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Sié Center faculty embarked on a collaborate effort to examine how non-violent action could affect the dynamics of violence. This effort had two components. The first led Sié Center faculty to engage with case study authors to produce an edited volume. The volume challenges research focused primarily on macro-narratives, states, and violent actions to understand conflict. Building on innovations in analyses of micro-dynamics, the roles of non-state actors, and the interaction between violent and non-violent actions, the volume examines the repertoire of civil action during conflict. In so doing, it highlights the non-violent agency of various groups and the mechanisms through which civil action can 1) create space to preserve or build relationships even in the midst of violence, 2) reduce levels of local violence, or 3) contribute to the resolution of the conflict.  

The second component created a data set of non-violent action by non-state actors during civil wars in Africa. The effort aimed to correct against a bias toward the identities, attributes, and violent behavior of armed actors and attend to the various actors who use nonviolent methods to shape the intensity and variation of violence. The Nonviolent Action During Civil Wars in Africa dataset (NVAVC) develops a set of events and traces their occurrence in the context of African civil wars from 1990-2021. The framework provides a powerful tool for future researchers categorize various types of nonviolent action, and the data provide important evidence that such efforts are worthwhile.  

Private Security

Building on Deborah Avant’s long-standing research this area, the Sie Center initially collaborated with the Geneva-based Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) to produce the Private Security Monitor (PSM). After 10 years in operation, the PSM has been discontinued due to technical difficulties. Information about the industry’s regulation can be found on DCAF’s Private Security Governance Observatory. Information on research surrounding this industry is also available from the Forum for Private Security Research and the Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights.  

The Sie Center also produced the Private Security Events Database (PSED), which provides information on events related to private military and security companies in Africa, Latin  America and Southeast Asia. It collects information on the services private military and security companies (PMSCs) provide, the clients they work for, and the consequences of their actions.  

Past Projects

Inclusive Approaches to Violence Reduction

A wide range of policy decisions in conflict and post-conflict contexts assumes that inclusive approaches to governance, mobilization, and problem-solving are necessary to prevent or reduce violence, promote peaceful behavior and outcomes, and ensure more equitable and prosperous societies. However, many struggle to define inclusiveness or articulate how it operates. Inclusiveness, as a strategy, has not yet received rigorous and sustained scholarly attention. This project produced conceptual analysis, data and case studies to evaluate the links between inclusiveness and violence reduction in a range of conflict-affected contexts and settings. 

Learn More

Non-Violent Strategies in Violent Contexts

2013 Workshop on Non-violent Strategies in Violent Contexts was integral to the development of this research. You can find the workshop report here.

Featured Publications

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    Deborah Avant, Marie Berry, Erica Chenoweth, Rachel Epstein, Cullen Hendrix, Oliver Kaplan, and Timothy Sisk. 2019. Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence in Conflict. 

    Deborah Avant (with Kara Kingma Neu). 2020. Military Dissent Could Curb Democratic backsliding in the US. Political Violence at a Glance. 

    Oliver Kaplan. 2017. Resisting War How Communities Protect Themselves. Cambridge University Press.

    Oliver Kaplan. 2017. The Art of Rhetorical Traps in Civilian Self-Protection. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development.

    Deborah Avant. 2017. “Pragmatism, the Just War Tradition, and an Ethical Approach to Private Military and Security Companies,” in The Ethics of War and Peace Revisited: Moral Challenges in an Era of Contested and Fragmented Sovereignty, Daniel R. Brunstetter and Jean-Vincent Holeindre, eds. Georgetown University Press. 

    Deborah Avant (with Renee de Nevers). 2011. "Military Contractors and the American Way of War.”

    Deborah Avant (with Lee Sigelman). 2010. “Private Security and Democracy: Lessons from the US in Iraq.”

    Rachel Epstein. 2006. "When Legacies Meet Policies: NATO and the Refashioning of Polish Military Tradition," East European Politics and Societies.

    Deborah Avant. 2005. The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Rachel Epstein. 2005. "NATO Enlargement and the Spread of Democracy: Evidence and Expectations," Security Studies.

    Deborah Avant (with James Lebovic). 2000. “US Military Attitudes toward Post-Cold War Missions,” Armed Forces and Society.

    Deborah Avant. 1998. “Conflicting Indicators of ‘Crisis’ in American Civil-Military Relations,” Armed Forces and Society.

    Deborah Avant. 1994. Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons from Peripheral Wars.