Nudging Armed Groups: How Civilians Transmit Norms of Protection

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2013
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Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 2(3) Art. 62, 1-18
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What are the varying roles that norms play to either enable or constrain violence in armed conflict settings? The article examines this question by drawing on experiences from com- munities and armed groups in Colombia and Syria. It begins by presenting an explanation of how norms of violence and nonviolence may arise within communities and influence the behavior of civilian residents, reducing the chances of them becoming involved with armed groups. It then considers how civilian communities can transmit those same norms, shared understandings, and patterns of interaction to the ranks of illegal armed groups and subsequently shape their decisions about the use of violence against civilians. The author argues that civilians may be better positioned to promote the principles codified in International Humanitarian Law than international humanitarian organizations because they have closer contact with irregular armed actors and are viewed with greater legitimacy. The analysis illustrates that to better understand civilian protection mechanisms it is essential to study the interactions between communities and armed actors.