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Rethinking armed group control

Working paper

Written by Ashley Jackson, Florian Weigand, Leigh Mayhew, Ibraheem Bahiss

Prevailing understandings of control – which focus on territorial dividing lines and violent incident monitoring – miss important indicators of armed group control. We argue that armed group control should instead be broken down according to the ways in which armed groups seek to influence populations.

To exercise influence and control, armed groups apply a variety of practices, including different types of violence, dispute resolution, taxation, regulation of movement, access to aid and services, and social strictures.

Territorial markers of control tend to be misleading, as many armed groups exercise control over populations beyond areas where they are physically present, shaping and influencing civilian life in the economic, social and political spheres deep into areas thought of as ‘government controlled’.

This paper proposes several alternate ways of monitoring shifts in armed group control, by focusing on practices and the development of underlying capacities required to influence civilian behaviour. The hope is that more contextualised and specific indicators can improve conflict early warning.