Advancing Research on Mass Atrocities Perpetrated by Non-State Actors
June 3, 2016
In June 2016, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide convened a group of international scholars, civil society representatives, and US Government officials to address the following question:
How are the causes, drivers, and patterns of mass atrocities unique to state actors similar to or different from large-scale, systematic violence against civilians perpetrated by non-state actors?
The seminar built on the Simon-Skjodt Center’s previous work on the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s mass atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and the forecasting efforts of the Early Warning Project, both of which identified the need for more systematic study of mass atrocities perpetrated by non-state actors. The rapporteur’s report (PDF) outlines key findings from the seminar.
The recent rise and violence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria have underscored the role of non-state actors as perpetrators of mass atrocities. To date, most research about the phenomenon of mass atrocities has focused on atrocities orchestrated by states and state-affiliated security forces. This focus is understandable, as states historically have perpetrated the greatest number of and most severe mass atrocities. The recent mass violence of IS, Boko Haram, and other non-state actors, however, suggests that non-state actors may perpetrate mass atrocities more frequently in the near future.
Are the causes, drivers, and patterns of mass atrocities unique to state actors, or are they similar to violence against civilians perpetrated by non-state actors? How should researchers, advocates, and policymakers assess the causes, drivers, and patterns of mass atrocities committed by non-state actors?
Participants in this research workshop evaluated the conceptual issues inherent in the study of violence by non-state actors, the current state of knowledge about mass atrocities perpetrated by non-state actors (“the topic”), policy efforts to prevent those atrocities, and opportunities for additional research on the topic. Informed by a broad range of research subjects, methods, and professional experiences, the participants identified several potential research areas to shape the Simon-Skjodt Center’s future work on non-state actors.
- A research memo (PDF) on conceptual issues in the prevention of mass atrocities by non-state actors, by Lawrence Woocher
- A research memo (PDF) on trends in one-sided violence by non-state actors, by Lisa Hultman and Kristine Eck
- A research memo (PDF) on empirical patterns and modeling risks of terrorist violence, by Joseph Young
- A research memo (PDF) on policy tools and strategies to prevent mass atrocities by non-state actors, by Ed Luck
- A research memo (PDF) on countering violent extremism policy and preventing mass atrocities by non-state actors, by Shannon Green
- An annotated bibliography (PDF) of related scholarship, by Daniel Solomon
- A list of participants (PDF) in the 2016 Sudikoff seminar
This seminar was made possible by the generous support of the Sudikoff Family Foundation, which funds the Museum’s Sudikoff Annual Interdisciplinary Seminar on Genocide Prevention.