Transnational Actors

Three differing groups of non-state actors comprise the focus of this research department: criminal and armed groups, transnational corporations and civil society actors. In the context of economic and social globalization and signs of weakening statehood, the significance of these groups has changed in relation to the development of just peace governance.

The diverse influences of non-state actors

The role of non-state actors is characterized by its ambivalence. Violent non-state actors, such as organized crime groups, can, on the one hand, directly challenge a state’s monopoly on the use of force and its ability to foster justice. Yet other such actors, for example rebel groups, may aim to establish alternative justice norms and forms of governance, thereby compensating for state failure. Moreover, transnational corporations often evade state control and intensify certain justice-related conflicts, rendering attempts to resolve these as ineffective. On the other hand, they may be directly involved in fulfilling justice claims by assuming certain state functions such as those related to providing public goods. Civil society actors, such as NGOs and social movements, regularly assume the role of justice entrepreneurs, framing new normative standards and advocating and demanding their fulfilment. However, such engagement may negatively impact the dynamics of an existing conflict, particularly for cases in which global and local understandings stand in tension.

Within the framework of the research program Coercion and Peace the research department studies how transnational actors are coerced into complying with international standards or refraining from certain practices. It also examines the possibilities of transnational actors to use coercive measures and the extent to which such non-state coercion is legitimate and effective.

The research department investigated the diverse ways through which non-state actors exert influence in the context of Just Peace Governance (2009-2017). The associated research projects systematically apply descriptive, causal-analytical and normative perspectives in order to identify and compare the significance of including and excluding non-state actors in the establishment of just peace governance. They analyze the transnational dimension of this tension between justice and peace with the guiding question: "What are the conditions under which the inclusion or exclusion of private actors contributes to the success/failure of just peace governance?"

Previous research has failed to sufficiently analyze the role of private actors in the establishment of just peace. This includes deficits in several areas such as relevant impact analyses in relation to corporations, empirical data at the micro-level, and policy-oriented translations of basic research findings into applicable real-world knowledge. Post-secular theories entail a central challenge in the area of civil society, applying a focus on the role of religious actors. Another conspicuous gap in existing research relates to the significance of social movements, including analyses of illiberal movements (right-wing extremists, religious fundamentalist movements) as well as their influence on governance arrangements or their role as conflict parties. A limited amount of knowledge currently exists about transnationally linked social movements, their influences or their impact in general. In the area of violent non-state actors and organized crime, empirical and normative investigations into the governance potential that they may hold promise to provide new insights into the establishment of just peace orders.