Blog symposium: The Role of Non-State Armed Groups in Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Promoting information sharing and community building between individuals and organisations working on issues related to armed groups and international law. Providing updates on news stories and publicize academic journal articles and seminars, talks and conferences on issues related to armed groups.

Kachin State, near Laiza, Mai Sak Pa village, quarantine facility

Individuals living in conflict-affected zones have been particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 during the last few years. This has been mainly due to their lack of access to appropriate facilities, testing kits and vaccines, often combined with unstable and violent scenarios. Understandably, as a result of the predominant State-centric architecture of the international relations, discussions on how to solve COVID-19 challenges in armed conflict have focused on territorial States and the measures they have adopted to address these difficulties.

Yet in a world it is estimated that between 60 and 80 million people live under the exclusive control of non-State armed groups (NSAGs), and many more can be found in areas where these non-State entities operate or exert a degree of influence, it has also been unsurprising to observe several NSAGs adopting measures to contain the virus. From Syria to the Philippines, and from Myanmar to Colombia, NSAGs have issued instructions to their members, established lockdowns, increased health checks, and begun engaging with other actors on this issue. Some groups have even received, distributed, and applied COVID-19 vaccines to those individuals living under their control. Given that how international law deals with some of these activities has remained insufficiently explored, this blog symposium will bring together expects from relevant humanitarian organizations to discuss and exchange views on legal and policy implications related to NSAGs’ activities in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The blog posts in this series build on the authors’ presentations at the 2021 Sanremo Roundtable on ‘ Pandemics, armed conflict, and international humanitarian law’. Recordings of the panel presentations can be found here.

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