Exploring Agreements of Convenience Made among Violent Non-State Actors

Annette Idler


This article aims to enhance our understanding of how different groups of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) interact. It narrows the conceptual gap that has existed in the literature on VNSAs and the complex and multiple types of relationships that exist among them in order to better comprehend their decision-making and the ramifications that emerge from these decisions and interactions. Drawing on recent field research in Colombia´s border regions, the study develops a typology of VNSA interactions, conceptualised as a two-dimensional “clustery continuum” of VNSA arrangements. These borderlands lend themselves to such an undertaking because different types of VNSAs are present there and they unite an internal armed conflict context with a non-conflict, yet violent context by comprising both the Colombian and the neighbouring countries’ border zones. Taking a holistic and nuanced approach, this article first links the silos of civil war, mafia and organised crime literature by exploring situations in which these different dynamics coalesce. Second, it assumes a transnational perspective rather than a purely national view by considering borderlands that include territory of various states. Third, it unpacks the different types of VNSA interactions by describing them as based largely on economically motivated “arrangements of convenience”, rather than drawing on a dichotomy of conflict and cooperation. This case study yields insights on how to develop a more sophisticated understanding of VNSA interactions in other contexts as well. 

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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