Sandvik on armed non-state actors and access to health in armed conflict

Photo: Tiomono/wikipedia

On 12 February 2015, the Norwegian Red Cross organized the seminar “Armed Non State Actors and Access to Health in Armed Conflict”. Speakers included Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, Sven Mollekleiv (President of the Norwegian Red Cross), as well as researchers from NUPI, PRIO, ICRC, Geneva Call, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and ILPI.

 The seminar consisted of three sessions, focusing on three sets of questions:

  • The prevalence of armed non-state actors in today’s conflicts. Who are these actors?
  • What rights and responsibilities do armed non-state actors have?
  • What responsibilities do states have and in what way could their approach to armed non-state actors contribute to engender greater respect for international humanitarian law, health care and to facilitate peace processes?

Contributing to the first session, NCHS Director Kristin Bergtora Sandvik discussed actors, agendas and legal categories in post-war Colombia.

In her presentation, Sandvik highlighted that Colombia has a long history of armed actors who have emerged as the result of national legislation and external influence. Paramilitary groups and guerrilla fighters have threatened the civilian population’s right to health, due  to their linkage to local authorities and/or to the state militia – a phenomenon described by Sandvik as ‘local state capture’. The NCHS Director also pointed out that these actors cannot be confined in any ‘clean categories’ and are difficult to identify – making it difficult to hold particular persons or groups accountable for threats, kidnappings, violence and murders.