Choosing to engage: Armed groups and peace processes
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‘Understanding’ such a group means more than merely having information about them. This kind of understanding is dynamic, not static: rather than the gathering of information, this is the development of a process of communication and negotiation, out of which may come a peace process.

Sue Williams and Robert Ricigliano

How can a third party understand an armed group well enough to assist constructively in the establishment of a peace process? Williams and Ricigliano consider ‘understanding’ as the development of a process of communication and negotiation, and among the challenges in understanding an armed group are that trust is required but is hard to build, especially in complex situations with multiple intermediaries.

Armed groups may communicate unconventionally, seeking to mystify or control what is revealed about themselves, and the choices they make in communicating information about themselves deserve careful study. The authors suggest what information on armed groups should be sought: engaging a group on their analysis of the conflict is a good way to start, as well as finding out what being armed means to them.