Conflict and Fragility

Reports and papers

Law, guns and money: regulating war economies in Syria and beyond

13 Jul 2015 - 15:08
Source: Destroyed factory in Aleppo City , March 2013, Credit: Basma / Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr

A growing number of war zones are characterised by diversified types of violence and means to finance the ongoing armed conflict, often by preying on informal economic activity and access to global trade flows.

To date, international legal responses to such economies have focused on identifying undesirable groups or actors and targeting them with sanctions. These approaches have not enjoyed unquestionable success, and appear to be increasingly inappropriate for areas characterised by multiple factions, fragmented territorial control and vulnerable civilian livelihoods.

As an alternative, recent initiatives have sought to isolate those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law from the global trade and human flows that are essential to sustaining their violent behaviour. These initiatives focus on places where abuses arise from organised  violence that is a part of economic activity and where commerce is militarised. These measures will not stop wars, but may be a necessary part of efforts to do so. As such, they appear to offer a less politicised, more regulatory and possibly more effective means to control violent economies from afar.