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Armed Groups and de facto Authorities (AGDA): Geneva Call adapts its engagement terminology

Geneva – 15 July 2022.

Geneva Call will, from now on, use the expression “Armed Groups and de facto Authorities – AGDA” to describe the actors with which the organization engages. While the term “Armed Non-State Actor” (also known under the acronym “ANSA”) has been commonly used throughout the years, it now poses increasingly legal and operational challenges.


At its last July retreat, Geneva Call’s Board formally approved an adapted terminology for the organization’s engagements. The Board’s decision is the result of several months of internal and external consultations with stakeholders as well as in-depth legal research. The consultations revealed that in practice a vast number of armed groups operate as hybrids, maintaining or claiming some form of relationship with state structures. Therefore, using “Armed Non-State Actors” or “ANSA” to describe them can be misleading. It is seen by many actors as a breach of neutrality by Geneva Call, as the term ANSA implicitly qualifies them.


“This decision is pragmatic and reaffirms our historical mandate” said Alain Délétroz, Director General of Geneva Call. “In an increasingly complex conflict landscape, a more neutral terminology can help the organization better engage a wide array of armed actors who don’t necessarily recognize themselves as ‘non-state’ and even often claim to have formed a state of their own” added Délétroz. “In contrast, this also underlines that Geneva Call’s mandate doesn’t include engaging with formal state military forces”.


“By using ‘Armed Groups and de facto Authorities’, Geneva Call further anchors its mission in International Humanitarian Law (IHL)” said Gloria Gaggioli, member of Geneva Call Board and Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. “The term ‘armed groups’ is closer to the terminology used in IHL texts, including in the Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. This terminology also better takes into account the realities and complexities of contemporary armed conflicts”.


From left to right: Gloria Gaggioli (member of the Board), Jean Keller (Chair of the Board), Doris Pfister (Vice-Chair of the Board)


The Libyan context is one where political fragmentation has made the identification and engagement of armed actors particularly challenging. “This adjusted terminology is welcome. It reinforces our neutrality on the ground” said Mahaut De Talhouet, Libya Country Director at Geneva Call. “The organization’s credibility and effectiveness will be enhanced because all stakeholders will more easily understand who Geneva Call engages as part of its mandate”.



About Geneva Call

Founded in 2000, Geneva Call is a leading international humanitarian organization committed to protecting civilians in armed conflicts through enhancing respect of humanitarian norms and principles by armed groups and de facto authorities. It is based in Geneva and has staff and offices in 16 conflict areas.



For more information

Alexandre Munafò
Head of Global Engagement


Cover Picture ©AFP


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