nl en

Non-state Actors in International Peace and Conflict


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations


What roles do actors such as non-governmental organizations, think tanks, charities, private foundations, and multinational corporations play in contemporary conflicts? What strategies do they employ and to what end? And how can we assess their influence? Classical studies of international relations have emphasized the role of states in shaping international relations. However, organizations such as Oxfam and Swisspeace, the Aga Khan Foundation, the International Crisis Group, and a host of private foundations and multinational corporations contribute to shaping international politics both directly and indirectly, through formal and informal means.
In this course, we examine the power and politics of non-state actors in international peace and conflict. We begin by considering different types of non-state actors and their distinct purposes and patterns of organization. Second, we apply these insights to analysing historic and contemporary case studies of non-state agency in global conflicts. In the third and final step, we will address wider questions of power, legitimacy, inequality, and inclusion, and trace their transformation in historical perspective. Discussing authoritarian challenges to the global liberal order, on the one hand, and decolonial/postcolonial critiques on the other, we will examine the future of non-state actors in global peace and conflict beyond Western hegemony.

Course objectives

On completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the emergence and transformation of non-state actors in international peace and conflict.

  • Apply available typologies and theoretical frameworks for studying non-state actors and critically reflect on the scope and limitations of these literatures.

  • Gather, organize, and persuasively present knowledge regarding one (historic or contemporary) non-state actor, its key purposes, functions, and practices.

  • Employ their practical and critical research skills by collecting and presenting information on select non-state actors (for instance via online interviews or visits to the offices of NGOs in The Hague, if possible).

  • Analyse the scope of action and strategies of non-state actors in global peace and conflict in relation to sovereignty.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation

  • Presentation (including PPT slides to be submitted before the presentation)

  • Final essay


  • Participation (20%)

  • Presentation (30%)

  • Final essay (50%)


The resit is only available if the final essay is insufficient.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Avant, D., M. Finnemore and S. K. Sell, 2010, ‘Who Governs the Globe?’ In Avant, Finnemore, and Sell, Who Governs the Globe? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-33.
Bah, Abu Bakarr, 2013. ‘Civil Non-State Actors in Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding in West Africa’ Journal of International Peacekeeping 17(3-4), 313-336. doi:
Barnett, M. and R. Duvall, eds. 2004. Power in Global Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511491207.
Basu, Moushumi, 2016. ‘Non-State Actors in the Development Aid World as Seen from the South.’ In Reinalda, Ashgate Research Companion, 405-418.
Bernstein, Steven, 2011, ‘Legitimacy in Intergovernmental and Non-state Global Governance.’ Review of International Political Economy 18(1), 17-51.
Chimni, B.S., 2004. ‘International Institutions Today. An Imperial Global State in the Making.’ European Journal of International Law 15(1), 1-39.
Collingwood, V. and L. Logister, 2005. ‘State of the Art. Addressing the INGO ‘Legitimacy Deficit’.’ Political Studies Review 3(2): 175-192.
Cunningham, David, Kristian Gleditsch and Idean Saleyhan, 2013. ‘Non-state Actors in Civil Wars. A New Dataset.’ Conflict Management and Peace Science 30(5), 516-531.
Duffield, Mark. 2007. Development, Security, and Unending War. Governing the World of Peoples. Cambridge: Polity.
Hazeldine, T, 2010. ‘The North-Atlantic Counsel. Complicity of the International Crisis Group.’ New Left Review 63 (May-June 2010), 17-33.
Hilton, Matthew, James McKay, Nicholas Crowson and Jean-Francois Mouhot, 2013. The Politics of Expertise. How NGOs Shaped Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). 2016. ‘Closing Civic Space. Impact on Development and Humanitarian CSOs.’ Global Trends in NGO Law 7(3).
Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink., 1998. Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Milner, Helen and Andrew Moravcsik (eds.), 2009. Power, Interdependence, and Nonstate Actors in World Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. doi: 10.1515/9781400830787.
O'Sullivan, Kevin, 2014. ’Humanitarian Encounters: Biafra, NGOs and Imaginings of the Third World in Britain and Ireland, 1967–70. Journal of Genocide Research 16(2-3), 299-315, DOI: 10.1080/14623528.2014.936706
O’Sullivan, Kevin. 2021. The NGO Moment. The Globalisation of Compassion from Biafra to Live Aid. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Forthcoming, Oct 2021)
Peters, A., L. Koechlin, T. Förster, and G. Zinkernagel (eds.), 2009. Non-State Actors as Standard Setters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511635519.
Quadir, Fahimul, 2013. ‘Rising Donors and the New Narrative of ‘South–South’ Cooperation: What Prospects for Changing the Landscape of Development Assistance Programmes?’ Third World Quarterly 34 (2), 321-338. doi: 10.1080/01436597.2013.775788.
Reinalda, Bob (ed.), 2016. The Ashgate Research Companion to Non-State Actors. New York: Routledge.
Richmond, Oliver and H. Carey (eds.), 2005. Subcontracting Peace. The Challenges of NGO Peacebuilding. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. doi: 10.4324/9781351148405.
Silliman, Jane, 1999, ‘Expanding Civil Society. Shrinking Political Spaces – The Case of Women’s Nongovernmental Organizations’ Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society (6)1, 23–53
Skinner, Rob and Alan Lester, 2012. ‘Humanitarianism and Empire: New Research Agendas.’ The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40(5), 729-747. DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2012.730828
Stroup, Sarah S., 2012. Borders among Activists. International NGOs in the United States, Britain, and France. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press.
Stroup, Sarah S. and A. Murdie, 2012. ‘There’s no Place Like Home. Explaining International NGO Advocacy.’ Review of International Organisations 7, 425-448.
Vedder, A., ed. 2007. NGO Involvement in International Governance and Policy. Sources of Legitimacy. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.
Warnecke, A., 2020, ‘Can Intergovernmental Organizations be Peacebuilders in Intra-State War?’ Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 14(5), 634-653.
Weiss, Thomas, T. Carayannis, and R. Jolly, 2009. ‘The “Third” United Nations.’ Global Governance 15 (1), 123-142. doi: 10.1163/19426720-01501008.
Yanacopulos, Helen, 2016. International NGO Engagement, Advocacy, Activism. The Faces and Spaces of Change. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable