The surprising way groups like ISIS stay in power

6 min Source: TED Talk


Non-state actor groups are working multiple, concurrent angles to provide alternative sources of safety and security to populations of struggling nation states.


The underpinnings of conflict in the 21st century can be characterised by great power competition, ideological differences, resource and food security, and the list goes on. It is difficult to identify who is amassing the financial wealth to wield the social and economic power to back non-state actors and their adversarial agendas, particularly in developing nations. This is not a new phenomena. Of the 216 peace agreements signed between 1975 and 2011, 196 of them were between state and non-state actors. Benedetta Berti, a conflict researcher, has been cited for her pithy presentation on the activities these groups undertake when not fighting. Understanding how non-state actors function and gain support within the state population is key to developing strategies for preventing conflict or developing sustainable, peaceful alternatives. It also provides insight into whether the application of military power in a conflict would be effective in achieving strategic outcomes when those outcomes involve long term state or regional stability. So how do non-state actors stay in power?