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Informal Governance of Non State Armed Groups in the Sahel

1. Informal Governance: Concepts and Policy Relevance

Informal governance has become a reality of the contemporary world as the notion that nation-states entirely governed by structured hierarchical bureaucracies capable of maintaining the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence and of providing core services to populations becomes increasingly challenged. Indeed, the “ideal-typical conception of a consolidated state is misleading rather than illuminating” in many parts of the world.1 However, visions of large ungoverned spaces or zones of state absence also fail to represent the realities on the ground. “Governance de facto exists in areas frequently claimed as ungoverned spaces … mostly exercised by non-state armed groups ranging from insurgencies to warlords to clans” among others.2 Even “war zones are often orderly,” as a variety of actors set up a “new order, which civilians recognize, that marks many aspects of daily life”.3 Examples across the world show a wide variety of such examples of governance, ranging from elaborate civilian administrations to the simple rebranding of local administrative units.
The aim of this research paper is to investigate non-state armed group (NSAG) informal governance and the most appropriate policy responses to such forms of governance. The paper will focus in particular on the Sahel region examining cases of NSAG governance between 2012 and 2019.


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