International Review of the Red Cross

Todays Armed Groups: Structure, Actions and Strategic Options

Economic dimensions of armed groups: profiling the financing, costs, and agendas and their implications for mediated engagements

Achim Wennmann*


This article introduces the various economic dimensions of armed groups and explores the implications of their engagement through mediation and dialogue. It looks specifically at the financing, operational costs, and economic agendas of armed groups and brings together examples from Angola, Kosovo, Sudan, Colombia, and other places. It emphasizes that information about available financing and operational costs is critical for assessing the financial and operational strength of an armed group. It also highlights the need to understand armed groups in the broader context of their evolution and the changes that organizational and territorial expansions require with regards to financing strategies. Overall, the economic dimensions of armed groups should be approached with an open mind so that issues such as financing, costs, and economic agendas can be perceived as opportunities, and not necessarily as a problem for peace.

Dr. Achim Wennmann is Researcher at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.


* This article provided a welcome opportunity for the author to synthesize various work streams on the economic dimensions of armed conflict into a single text focusing on armed groups. It draws specifically on Achim Wennmann, The Political Economy of Peacemaking, Routledge, London, 2011, and Achim Wennmann, ‘Conflict financing and the recurrence of intra-state armed conflict’, PhD thesis, University of Geneva and Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, 2007. Other publications of the author on which the article draws are included in the relevant footnotes. The author thanks Jennifer Hazen for comments.