Engaging with armed groups: prospects and challenges

Dr Harmonie Toros is a Reader in International Conflict Analysis at Kent’s School of Politics and International Relations. Impact Officer Sunder Mahendra explores what part engagement has played in her research.

Can states respond to terrorist non-violently? Dr Harmonie Toros’s research brought this question into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) training of military and defence officials in counter-terrorism by directly changing NATO’s curriculum to include non-violent responses. It introduced new approaches and frameworks for analysing terrorism and counter-terrorism now adopted within NATO learning centres.

Dr Harmonie Toros, Reader in International Conflict Analysis at Kent’s School of Politics and International Relations carried out extensive field research in Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and Africa researching state and non-state armed groups as well as investigating the human experience of war. Her research lies at the crossroad between conflict resolution and terrorism studies. Toros’ approach involves rare primary research, including interviews and participant observation with members of non-state armed groups, senior government and military officials in several countries that resulted in her seminal work developing a critical theory-based approach to terrorism and examining the transformation of conflicts marked by terrorist violence. Her research has informed understandings of and responses to terrorism of political and defence establishments across the world, and is an outstanding example of topical research subject and sustained stakeholder engagement leading to impacts on policy and practice. Dr. Toros’ research outputs have consistently been policy accessible, enabling defence, political affairs officials of states and international organisations to easily see the relevance of the research to their policy needs. Her research combined with her experience working as a reporter and editor for major international news agencies has shaped her approach towards engaging with stakeholders. 

Dr Toros' research publications, several presentations and talks based on her research, at varied fora and proactive engagement with multiple stakeholders has prompted officials from governments, security establishments from several countries to invite her for collaborative work, training programmes and for advisory roles.  These collaborations have led to further co-produced research outputs. 

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