One of the key ways in which non-state groups gain power and expand is by infiltrating communities, transforming their formal or informal institutions, and becoming de facto rulers. Such power transforms local life in a myriad of ways and makes civilian cooperation with combatants more likely.
Supporting legitimate and effective local institutions is essential to strengthening communities vis-à-vis these actors. Such local institutions may be formal or informal and do not necessarily come from the state. Hence, pursuing new initiatives from below to improve local governance, collective action or conflict resolution can strengthen communities’ capacity to limit the influence of non-state armed actors.