During situations of armed conflict, United Nations (UN) agencies have been consistently faced with challenges to access vulnerable populations in order to fulfill their humanitarian mandates. This is particularly true in countries such as Yemen, Libya, and Ukraine who have faced prolonged conflict situations from as early as 2010. During these conflicts, UN agencies have been frequently unable to enter areas that are controlled by non-state armed groups. There are several legitimate reasons for these access challenges, one of which includes the inadequate legal framework that governs non-state armed groups. This is not to neglect the operational and executive ineffectiveness of the UN or the political dynamics that shape these conflicts. In fact, this paper argues that these aspects complement the insufficiencies that are witnessed within the international legal system. The ineffectiveness of the UN, which is ultimately driven by the political interests of states, have not only been part and parcel to the genesis and influx of non-state armed groups in the respective countries, but have also played a major role in maintaining the legal positioning of non-state armed groups as a byproduct of the international system rather than main actors. The paper maintains that non-state armed groups have become significant players in international relations due to their increase in regional power and ability to affect politics. With this reality, the current legal framework that governs non-state armed groups has been proven to be an insufficient mechanism of enabling the interaction between UN agencies and non-state armed groups. In an attempt to ease such an interaction, the paper proposes some legal reforms, which are based on findings that prove the inconsistencies of that legal framework. It also offers policy suggestions for operational reforms within the UN system to facilitate the efficient implementation of the legal reforms.


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2016

First Advisor

Beckett, Jason

Committee Member 1

Natarajan, Usha


64 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


First and foremost, I would like to thank Allah for blessing me with the opportunity to receive such a high standard of education and for helping me push through the toughest moments of writing this dissertation and the Master’s program as a whole. A significant thank you goes to Dr. Jason Beckett, my thesis supervisor, who guided and supported me immensely throughout the process of this dissertation. He absorbed my redundant questions and my state of panic on several occasions. He was critical of my work and commended it when it was deserved. He has ultimately shaped my understanding of my dissertation. I appreciate everything he has done for me. Furthermore, I’d like to thank Dr. Diana Van Bogaert, who has not only been a professor to me, but a much-needed friend throughout the Master’s program. I would like to thank my family members who have been my supporters since day one, whether it is moral or financial. I would like to thank my father, Mohammad Makhlouf, for always believing in me and never doubting that I would be able to get through this program despite my age and relative lack of experience; my mother, Nahla El Baghdady, for pushing me on multiple occasions to put my priorities in line and consistently reminding me of how proud she is of me; my brother, Ismail Makhlouf, who was always interested in what I was learning and constantly challenged me ultimately making me a better student and thinker. I would also like to thank my friends and loved ones who have been supportive of me since my decision to apply to the LL.M program and are continuously expressive of their pride towards my humble achievements. A special thank you goes to my colleagues within the LL.M program; Rana Shafik, Youssef Nassar, Muhammad Mousa, and Mohammed Shoeeb for supporting me throughout the program and especially through my endeavors in writing this dissertation. Finally, I’d like to thank my former employer, Anne Marie Faustino, who supported me in flexible working hours and understanding the level of stress I was under throughout the program. She also took the time to listen to my thesis proposal and gave me constructive feedback on my arguments, to which I’m very grateful. Additional acknowledgments go to the donors who financed my fellowships throughout the past two years.