Foto: NTB Scanpix

Fragile states and violent entrepreneurs: conflict, climate, refugees (FRAGVENT)

2017 - 2021 (Completed) Project number: 22090-1
Research project
What forms of authority underpin, enable, and extend violent entrepreneurs in fragile states, and how do the combined effects of fragile states, conflict, and climate impact this?

The combined effects of fragile states, conflict, and climate change pose severe challenges to development and governance. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Sahel region. Understanding the conditions of fragility is therefore a precondition for responding to one of the most important challenges to development and human security today. FRAGVENT will contribute with knowledge needed to help tackle this challenge.

The project investigates how changes and breakdowns in neopatrimonial rules and networks in the Sahel have eroded state capacity, particularly in peripheral areas. These changes have opened up new spaces through which insurgents can seek local integration, via the establishment of various types of violent order. These violent entrepreneurs are armed actors possessing some degree of political agenda, which is acted out in tandem with different types of income-generating activities. They rule by force and violence, but they also distribute resources, provide some order, and offer protection for populations under their control. This project investigates the forms of authority that underpin, enable, and extend violent entrepreneurs' rule, and how different populations adapt.

FRAGVENT will produce and communicate knowledge crucial for national, regional, and international attempts to stabilize the Sahel; for the efforts of humanitarian and development actors; and for the broader goals of mitigating the negative effects of climate change and the migratory push factors in the Sahel. It will push forward research agendas related to armed actors and insurgencies in Africa; political economies of international interventions; and governance and African statehood.

Fieldwork is carried out on Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Libya.

The core team of FRAGVENT is Research Professor Morten Bøås (Project Leader, NUPI), Senior Researcher Kari Osland (NUPI), Research Professor Francesco Strazzari (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies), Research Fellow Luca Raineri (Sant’Anna) and Research Fellow Abdoul Wahab Cissé (Alliance pour Refounder la Gouvernance en Afrique).

Funding program

The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council through NORGLOBAL-2



The violence in Mali is getting bloodier, but religion is not necessarily at its root

April 8, 2019

The massacre of Fulani in central Mali on 23 March marks a grave, new turn in the conflict. How did we get here? NUPI researchers Natasja Rupesinghe and Morten Bøås provide insight into possible reasons.


Publication : Academic article

The Dangers of Disconnection: Oscillations in Political Violence on Lake Chad

  • Alessio Iocchi
Narrations on fragility and resilience in the Sahel paint a picture about the region’s inherent ungovernability that lead to consider an endless state- ...
Publication : Academic article

Explaining violence in Tillaberi: insurgetn appropiration of local Grievances

The Tillabéri region in Niger has quickly lapsed into a state of violence and come under the control of ‘violent entrepreneurs’ – that is, non-state armed ...
Publication : Academic article

Governance, fragility and insurgency in the Sahel: a hybrid order in the making

Once a region that rarely featured in debates about global security, the Sahel has become increasingly topical as it confronts the international community ...
Publication : Academic article

The Fragility Dilemma and Divergent Security Complexes in the Sahel

Despite an exponential increase in international resources devoted to the Sahel, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. This is largely ...
Publication : Popular scientific article

“Irregular” Migration and Divergent Understandings of Security in the Sahel

On 23 September 2020, the EU launched its new Pact on Migration and Asylum. In a refreshingly blunt press-release accompanying the Pact one could read: ...
Publication : NUPI Working Paper

Islamic Insurgents in the MENA Region. Global Threat or Regional Menace?

This working paper analyses a broad range of Islamic insurgents, spanning from the Sahel and North Africa to the Middle East, examining the threat that ...
Publication : Report

Chad’s Pivotal Role in the Regional Crisis

An analysis of Chad's regime role in the context of the military and humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin

Mali's Religious Leaders and the 2018 Presidential Elections

Mali is by constitution a secular state, but here as elsewhere in the Sahel the role of religious leaders is increasing both in the social and the political ...

To engage or not engage? Libyan Salafis and state institutions

At the beginning of the recent escalation of hostilities in Libya in April 2019, one of the key questions posed was what role, if any, quietist ...
Publication : ARTIKKEL

The Joint Force of the G5 Sahel: An Appropriate Response to Combat Terrorism?

The Joint Force of the Group of Five of the Sahel reflects the commitment of African states to cooperate to address common security challenges. Yet, little ...

Pathways to reconciliation in divided societies: Islamist groups in Lebanon and Mali

Why do some population groups choose to turn away from the state and opt for violence, while other groups that may be equally frustrated with the state ...
Publication : ANTOLOGI

Africa's Insurgents: Navigating an Evolving Landscape

Amid an array of shifting national, regional, and global forces, how have African insurgents managed to adapt and survive? And what differences and similarities ...

Project Manager

Africa  The Middle East and North Africa  Conflict  Migration  Insurgencies  Fragile states  Terrorism and extremism  Climate

Francesco Strazzari

Former employee

Alessio Iocchi

Senior Research Fellow


Luca Raineri, Research Fellow, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies

Abdoul W. Cissé, Alliance pour Refounder la Gouvernance en Afrique

Wed 2 Dec 2020
Time: 14:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: Microsoft Teams

WEBINAR: Launch of special issue of International Spectator

We are happy to promote the launch of a special issue of the "International Spectator" journal on Governance, Fragility and Insurgency in the Sahel: A Hybrid Political Order in the Making, guest edited by Morten Bøås and Francesco Strazzari.

Wed 12 Dec 2018
Time: 09:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Fragility, conflict and climate change in Mali and Sahel

The combined effects of fragile states, conflict, and climate change pose severe challenges to development and governance. What does this mean for Mali and the larger Sahel region?

Tue 9 Jan 2018
Time: 10:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: NUPI

Islamic Insurgents in the MENA Region - Global Threat or Regional Menace?

Three researchers affiliated with NUPI presents the main findings in their recent study on insurgents in the Middle East and North Africa region.