Pro-Government Militias

In collaboration with Prof. Neil Mitchell at the University of Aberdeen, Prof. Carey is working on several projects on pro-government militias (PGMs). A pro-government militia is defined as a group that

  1. is identified by media sources as pro-government or sponsored by the government (national or sub-national),
  2. is identified as not part of the regular security forces,
  3. is armed and
  4. has some level of organisation.

More information about these projects can also be found on the PGM website.

PGM Dataset
Carey and Mitchell are currently completing a global dataset on pro-government militias. The dataset covers the time period from 1981 to 2007 across all countries. Once released, the online version of this dataset uses the PGM as unit of analysis. It provides information, among others, on the type and nature of the link to government, membership and target characteristics, purpose and size of the group and types of material support. Other datasets use the country-year as unit of analysis and capture the existence of the groups across time and space.

We use local, regional and international media sources via Nexis to identify PGMs, primarily relying on English language news sources from around the world from LexisNexis. The sources from Nexis include a wide range of sources including transcripts from local radio stations, national newspapers, BBC World Summaries of local news, and all major international newspapers.

This data collection effort has been funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and received further support from the Centre of the Study of Civil War (CSCW) at PRIO.

The PGM dataset is described in the working paper by Carey, Mitchell and Lowe, A New Database on Pro-Government Militias. An earlier version of this paper was presented ISA Convention in 2009.

Delegating Repression: Pro-Government Militias and Human Rights Violations
Working Paper by Neil Mitchell, Sabine Carey & Christopher Butler.

Over the past two decades, research has made great progress in identifying types of countries that are most at risk of human rights violations. Comparatively little research has addressed the question of who carries out the violations and how repression is organized. We develop a theoretical argument that explains how the choice of state agents influences human rights conditions in a country. We focus on one type of actor that has large been ignored in large-N research and ask: Does the presence of pro-government militias increase the risk of state repression? Building on the principal-agent model, we develop the logic of accountability and examine how delegating the use of violence to informal armed groups influences human rights violations. We argue that agency loss and the opportunity to evade accountability increase the risks of repression for civilian populations. The empirical analysis supports these expectations. Using our new global dataset of pro-government militias from 1981 to 2007, we show that the risk of repression increases when such groups are present. The results also indicate that pro-government armed groups differently affect different types of human rights violations depending on how closely the groups are linked to governments.

The Nature, Structure, and Environment of Pro-Government Militias: Examining Non-State Armed Groups in Peru, Spain, and the Former Yugoslavia
Working Paper by Sabine Carey, Bronia Flett & Neil Mitchell.

We examine the comparative advantages that informal armed groups might bring for governments and argue that there are general incentives to delegate the task of providing security or responding to insurgency to these groups independent of the state’s progress on the path to full sovereignty. We investigate the conditions under which PGMs organize and operate, treating their relationships to state formation and failure as questions for empirical investigation. We show that democratic and authoritarian governments choose to delegate authority to these groups, and that these groups form under diverse conditions. Governments calculate that some surrender of the monopoly of violence can make a net contribution to national security and the ability to respond to threats from other states, armed actors, insurgent or terrorist groups. The empirical analysis is drawn from the experience of three regionally and politically diverse cases: Spain, Peru, and the Former Yugoslavia.