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Proxy Warfare Project

Global and regional powers increasingly rely on state and non-state partners in the course of ongoing hostilities, particularly those occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. Research suggests that such support of armed proxies increases the risk of civilian casualties and protracted conflict. In response to these concerns, the ABA Center for Human Rights convened an Expert Working Group to examine whether gaps in the law have contributed to the adverse impacts of proxy warfare and make recommendations on how to reduce these risks.

Read the Four-Part Series in Just Security

Part 1 (May 11, 2020): Why No One Ever Wins a Proxy War

Part 2 (May 20, 2020):  How States Supporting Armed Proxies Can Reduce Civilian Casualties and Protracted Hostilities

Part 3 (May 27, 2020): How the U.N. Can Help Prevent the Spread of Proxy Conflicts

Part 4 (August 20 2020): House and Senate Chart Different Courses on US Clandestine Support of Foreign Militias

How States Supporting Armed Proxies Can Reduce Civilian Casualties and Protracted Hostilities
How States Supporting Armed Proxies Can Reduce Civilian Casualties and Protracted Hostilities

Related Articles and Reports

Lawfare (April 9, 2020): Time to Get a Handle on America's Conduct of Proxy Warfare

Letter to Chairman Pomper (April 14, 2014): Arms Exports to Countries with a Consistent Pattern of Gross Human Rights Abuses

Human Rights, Civilian Harm, and Arms Sales: A Primer on U.S. Law and Policy (2022)

White Paper on Means to Enhance End-Use Monitoring of Exports of Defense Articles and Services (March 2022)

Related Events

Improving Oversight and Transparency in U.S. Small Arms Trade
Friday, June 25, 2021 from 12:00-1:00 PM EDT | Virtual

Event Information | ​The Forum on the Arms Trade and the Network to Prevent Gun Violence in the Americas hosted the following panelists in a discussion that includes how to better apply existing law as well as measures the U.S. Executive Branch and Congress could adopt to address U.S. small arms export concerns.


  • Brittany Benowitz, Chief Counsel, American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights
  • John Lindsay-Poland, Coordinator, Project to Stop US Arms to Mexico
  • Jeff Abramson, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association and Director, Forum on the Arms Trade

Watch the Event Recording Below:

Emerging Practice in Effective Civilian Harm Mitigation
PoC Week Side Event to UNSC Open Debate on PoC
Thursday, May 27, 2021, Virtual

View the following Concept Note for list of speakers and event information.

On May 27, 2021, the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, in partnership with PAX, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights convened a public event, entitled “Emerging practice in effective civilian harm mitigation”. A diverse group of expert panelists explored emerging practice in civilian harm mitigation, ranging from partnered military coalitions to civilian protection. This event took place virtually as part of the “PoC Week” on the margins of the UN Security Council Open Debate on PoC. 

Forum on the Arms Trade's Annual Conference 2021: 
Advancing More Responsible Arms Trade Policy 
Tuesday, January 12, 2021, Virtual

: Arms Control Association, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy, and the Stimson Center

Panelists included
: Representatives Ilhan Omar and Ted Lieu, Radhya al-Mutawakel, Brittany Benowitz, Sarah Holewinski, Rose Jackson, Dan Mahanty, Rachel Stohl, Íñigo Arredondo Vera, and Sarah Leah Whitson

View the Conference on Youtube

View the Conference on Forum on the Arms Trade's website

Partnered Military Arrangements: A Virtual Roundtable
December 2020

Co-sponsored: The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

View the Event Summary on CIVIC's Webpage

Launch Event Details

On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, ABA CHR held a launch event for the Report, co-sponsored by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, the American Society for International Law, and the Stimson Center. The featured panelists were members of the Expert Working Group,

Stephen Tankel (moderator), Associate Professor at American University and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security;

Brittany Benowitz, Chief Counsel for the ABA's Center for Human Rights;

Linda Bishai, Adjunct professor at George Washington University;

Daniel Byman, Senior Associate Dean at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy; and

Rachel Stohl, Managing Director, Stimson Center.

Click to View the Photos from the Report Launch Event

Listen below to the launch event audio:

Read the Report 

Report on the Legal Framework Regulating Proxy Warfare (PDF)