This thesis seeks to analyze whether, and how, parallel legal tools can contribute to increasing non-state armed groups (NSAGs) compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL). The initial parts of this study highlight how the changing nature of warfare has brought forth a number of challenges to the framework of IHL. It is argued that while the international laws guiding conduct in war remains state-centered, the practical reality is less and less centered on the state. In following, it puts forth that enhancing NSAGs compliance with IHL is viewed as one of the core challenges to strengthen protection of civilians in armed conflict. It is suggested that the mechanisms for implementing IHL have failed to keep up with the changing nature of warfare, and that NSAGs must be addressed directly to strengthen respect for IHL in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs). Thus, it is argued that of the instruments available, one of the most intriguing and innovative tools in the contemporary toolbox is the use of special agreements, or parallel legal tools on IHL.
A literature analysis on three levels has been conducted. First, research on treaty effectiveness and legal agreements from the field of international human rights law (IHRL) has been utilized. Second, a general, and a specific, analysis of NSAGs and commitment to parallel legal tools on IHL is put forth to extract what the status is on the effectiveness of this instrument. Third, a combination of the latter two approaches, as well as research on NSAGs and engagement efforts, shows that the value of parallel legal tools is largely dependent upon group characteristics. Ultimately, this thesis does not suggest that parallel legal tools have the potential to end all violations of IHL committed by NSAGs. What it suggests, however, is that parallel legal tools do have the ability to strengthen compliance with IHL for NSAGs that inhabit certain characteristics. While this is not ideal, it would be a chimera that increased compliance with IHL by NSAGs could be achieved through a universal solution. In sum, it is argued that engagement efforts through parallel legal tools have practical utility because they address the gap between the practical reality and the legal reality.