Capturing Group Alignments: Introducing the Government and Armed Actors Relations Dataset (GAARD)
Recent research has generated important new insights into the existence, behavior, and violent consequences of armed actors in civil wars. However, the lack of suitable information on actor relationships with the state means that studies have been forced to assume that armed groups are either pro-government or anti-government, and remain that way for the length of their existence. Both assumptions severely limit our understanding of the armed actors themselves, as well as the violent dynamics they produce. This article introduces the Government and Armed Actors Relations Dataset (GAARD), which provides detailed information on all major armed groups and their fluctuating alignment with the state between 1989 and 2007. GAARD identifies when armed groups fight with or against the government, and when they lack relationships with the government altogether. It further provides information on all changes in group alignments and documents when and how these occurred. We demonstrate that more than 25% of armed groups changed their alignments and showcase how this allows researchers to pursue original research on the drivers, dynamics, and outcomes of civil conflicts.