Humanitarian Negotiations with Al Shabaab

Somalia is one of the most dangerous environments in the world for aid workers and humanitarian organisations. A formidable obstacle to reaching people in need of humanitarian assistance is the militant group Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab’s sophisticated system for monitoring aid, the demands placed on aid agencies and the consequences of failed negotiations are revealed in this research.

Drawn from over 80 interviews with former Al-Shabaab officials, aid workers and civilians, this research details difficulties faced by aid agencies attempting to operate in Al-Shabaab controlled areas during the 2011 famine. Al-Shabaab’s Humanitarian Coordination Office forced aid agencies to complete registration forms and other documentation that laid out general conditions for access, with negotiations with the militant group also resulting in payments of registration fees (as much as $10,000). The consequences for breaking the rules were extreme: outright hostility, expulsions, attacks and harassment.

The joint report from the Humanitarian Policy Group of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS),  highlights the international community’s eagerness to respond to humanitarian crises – over a billion dollars were committed to humanitarian aid in Somalia – and the simultaneous obstacles put in place that prevent the delivery of this desperately needed aid.

Download the full report here