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Somalia: Al-Shabaab and the 2011-2012 Famine

Somalia: Al-Shabaab and the 2011-2012 Famine

The Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies published in December 2013 a paper titled “Talking to the Other Side: Humanitarian Negotiations with Al-Shabaab in Somalia” by Ashley Jackson, a research fellow at HPG, and Abdi Aynte, director of The Heritage Institute. The authors note that al-Shabaab did permit some humanitarian organizations to operate in al-Shabaab held territory during the 2011-2012 famine. Most negotiations that led to permission to operate took place at the local level between aid workers and representatives of al-Shabaab.

The authors conclude that the aid agencies faced an impossible choice: agree to al-Shabaab’s conditions, with the hope of providing badly needed assistance to civilians, or withdraw from areas it controlled. While the systems and procedures al-Shabaab put in place provided a measure of predictability and security for some, its conditions were extreme and posed a direct challenge to many of the principles aid agencies claimed to espouse.