Humanitarian Access Obstruction in Somalia: Externally Imposed and Self-Inflicted Dimensions

31 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2018 Last revised: 24 Nov 2018

See all articles by Emmanuel Tronc

Emmanuel Tronc

Harvard University - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Rob Grace

Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies; US Institute of Peace; Harvard Program on Negotiation

Anaïde Nahikian

Harvard University - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Date Written: November 14, 2018

Abstract

Access obstruction in conflict settings has emerged as a critical operational and policy concern across the humanitarian sector, but there remains a dearth of analysis regarding the ways in which humanitarian organizations perpetuate self-inflicted access obstacles. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with local and international actors negotiating frontline humanitarian access in Somalia, this paper will examine the ways in which this context elucidates this phenomenon. Toward this end, this paper examines two dimensions of humanitarian access obstruction in this context. The first set of dynamics consists of externally imposed obstacles that stem from governmental actors, Al-Shabaab, access "gatekeepers" motivated by financial gain, and the insecure nature of the environment. The second set of dynamics consists of self-inflicted dimensions of access obstruction that emanate from decisions that international humanitarian organizations (IHOs) have made at the strategic or policy level. These issues include the physical "bunkerization" of IHOs, programmatic shortcomings, the discounting of local humanitarian actors' agency, and the ways that IHOs exhibit programmatic partiality in response to donors' interests and counterterrorism legislation. Through examining these issues, this paper highlights fact that, although the discourse on humanitarian access obstruction tends to emphasize difficulties arising from externally imposed obstacles, it is also important to interrogate the value and methods of humanitarian programming itself.

Keywords: Somalia, Negotiation, Armed Conflict, Humanitarian, Humanitarian Assistance, Humanitarian Protection, Humanitarian Aid, International Humanitarian Law, IHL, Human Rights

Suggested Citation

Tronc, Emmanuel and Grace, Rob and Grace, Rob and Nahikian, Anaïde, Humanitarian Access Obstruction in Somalia: Externally Imposed and Self-Inflicted Dimensions (November 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3284256 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3284256

Emmanuel Tronc

Harvard University - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative ( email )

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action
14 Story Street, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Rob Grace (Contact Author)

Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies ( email )

280 Brook Street
Providence, RI 02906
United States

US Institute of Peace ( email )

2301 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

Harvard Program on Negotiation ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Anaïde Nahikian

Harvard University - Harvard Humanitarian Initiative ( email )

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action
14 Story Street, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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