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Islamic humanitarianism? The evolving role of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in Somalia and beyond

Research reports

Written by Steven A Zyck, Eva Svoboda

Regional organisations are becoming increasingly involved in humanitarian action and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is no exception.

The OIC’s humanitarian response to the devastating famine in Somalia in 2011 was the organisation’s biggest and best-known relief operation to date. They engaged with diplomatic issues, funded programmes and provided aid, but their most notable role was in coordinating around 40 Islamic aid agencies and civil society organisations.

Al-Shabaab was a major challenge for all agencies seeking to gain access to territory controlled by the armed group. Many of the Islamic organisations, including those coordinated by the OIC, had greater access to Al-Shabaab territory – and the OIC is often credited with having enabled this access through its Islamic identity. This paper dispels this assumption, highlighting the role of local networks, good programming and reputation over or together with Islamic identity in negotiations with Al-Shabaab.

The report also examines other aspects of OIC’s engagement in the famine in Somalia, including funding and involvement of key member states, as well as future opportunities and challenges for OIC’s involvement in humanitarian action.

Eva Svoboda, Steven A Zyck, Daud Osman and Abdirashid Hashi