What armed groups like Al-Shabaab and the Taliban think of aid agencies can mean the difference between gaining access to areas under their control to provide aid people in need – or being expelled from their territory.
Based on research and interviews with members of the Taliban and Al-Shabaab, this HPG policy brief explores how these armed groups perceive aid agencies and the implications on humanitarian response in those areas.
Aid agencies working in Afghanistan and Somalia have generally been treated with suspicion by Al-Shabaab and the Taliban. These suspicions derive from the belief that agencies are not primarily interested in helping local people, and are acting as spies or profiteers.
The potentially dangerous consequences of such negative perceptions underscore the importance of aid agencies repeatedly, clearly and consistently communicating their goals and values with all levels of these armed groups.
But it is not enough for aid agencies to simply claim to act impartially, neutrally and independently: they must also be seen to behave accordingly and deliver high-quality, needs-driven programming. Members of the Taliban have seen a lack of long term benefits to the community as proof that aid agencies have a ‘hidden agenda’