Resisting or appropriating: two approaches in the study of aid, violent non-state actors, and governance
Introduction: how do violent non-state actors (VNSA) respond to aid organisations and their efforts in the area under their control?
Aid organisations have long been considered an important vehicle for the development of failed states1 and for countering insurgents’ and terrorists’ influence2 The organising logic of their intervention has been twofold. First, that development and aid strengthen weak governments, substantiating then- sovereignty and statehood. Second, by improving economic and social conditions, terrorist organisations' recruitment and support diminish, as people gam wealth that pushes them away from terrorist activities.3 This allows states to regain sovereignty over the region and its people. These two goals conflict with the agenda of violent non-state actors (VNSA), which benefit from conditions of limited statehood. VNSAs struggle to increase then- own governance as well as support from and recruitment of the local population, rather than bolstering the state’s sovereignty. Studies on this tension between aid organisations and local VNSAs have largely focused on the security aspects of the interaction, underscoring the threat VNSAs pose to aid workers.4 Yet, evidence from the field suggests a more complicated stoiy, since not all aid organisations operating in conflict and post-conflict settings are attacked. Moreover, there are numerous instances of collaboration between nongovernmental organisations (NGOs)5 and VNSAs.6
Addressing this disagreement between theory and evidence, in this chapter we intend to complement scholarship on the interaction between the two. We argue that both attacks on and collaboration with NGOs are part of the same paradigm that understands aid as another means of war. Focusing on resources and influence carried by aid organisations, VNSAs’ decisions to pick one approach over the other represent different strategies to utilise those resources and actors to achieve the same goal - to replace existing limited statehood with the VNSA’s own sovereignty. To exhibit our argument, we present a model of interaction between VNSAs and NGOs, using two illustrative case studies, with each highlighting a different strategy. The fust examines the Palestinian VNSA Hamas, focusing on its collaboration with and appropriation of NGOs. The second case looks at the
Somali-based VNSA, Al-Shabaab and its hostile interaction with international aid organisations.
Expanding on VNSAs’ relations with aid organisations is important for both theoretical and policy reasons. The theoretical contribution is explaining inconsistencies in VNSAs’ attitudes towards aid organisations, which in some cases corresponds to violent and hostile behaviour towards aid personnel,7 while in other instances we see different degrees of partnership between the two.8 Scholarship on VNSAs and NGOs has focused on the security aspect of relations, leaving other sides of the interaction for policy reports and practitioners. On the policy side, our model is relevant for practitioners and policy makers engaged in development projects in areas of limited statehood occupied by VNSAs. It offers a coherent logic for VNSA actions and can therefore better explain then intentions towards and expectations of NGOs in the field