Diaspora Humanitarianism in Complex Crises (D-Hum)


Start date: 1 July, 2019 End date: 30 June, 2024 Project type: Research collaboration projects in Danida priority countries (Window 1) Project code: 18-06-DIIS Countries: Kenya Somalia Somaliland Thematic areas: Humanitarian assistance and development, Lead institution: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Denmark Partner institutions: Rako Research and Communication Centre (RRCC), Somaliland Rift Valley Institute (RVI), Kenya University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Nauja Kleist Total grant: 11,999,970 DKK

Project summary

This research project explores how Somali diaspora groups mobilize, channel and deliver humanitarian assistance to Somalia during complex humanitarian crises. Based on fieldwork in Somalia, Kenya and Europe, it examines the movements of goods, people and ideas, from crisis-affected areas, hubs for humanitarian agencies and diaspora activities, to settlement countries.

Diaspora groups have emerged as key humanitarian actors in situations of protracted displacement and conflict. They are often the first to assist in acute emergencies and remain engaged during lengthy and complex crises. Their remittances reach remote areas and hard-to-reach populations, surpassing humanitarian aid sent to fragile states six times. Despite its significance for local populations, literature on diaspora humanitarianism is only starting to emerge and policy engagement remains hesitant. Analyzing and theorizing such assistance is therefore vital to understand the dynamics of humanitarian crises comprehensively. Somalia, is an exemplary case to study this, due to its history of conflict and massive displacement. Half of Somalia’s population is in acute need of assistance and connections with diaspora groups abroad constitute a lifeline for local populations. To examine diaspora humanitarianism in this context, the project researches hard-to-reach fieldsites and practices around humanitarian assistance, and may support efforts to close the gap between short-term relief and sustainable development. It also aims to enhance collaboration between international humanitarian agencies and diaspora actors. Theoretically, it develops the concept of humanitarian infrastructures to analyze material forms of transport, communication systems and technologies as well as the institutions and social networks that facilitate the movement of support. Finally, it will strengthen academia in the Horn of Africa and promote North-South and South-South research collaboration.


First-year report:

  • Recruitment of all PhD students and postdocs
  • Discussion of joint methodology and ongoing PhD online seminars
  • Seminar with Denmark-based stakeholders during the planning workshop, September 2019, Copenhagen.
  • Project launch of the D-Hum project at a public seminar at University of Nairobi, February 2020, with stakeholder participation in the audience.
  • Covid-19 selected as one of our joint case studies, March 2020. So far, we have written 2 co-authored DIIS comments and team members have contributed to 4 LSE blogposts, all on the implications of Covid-19 in the Somali context.
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