The monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea defines gatekeepers as: ‘Sophisticated networks of interference; organisations and individuals who position themselves to harness humanitarian assistance for their own personal or political advantage’. The term gatekeeper is used as a general reference to various levels of informal actors and power structures involved in the informal management of IDPs and the settlements in which they reside.
Through our study, we have found that this is in fact much more nuanced. The gatekeeper system involves a hierarchy of enablers. This hierarchy provides the power and influence necessary for the gatekeeper to retain his/her influence. A number of considerations to keep in mind with regard to gatekeepers:
• They are usually part of the local community in which an IDP settlement is located, and in some cases, they are themselves IDPs
• There are both male and female gatekeepers
• Their source of power and influence is derived from their ability to provide services to the IDPs and make agreements with clan leaders, authorities and local militia
• They do fill an important gap with regard to the management, service provision and protection of IDPs in a context where the government does not yet have the capacity to effectively take on this role. These services come at a cost (rent, garbage collection fee, security fee) to the IDPs, and these vary between camps. Due to the absence of a strong rule of law, a lack of services, high levels of insecurity, and a need to access humanitarian assistance, IDPs are heavily reliant on the services provided by the gatekeepers. Some gatekeepers abuse this and are exploitative and even abusive to the IDPs, while others perform this task as regular service providers