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International Research Consultancy - a study to understand the drivers of child recruitment by Al-Shabaab in Somalia

Mogadishu (Somalia)

  • Organization: UNICEF - United Nations Children’s Fund
  • Location: Mogadishu (Somalia)
  • Grade: Consultant - Contractors Agreement - Consultancy
  • Occupational Groups:
    • Children's rights (health and protection)
    • Administrative support
    • Scientist and Researcher
    • Logistics
    • Transport and Distribution
  • Closing Date: 2020-10-25

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The purpose of the study is to identify drivers of child recruitment by Al-Shabaab with a view to developing contextualised prevention interventions that can mitigate child recruitment.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential.

Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone.

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The protracted conflict in Somalia continues to expose children to extreme levels of violence impacting all aspects of their childhood. Children are routinely exposed to, and engaged in, armed conflict. Children have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups on all sides of the Somali conflict as combatants, spies, porters, cooks, etc. Girls are frequently taken as concubines of soldiers. The breakdown in law and order and degradation of protective community mechanisms further exacerbates the abuse, exploitation and neglect of children. As a consequence, Somalia's children routinely experience traumatic events (including death and injuries to loved ones), domestic violence, household poverty, closure (or absence) of schools and health centres, as well as forced marriage and labor. Furthermore, recurrent natural disasters including the current drought have worsened the situation placing greater stress on household and community structures already close to, or at, breaking point. Critically, UNICEF believes the breakdown in protective community structures and resultant poverty stretches the coping mechanisms of children and their families leading to voluntary, induced or forced recruitment of children into armed forces and groups.

The UN has documented a consistent pattern of child recruitment and other grave violations perpetrated against children by all parties. It is estimated that over 8,000 children were recruited by different armed forces and groups in Somalia since 2010. Sadly, the situation continues to deteriorate with trends showing a 400% increase in child recruitment by Al Shabaab (AS) over the past 5 years. Based on data collected through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations against children in 2018, an average of 191 children were recruited each month by all armed forces and groups combined, 2300 total over 12 months.

AS were responsible for more than 80% of child recruitment cases in 2018, recruiting 1865 out of the 2300 verified cases. On top of this worrying trend, avenues for engagement with the group to halt the practice and negotiate the release of children are limited due to security risks and legal barriers. Though there is broad evidence provided through the MRM mechanism on how AS recruits and uses children, our understanding on the tactics, methods and strategies used by AS to coerce families and children into joining remains limited. Outside of anecdotal reports, we have inadequate information on the push and pull factors for child recruitment. Anecdotal evidence also suggests the total number of children and young adults recruited is much higher than the figures collected through the MRM mechanism.

Somalia signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 2015. However, the country is yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which prohibits all recruitment - voluntary or compulsory - of children under 18 by armed groups. In addition, ILO Convention No.182 defines forced or compulsory recruitment of children under 18 for use in armed conflict as an extreme form of child labour to be eliminated as a matter of urgency. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) makes the conscription of children under the age of 15 a war crime, leading to individual criminal responsibility.

Somalia has signed an Action Plan in 2012 committing to the handing over of children found to be associated with armed forces or groups to UNICEF partners within 72 hours and Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the reception and handover of Children separated from armed groups are in place. The Action Plan is functioning effectively and, as a consequence, children identified within the Somali National Army, regional forces, clan militias, Somali police, children captured in active combat from AS or other forces, and those identified within the community, are reintegrated through competent partners of UNICEF. In 2018, more than 1000 children have entered reintegration programmes with our partners. However, no such agreement with AS is possible.

AS is one of the parties listed by the Secretary General in Somalia for recruiting and using children, killing and maiming and for Sexual violence. The group continues to remain on the list and is now categorized as one of the Persistent Violators.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of the study is to identify drivers of child recruitment by Al-Shabaab with a view to developing contextualized prevention interventions that can mitigate child recruitment.

Specific objectives

  1. AS actions "To understand the process and tactics employed by Al-Shabaab to recruit children (boys and girls).
  2. Community/Child recruitment "To identify the push and pull factors that lead to the recruitment of children by Al-Shabaab, at child, household and community levels including the decision -making process and different factors leading to recruitment (voluntary, induced and forced recruitment).
  3. Community/Child avoidance "To identify what strategies communities/children deploy to avoid child recruitment and their efficacy, particularly in inaccessible regions.
  4. Perceptions of child participation in conflict "To understand community perceptions of the military use of children (disaggregated by gender and age) in general and by armed groups, in particular AS.
  5. Reintegration "To identify the reintegration prospects of children formerly associated with AS, how are they perceived and treated in the community.
  6. Recommendations "To provide recommendations/strategies to prevent child recruitment by Al-Shabaab.

Scope of Study

The study on the drivers of AS recruitment will be limited to the Central South Region where AS is most active. The study Consultant/team will work with UNICEF, members of the MRM Country Taskforce, UNICEF partners, donors, the government of Somalia and other UN agencies to conduct the study. The study will focus on increasing our understanding on the drivers for recruitment of children by AS and what actions can be taken to prevent the recruitment and use of children by AS.

The UNICEF MRM work is conducted with partners at national and regional levels. We have a cohort of more than 1000 children currently receiving reintegration support by teams of experienced civil society social and community workers. The study will build on their personal experiences and the understanding of the issues relating to AS recruitment by those staff that are working with the children on a daily basis. The study will include consultations with key stakeholders from government, civil society and the UN in Somalia and provide recommendations on how to prevent child recruitment.


The exercise will employ a combination of the following methods and techniques including:

  1. Desk review of existing evidence on drivers of recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups in Somalia as well as comparable conflicts where child recruitment is high (Nigeria, South Sudan, etc).
  2. Stakeholders consultation workshop, focus-group discussions and in-depth individual interviews with boys and girls formerly associated with armed forces and groups, their families and community members, and religious leaders.
  3. In-depth individual interviews with community and social workers implementing the UNICEF supported reintegration programme of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups.
  4. Interviews with key stakeholders including federal and state officials, community and religious leaders, and security institutions (NISA, Police, SNA, etc.) as well as I/NGOs, relevant UN agencies and Country Task Force on MRM, CAAC Working Group members
  5. Review writing will be undertaken by the consultant/or consultants team in cooperation with relevant UNICEF and UNSOM staff in Somalia;
  6. Validation workshops with the MRM Technical taskforce and Country Taskforce to assess the feasibility of the proposed recommendations/strategies. Both meetings will be held separately, the Technical Taskforce meeting will be held first.

The following key questions will drive research inquiries:

  1. What are the push and pull factors that facilitate the recruitment of children by AS? How does a child's gender influence these factors?
  2. Were children forcibly recruited, induced or did they volunteer to join AS?
  • If they volunteered, why did they volunteer?
  • If they were induced, what was the inducement?
  • If they were forced, what was the nature of the threat?
  1. Did they join AS alone or with other children/adults?
  2. Are there demographic factors contributing to children being recruited into AS (education level, poverty status of their family, ethnic group, size of family, presence of parents, religious education, etc)?
  3. Have events in the child's life led them to becoming recruited by AS (adverse incidents, bullying, abuse at home, killing or maiming of loved ones, etc.)?
  4. Was their pressure on the child to join AS and by whom (what kind of pressure, by whom)?
  5. Did they themselves or their communities try to avoid recruitment? If so, what did they do, what strategies, do they know of other children who avoided recruitment or made a different decision? What was the outcome?
  6. What were their experiences in AS (were they abused, did they make friends, were they engaged in open combat etc)?
  7. Did they receive an income whilst in AS or any other form of inducement, did their family receive any inducements? Were threats made against the children or their families or wider community?
  8. What was their role in AS (combatant, porter, wife, cook, cleaner, spy, et


The Lead Consultant may work from her/his home for drafting, however must be present in Somalia for all primary interviews, FGDs with child respondents, government and CSO stakeholders. The Lead consultant must also be present for all preliminary induction and final reporting/validation workshops.

Guiding principles

UNICEF has strict protocols for research quality assurance and strong research ethics, particularly with respect to primary research conducted with vulnerable children. This will be a key consideration in this exercise given the sensitivity of the subject. The consultant or consultancy team will need to closely follow these procedures, which are captured in the following UNICEF research policies

  • UNICEF Research Policy CF/EXD/2016-003
  • UNICEF Procedure for Research Quality Assurance (CF/PD/DRP/2015-002)
  • UNICEF Procedure for Ethical Standards in Research, Evaluation, Data Collection and Analysis.

These policies will be made available to the consultant / consultancy teams as necessary. Moreover, as part of the process the consultant/consultancy team will be required to submit their study protocol, interview protocols and other data collection tools for review by an ethics Independent Review Board (IRB). This can be facilitated through global arrangements which UNICEF has established.


The below summarises responsibilities to be undertaken by the Consultant/s are as follows:

  • The Consultant will conduct the desk review, develop Study protocol and will conduct the interviews and focus discussions with key stakeholders, including the UN, The Country taskforce members, Children and UNICEF partners implementing reintegration programme.
  • The Consultant will use his/her personal computers to conduct the study. As part of the contractual agreement, the Consultant will be paid and will organize his/her own transport (locally and externally).
  • As needed, accommodation, food, travel, required inoculations and appropriate insurance of the Consultant. Life and health insurance is mandatory for all consultants engaged in the programme.

The below summarises responsibilities of UNICEF Somalia:

  • Selection and orientation of Consultant on the research study ToRs.
  • Establishment of a reference group for evaluation of contract deliverables. Preferably members of the MRM technical taskforce and the Friends of CAAC Working Group will be used as the reference group. The Consultant will respond to the Reference group through co-chairs of the MRM Technical Taskforce and the Friends of CAAC Working Group (UNICEF, Denmark & UNSOM).
  • Introduction of the Consultant to stakeholders, including national counterparts and other partners and coordination of stakeholders for meetings and interviews.
  • Organization of administrative and logistical support to the research team, including accompanying them on trips as relevant and facilitating access to UNICEF's facilities and the Mogadishu International Airport.
  • Review of reports for quality improvement and provision of detailed feedback to the Consultant.
  • Payment of Consultant.

Proposed Timeline & Deliverables


Key Tasks


Timeline (# days)


Detailed work-plan and methodology

Detailed work plan and methodology



Conduct desk review, including Somalia specific data as well as general data on child recruitment from other conflicts.

5-10 page review of existing literature on child recruitment in Somalia and global



Obtain Independent Ethics Review clearance for the work

Develop and submit ethics review protocols and receive clearance to proceed in the study.



In-country interviews and consultations with selected key stakeholders including NGO staff, relevant Government staff/institutions & UN partners.

Summary of interviews and consultations (number of interviews, with whom, when, key findings), short summary of findings.



Conduct focus group discussions and individual interviews with CAAFG, their parents and community representatives (i.e. youth and women’s groups leaders)

Summary of interviews and consultations (number of interviews, number of FGDs, where, challenges, short summary of findings.



Write up of findings and review of comments from the expert group preparation of presentation for key stakeholders

First draft report submitted



Conduct stakeholders consultations workshop of second draft

Presentation of draft report and findings at a multi-stakeholder workshop in Mogadishu.



Collate comments, feedback and other issues - produce final draft report for review and acceptance by the country taskforce.

Final research report that includes an executive summary, all key findings, key recommendations and relevant appendices



Article drafted for submission to academic journal (researcher must identify relevant journal) on key findings co-written with UNICEF Somalia

First draft submitted for peer review


Timeframe: 90 - 180 days


9 deliverables detailed above, culminating in a final report of publishable quality (UNICEF report and journal article) detailing the key drivers of child recruitment in Somalia, detailed explanation/discussion and evidence, key recommendations to protect children. Must include an executive summary and be approved by the country taskforce.

Structure of the Report:

The Final report for the study should include the following outline:

  • Executive Summary
  • Background/Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Limitations
  • Key findings of the Study addressing the key study objectives
  • Key recommendations
  • References

To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…

  • Given the sensitivity of the issue and the need to use local knowledge in conducting the study, it is planned to hire an International Consultant at a P-4 level, who has a strong understanding of the Somali context. Consultants may apply as a team with a suitably qualified local consultant to support with translation, establishing contacts and interpreting cultural and social dynamics.

  • The Lead Consultant and the local consultant must have advanced University degrees in Social Sciences/Human Rights or International Humanitarian Law.

  • They must have at least 8 years of work experience, including in research projects dealing with children, in particular children and armed conflict

  • Developing country work experience and/or familiarity with emergency is considered an asset.

  • Fluency in English is required. Knowledge of another official UN language (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish) or a local language is an asset.

For every Child, you demonstrate…

UNICEF's values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, and Accountability (CRITA) and core competencies in Communication, Working with People and Drive for Results.

The functional competencies required for this post are...

  • Builds and maintains partnerships,
  • Demonstrates self-awareness and ethical awareness, 
  • Innovates and embraces change,
  • Drive to achieve results for impact, 
  • Manages ambiguity and complexity, 
  • Thinks and acts strategically,
  • Works collaboratively with others, and 
  • Nurtures, leads, and manages people*.

View our competency framework at UNICEF Competencies

UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of the organization.

UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles and will therefore undergo rigorous reference and background checks. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check.


  • Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process.
  • Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures, and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.
  • UNICEF only considers higher educational qualifications obtained from an institution accredited/recognized in the World Higher Education Database (WHED), a list updated by the International Association of Universities (IAU) / United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The list can be accessed at and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.


We do our best to provide you the most accurate info, but closing dates may be wrong on our site. Please check on the recruiting organization's page for the exact info. Candidates are responsible for complying with deadlines and are encouraged to submit applications well ahead.
Before applying, please make sure that you have read the requirements for the position and that you qualify.
Applications from non-qualifying applicants will most likely be discarded by the recruiting manager.

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