How Somaliland transitioned to stability sans direct aid, recognition

By Anna Patricia Valerio 31 August 2015

Men waiting in a queue hold up their voter’s identification cards during the 2010 presidential election in Somaliland. A self-declared state since 1991, it owes its stability largely to a peace process that was led and funded locally. Photo by: Teresa Krug / CC BY-NC

The dramatically divergent paths that Somalia and Somaliland took after a struggle led the latter to become a self-declared state in 1991 run counter to the conventional notions of the factors that drive successful peace processes and, perhaps more importantly, spur development actors to rethink the needs of post-conflict situations.

More than two decades after the collapse of the Somali central government, Somalia continues to be a major recipient of foreign aid. Official development assistance to Somalia amounted to $5.4 billion from 2003 to 2012, with the proportion of ODA given as humanitarian aid averaging 68 percent in the same period. According to Global Humanitarian Assistance, Somalia was the second-largest recipient of humanitarian aid in 2011, when humanitarian assistance to the country peaked at $1.1 billion.

On the other hand, Somaliland, which is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia, continues to be unable to receive direct foreign aid because of its lack of an official status as a sovereign state.

During its early years, Somaliland rejected international assistance, which the breakaway territory considered tied to the U.N. state-building project in Somalia. In an interview with author Rebecca Richards in “Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland,” Abdullahi Duale, Somaliland’s former minister of foreign affairs, recalled that he and other leaders in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, told Admiral Jonathan Howe, then the commander of the U.N. operations in Somalia, “Thank you, but we don’t need your help.”

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About the author

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Anna Patricia Valerio

Anna Patricia Valerio is a Manila-based development analyst focusing on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.

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