In Somalia’s transition, foreign aid remains key

U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga and Norway's Minister of International Development Erik Solheim. The 22nd International Contact Group on Somalia meeting was held under Mahiga's chairmanship, along with ICG co-chairs Norway and the United States. Photo by: Odd Magne Ruud / Utenriksdepartementet / CC BY-ND

Somalia’s future after transitional governing arrangements end Aug. 20 is uncertain. Clear is: The country needs financial resources to fund not only its short-term security needs, but long-term recovery and development programs as well. More importantly, a post-transition agenda needs to be defined soon.

There is agreement within the international community on priority areas for engagement in Somalia: help the country reconcile, build institutions and infrastructure, boost the justice system and ultimately, make the country more resilient to droughts, political turmoil and other challenges.

In a policy paper submitted to the International Contact Group, whose members gathered July 2-3 in Rome, the U.N. Country Team in Somalia stressed the need to identify sustainable funding for the justice system. This is not only to address criminal justice, but also other aspects such as “land law, property rights, family law and restorative justice [that] have so far been neglected.” ICG also highlighted the importance of gender-responsive policing, improving and expanding ways women and vulnerable groups can seek justice, and maintaining a dialogue with Somali civil society.

A focus on reconciliation

Reconciliation has been a focus for Somali authorities and their international partners. Implemented between 2006 and 2008, the District-based Peace Building and Reconciliation Project has been put forth as one that could inspire future programs in the area. Designed by the transitional government and funded by Italy and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the project facilitated reconciliation meetings at the district and regional levels.

The United States has committed $25 million in community-level stabilization and development assistance for fiscal 2012. The U.K. Department for International Development plans to spend roughly £69 million ($106.9 million) each year until 2015 in Somalia. In May, the two announced they will invest $9.5 million to implement the Mogadishu security and stabilization plan, set up with the help of the United Nations to promote “district-level consensus building through the development of district-level, quick-impact projects.” Donors have been slow to fund the plan since its first draft in 2005.

In Rome, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali highlighted another program as exemplary: the U.S. Transition Initiatives for Stabilization in Somalia, a small grants program implemented by DAI and the International Organization for Migration that is meant to build trust between government, civil society and the private sector.

Security gains and gaps

Security has been steadily improving in Mogadishu and other parts of the country, ICG delegates claimed in Rome. This, they said, is an opportunity to provide food, water, health care and livelihood to areas previously under al-Shabab control.

Somali leaders echoed the calls for aid to areas previously controlled by al-Shabab.

Security concerns and a lack of access to some parts of the country, however, remain the major impediments to the effective delivery of humanitarian aid.

For the international community, that means security, counterterrorism and anti-piracy efforts will remain top priorities, including the training of Somali police force. Italy, for instance, has “earmarked” an additional €1 million ($1.25 million) as bilateral support. This is on top of the €17 million the country has provided since 2007.

“Italy has been making an important effort and — together with the U.S. — has financially supported more than 10,000 servicemen,” Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata said, adding that the country has allocated a further €2.6 million for the servicemen.

From humanitarian needs to resilience

Norway, which co-chaired the conference along with the United States, says it is ready to strengthen its cooperation with Somalia after the transition. The United States, meanwhile, provided roughly $1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa in 2011 and 2012, of which more than $300 million was allotted for Somalia.

Such assistance is vital especially with deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the country, particularly in the south, where many areas are still under the control of al-Shabab. While conditions aren’t expected to regress to 2011 levels, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said roughly 3.4 million Somalis in the region will need humanitarian aid over the next six months.

The United Nations, meanwhile, hope to reduce the number of food-insecure Somalis from 4 million to 2.51 million, according to its midyear report on the Consolidated Appeals Process for Somalia. For the rest of the year, “populations living in humanitarian emergency and crisis will be targeted with life-saving assistance and livelihoods stabilization activities,” the report states.

Integrating life-saving assistance with resilience-building activities is perhaps one of Somalia’s greatest challenges.

“Somalia needs development and resilience to avoid the shocks of future droughts and we encourage the [Transitional Federal Government] to share their plan on this,” a Norwegian ICG delegate said.

Accountability and transparency

Donors have been looking for ways to pool resources and better coordinate their activities. It was a theme at the the London Conference on Somalia in February as well as a meeting in Istanbul this May. The issue was front and center last week in Rome as well.

In London, a Joint Financial Management Board was established to increase mutual accountability and transparency on how funds are spent, and to maximize the productive use of Somalia’s revenue and external development assistance.

In Rome, ICG again called for the creation of a mutual accountability board to improve mutual financial transparency and accountability, and to combat corruption.

Transition, then what?

Last September, world leaders agreed on an Aug. 20 deadline for Somalia to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. But many steps on the international roadmap for Somalia’s transition have yet to be completed.

A draft constitution was approved in Nairobi, Kenya, last month. In the next few weeks, members of the National Constituent Assembly will be selected, followed by the establishment of the new Federal Parliament.

It’s too early to tell what Somalia’s next government will look like. Still, ICG delegates already urged the incoming administration to, within 60 days of formation, “set out its priorities and associated resource requirements with a view to securing international support.”

If all goes well, more donor money may flow to Somalia. In Rome and elsewhere, ideas have been floated to establish a post-transition multidonor trust fund and to push “large-scale multi-year funding for infrastructure projects, state-building and uninterrupted delivery of basic services.”

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About the author

  • Elena L. Pasquini

    Elena Pasquini covers the development work of the European Union as well as various U.N. food and agricultural agencies for Devex News. Based in Rome, she also reports on Italy's aid reforms and attends the European Development Days and other events across Europe. She has interviewed top international development officials, including European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. Elena has contributed to Italian and international magazines, newspapers and news portals since 1995.