After almost two decades of conflict, Somalia is the world’s most fragile state1. There is no political stability; the central state is ineffective. Security and minimal basic services are provided, if at all, largely through informal community institutions. The political outlook is highly uncertain. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) remains under attack from Al Shabaab (al-Qaeda linked insurgents). It is not currently clear what will happen beyond the end of the current mandated transition in August 2011.
The causes of conflict in Somalia are complex. Somalia has known periods of stability and security in recent decades, and large parts of it remain relatively free of violence. But multiple levels of armed conflict and insecurity exist. These include localised communal clashes over resources, political clashes over control of the state, regional proxy involvement, and violence fuelled by global ideologies. The effects of the conflict are far-reaching. 1.4 million people are internally displaced, and 3.5 million (43% of the population) live on less than $1 a day2. The unemployment rate is above 47%3. Women and girls suffer the effects of instability and conflict disproportionately – a woman has a 1 in 10 risk of dying during her reproductive years4. Years of conflict, drought and flooding have caused a prolonged humanitarian crisis. 2.4 million people are estimated to be in need of emergency support5, and many more are vulnerable to further deterioration.
Instability in Somalia also has broader impacts. It presents risks to regional stability, including in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. It is the source of serious threats to the UK and other countries from terrorism, piracy and migration. Somalia is a priority country for the UK National Security Council (NSC). DFID’s work is a core element of the UK government strategy for Somalia, which recognises that the underlying causes of instability need to be addressed. DFID staff work as one team with the rest of the UK government to deliver the strategy.
Somalia is often thought of as three zones, with different characteristics. Semi-autonomous Puntland (about 2 million people) has governmental institutions of its own and a degree of stability, though no aspirations for independence. Like the rest of South-Central Somalia (about 3.5 million people) it continues to suffer from insecurity, criminality and the impact of piracy. Over 80%6 of Somalia’s humanitarian needs are in South-Central. Despite the absence of central government institutions, effective development programmes are possible, particularly where local government functions effectively. Meanwhile, the current signs in Somaliland (about 2 million people) are more positive. After a second successful Presidential election last year, and with relatively little violent conflict, the promising government there could – with the right help - continue progress which might help anchor stability for the rest of Somalia. Somaliland currently offers more opportunities for working with government. There is also a firmer basis for regulated economic development, including moving beyond the current heavy emphasis on the livestock sector. But Somalia as a whole has potential in services, notably telecoms, and for growth in fisheries and agriculture. GNP is estimated at around $200 per capita.
Conflict and insecurity present significant challenges to delivering aid, working with partners, and monitoring and evaluating results. DFID does not have staff based in Somalia. Our programme is managed from Nairobi, and access is extremely limited. We work mainly through a range of trusted UN and non-governmental implementing partners, who are able to operate on the ground across most of Somalia, and whose work is subject to rigorous scrutiny.
Somalia has had 14 peace processes over 20 years, which have failed to achieve peaceful agreement on who has the right to govern the country and how. A central insight of the UK strategy for Somalia is therefore that there is no military or political solution to Somalia’s instability that can be imposed by central government or the international community. A national peace process and a national government are necessary. But they must draw on and support, rather than threaten, effective local arrangements for stability and governance. Building on these areas of peaceful governance is key to promoting lasting stability in Somalia. There is currently a window of opportunity in Somaliland in particular to do so, but progress there alone will not create peace across the whole country.