United Nations Somalia 1999 - Annual Report of the United Nations Resident Coordinator


  1. UN Accomplishments in 1999
    1.1 Introduction

The Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia prepared the present report in January 2000, with inputs from the UN Country Team (UNCT), i.e. UN agencies, programmes and offices serving Somalia:

  • the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS); headed by the UN Secretary General's Representative for Somalia.
  • the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);
  • the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF);
  • the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM);
  • the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);
  • the United Nations High-Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
  • the United Nations Educational; Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO);
  • the World Food Programme (WFP); and
  • the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The method used was to prepare a detailed outline of the report, annotated with specific instructions applicable to the special situation of Somalia, indicating the lead agency and contributors for each of the sections. Contributions were then collated and edited. The draft report was then circulated for review by UNCT prior to its finalisation and distribution.

Section 1 of the report is intended to provide an overview of what the UN System has accomplished in 1999. Section 2 relates to the management of the Resident Coordinator System. The Annexes provide useful, detailed information on key topics. The final annex of the report is the Framework for UN Engagement in Somalia developed jointly in December by heads of all the UNCT offices; it formed the basis for our UN reflected Somalia for 2000

1.2 Recent Political and Socio-Economic Trends and Their Implications

In the late 1930s the financial analyst David Dodd wrote that the four most dangerous words in the English language were: "This time it's different."

As on various occasions in the recent past, hope for peace remains high, despite the all too familiar pattern of clan conflict, robbery and violence. Current high hopes are founded on three main emerging changes. First is the slow but discernible change in the attitude of the international community towards Somalia. Both at the regional level and at the wider international level, efforts are intensifying to support a peace process. The Djibouti peace initiative launched by President Ismail Omar Guelleh, and the support the initiative is receiving from the United Nations Secretary-General, regional governments and governments of the developed world reflect a profound determination to make a peace process work this time.

Secondly, there is growing weariness throughout much of Somali society with the corrosive instability that pervades so much of the country's south and central regions. This is clearly linked to the increasingly profound disillusion with the so-called "warlords", and the emergence of myriad clan and local conclaves to seek some alternative to violence.

Between the peace efforts of the broader community and Somalia's seeming weariness and disillusion with its present fate, there is a third important factor in the present hope for peace. It is increasingly evident that there are now in the northwest ('Somaliland') and to a lesser extent in the northeast ('Puntland'), true opportunities for recovery and development. This emerging reality is sustained by what appears to be durable peace and stability. This northern tier of relative tranquillity and potential economic growth has been seen as an example, if not a source of envy, to many Somalis who continue to struggle for their physical survival in the south and central portions of the country.

Yet, that said, there are a number of emerging "islands of stability" in which rehabilitation and reconstruction activities are underway in the south and central regions. Such islands require support to foster peace and stability as much as the northern tier requires support to sustain peace and stability. In that sense, what has been labelled the "peace dividend" of international assistance needs to be seen not only as a reward for peace but also as a means to seed it.

In between these northern areas of stability and the "islands of stability" in central and southern Somalia, the impoverishment of the Somali people continues unabated, constituting what in any other country would be considered a national emergency. Most adults have inadequate health- and nutrition-related knowledge; this can result in inappropriate attitudes and practices that contribute to Somalia's unenviable position of having child and maternal mortality rates among the highest in the world, literacy rates and levels of formal education among the lowest in the world. It is no exaggeration to speak of a 'lost generation' of youth who should have been in school for the last ten years. The AIDS crisis is looming: a recent study conducted in collaboration between UNICEF and WHO in Somaliland revealed still low levels of HIV/AID prevalence at about 0.8 percent. However, very high STD prevalence levels (30% of women going for pre-natal visits) and the geographical context (neighbouring countries with high AIDS prevalence) are causes for great concern and seem to indicate that Somalia is at risk of a serious AIDS epidemic.

Supporting peace and stability in the North

It is evident that over the past year Somaliland, in the northwest, has been the symbol of hope throughout much of the war-torn country. It is important to note that so much of the reconstruction and development that has been in evidence during the recent period of peace and stability are due to the efforts of the people of that region. While the international community has frequently spoken of a "peace dividend", the reality is that the resources required to demonstrate a real bonus for stability has yet to be seen to any significant extent. That said, there is every indication that a small wave of international donor interest is building up, and if the impact of such resources is to be felt, there will be considerable demand for institutional capacity-building, and effective coordination and programmatic coherence amongst UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.

However, the fate of Somaliland will in the immediate future depend upon a far more regional perspective than assistance programmes have reflected in the past. Refugee reintegration is one obvious indication of the need for a more integrated approach to programming and project design and implementation. At the same time, the possibility of supporting an inter-state trade structure for the future has been opened up as a result of the likelihood of a major humanitarian food operation from Somaliland's port of Berbera into Ethiopia, and the implications of that operation's impact upon the trans-border infrastructure. And, while these prospects are real and possible, in the immediate future Somaliland will have to come to terms with an extraordinary amount of mines and unexploded ordinances that hinder developments both within the region and across the region's boundaries.

The northeastern area, known as the state of Puntland, has over the past year made a remarkable effort to promote stability and peace. For all intents and purposes that effort has succeeded. More so than its northwestern neighbour, Puntland's peace is fragile, dependent upon a delicate balance of forces that is complicated by a dedicated group of religious fundamentalists. Puntland's authorities are particularly concerned about law enforcement and the judiciary throughout the region. In addition, there is the persistent concern about Puntland's coastal waters, from which the assets of the Somali people are being exploited through unregulated fishing and dumping of waste. These are but two examples of how the authorities' lack of resources has left them open to international exploitation.

Response to the needs of Puntland has been slow. As a self-governing entity it is relatively new, and the international community has needed time to determine how best to support Puntland's needs. Even recognising this fact, the authorities are increasingly suspicious about the sincerity of the oft' announced peace dividend. While a surprising number of activities have been launched during 1999 by UN agencies and NGOs, these have not been sufficient to meet the urgency if not anxieties felt by the authorities to establish governmental structures and law-enforcement capacities.

No matter how determined the international community might be to support initiatives in the north-east, the possibility that Puntland and Somaliland might find themselves in violent conflict over two regions that divide them - Sool and Sanaag - diminishes donors' interest. To date, tensions over these two regions have resulted in more verbal posturing than military action. Both Somaliland and Puntland are aware that the two regions pose potential internal as well as inter-regional instability for each. The immediate challenge for Somaliland and Puntland is to find ways to ensure peace. For the humanitarian community, the challenge will be to find ways to provide assistance to Sool and Sanaag without exacerbating tensions between Somaliland and Puntland.

Promoting peace and stability in the South and Central Regions

There can be little doubt that persistent violence continues to be the factor most responsible for the humanitarian crises that affect hundreds of thousands of Somalis in central and southern areas of the country. Poor rains inevitably threaten livelihoods of many in the rural areas. However, clan conflicts compounded by growing banditry that in turn leads to bloodshed and mayhem all are far greater hazards to farmers and agro-pastoralists' efforts to provide themselves and the market places with food. Such violence also severely hampers efforts by the international community to deliver humanitarian assistance.

That said, there is a difference between the present and five years ago. A growing number of pockets of stability appear to be emerging in various parts of the south and central regions. These pockets of stability are fragile, prone to the vicissitudes of a society still in the midst of violent transition. And yet a combination of war-weariness, the weakening of warlords, the emergence of militia-backed sharia courts, new commercial and employment opportunities and piece-meal reconciliation efforts have increased stability in parts of northern Gedo and Bay and Bakool.

It will be important for these pockets of stability to be assisted to the extent possible, always bearing in mind that there is relatively little absorption capacity, very fragile institutional and authority structures and deep social wounds that can readily erupt into violent reactions.

The opportunities afforded the international community

Somalia continues to afford the international community various opportunities to assess its own role, responsibilities and approaches to societies caught in and emerging from violent transitions. One can point to two such opportunities as one anticipates the future.

The first is that the recent history of Somalia seems to point to the fact that there is discordance between the pace of Somali society and that of the international community. The institutional imperatives and target-oriented agendas of many in the international community all too often clash with the norms and traditions of the Somali society. Whether in the northwest, northeast, south or central areas of Somalia, greater attention will have to be given to reconciling this probable clash of cultures.

Secondly, there is the tremendous opportunity for all who are engaged in assisting Somalia to focus more upon regional solutions. Somalia and its neighbours in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf are in so many ways functionally, often ethnically and religiously and potentially economically inter-related and inter-dependent. The level of inter-dependence should be considered and developed carefully but positively. Be it refugee repatriation, the shipment of relief food from Berbera to Ethiopia, the expansion of short-term infrastructure projects into more enduring road networks or the more holistic development of inter-state trade and commercial linkages, the problems and more importantly the solutions of the Somali people need to be viewed in a broader, practical regional context. For example, a year ago, the ban on importing Somali goats and sheep by Gulf States was seriously afflicting the economy - and stability - throughout Somalia. The lifting of the ban brought substantial relief and renewed hope for continued economic growth based on livestock exports.

1.3 External Assistance to Somalia, and implications for UN System Cooperation

As shown in Annex 4, the Official Development Assistance to Somalia in 1999 was approximately US$64 million, a decrease of about one-third from the estimate of about US$90 million the previous year. Aid flows to Somalia are not well known nor easily quantified. The situation of Somalia, given that it has no central government and only fledgling regional authorities in some areas, is that data on financial flows in general, and aid flows in particular, are sketchy. The usual problems associated with obtaining a clear and accurate picture of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and other aid flows to any country are even more problematic for Somalia. The best single source for humanitarian aid to Somalia is maintained by the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.

In the sense of the term used in most developing countries, there is little 'development assistance' to Somalia, given the continuing absence of any recognised government. Nevertheless there are significant resource flows into Somalia, much of which can loosely be considered to have some positive impact on the stability and development of the country. Of course this excludes the illegal but significant and largely unknown flows of arms and other war materiel into Somalia.

In the first place it is important to recognise that the private sector is active throughout Somalia, and in some locations - especially the ports and major cities of the north - has created 'boom' economies, relative to the rest of Somalia (see Section 1.4F below). Growth in the size and diversity of the private sector reduces the need for external assistance because of gainful employment and because businessmen, in general, insist on a modicum of stability and governance. In the domestic economy of Somalia there is substantial trade in agricultural produce, and in livestock. The service industry, lead by telecommunications, is growing rapidly from a base of nearly zero a few years ago. Export trade is dominated by livestock: sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. The volume of livestock trade was severely reduced by the Saudi ban on livestock from the Horn, following the early-1998 outbreak of Rift Valley Fever; the ban was lifted around March 1999, allowing resumption of this important export.

External aid to Somalia is not well documented. Probably the major source of aid is remittances, sent by expatriate Somali wage earners, those millions of Somalis who make up the post-war "Somali diaspora". Some observers have guessed the volume of this aid to be on the order of $120 million per year.

Much of the rest of external aid to Somalia comes from ODA emanating directly from bilateral and multilateral donors, typically from their funds for emergency relief, and is channelled through UN Agencies, the foreign aid branches of the European Union, and NGOs. In addition, a significant amount of external aid comes from institutional sources such as the 'core' resources of UN agencies and funds from larger NGOs. In Annex 4 are tables presenting the best available estimates of these aid allocations.

1.4 Highlights of UN Collaborative Activities

Over the past five years, the United Nations and its agencies have emerged from the dark and acrimonious days of UNOSOM to a more empathetic relationship with the Somali people. This change is by no means universal or consistent. However, the mutual suspicions that underscored relations between both sides - broadly speaking - may have lessened. A greater willingness on both sides to listen and to some extent tolerate the perceived ploys of each other seems to have increased. To that extent, there is greater evidence that the people of Somalia may see a more "neutral", less hostile UN, a UN that is potentially supportive.

And yet it is increasingly clear to a growing number of Somalis that resources from the UN are decreasing. Those Somalis alert to international assistance trends fully know that the days are long since gone in which approximately 60% of Somalia's gross national product was official development assistance. The resource role of the UN system has altered dramatically.

That is not to say that resources for humanitarian assistance are not vigorously sought and substantially received. For example about $64 million was sought in the 1999 UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal, and about $43 million - 60 per cent - was received. In March, UN agencies and partner organisations warned that, as a result of a insufficient rainy season at the end of 1998 and the consequent poor harvest in February 1999, the humanitarian crisis was worsening in many areas of Somalia, mainly in the centre and south where rainfed agriculture is prevailing. Growing concern was expressed over the "increasingly critical humanitarian relief situation" in the country. An appeal for $9.6 million in urgent funding in order to respond to the emergency was launched. The United Nations continues to have a role and responsibility to provide emergency relief to those in need. The UN system, though, has still been able to meet the most urgent needs, all too often at the risk of its staff and with slim margin for activities that might go beyond mere survival.

More and more, beyond emergency assistance, the UN's activities are designed to be catalytic. The sort of large-scale physical and infrastructural support that one might have given to Somalia earlier in the decade is less available. While UN operational agencies continue to provide support mainly through non-governmental organisations for such activities as health care, agriculture, education and clean-water, the overall role of the UN is increasingly focussed on ways to get the Somali people to help themselves. Hence, training and various forms of capacity building reflect a UN role that is more and more advisory and empowering. For example in March 1999, a joint FAO/WHO statement confirmed that the risk of infection to both humans and animals from the Rift Valley Fever virus had been reduced to minimal or negligible proportions in countries of the Horn of Africa. Only then did Saudi Arabia lift its ban on livestock imports from Somalia, providing strong and long awaited relief to Somaliland and Puntland economies.

At the same time, the UN operational system is also engaged in supporting the peace process, not in terms of politics, but through social interventions which strengthen community institutions, promote gender sensitivity, foster reconciliation programmes and enhance awareness of the opportunities that exist in a broader international context. To support such efforts, greater attention is being given by the UN operational system to ways to use the Somali "nomadic diaspora" that is found in so many parts of the developed world. They are uniquely placed to help link the realised and potential entrepreneurial capacities of the Somali people with development planning and to relate the emerging telecommunications systems in Somalia to peace, education and capacity-building activities.

In all these efforts, the UN operational agencies are clearly aware that its own efforts need to be supported by a wider international community. For this reason, the UN operational agencies look towards ways that they can collaborate with NGO and donor partners more coherently through the Somali Aid Coordination Body. At the same time, the opportunities that Somalia offers as a potential template for assisting societies emerging out of violent transitions have to be better understood. It is for that reason that the UN system, through various activities such as donor tours of Somalia and other forms of public awareness initiatives, hope to share the opportunities that Somalia affords to the international community at large.


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