Somalia’s year of delivery

Somalia is now a fragile state on the path to stability and eventual prosperity.

With the help of many international bodies, Somalia made great strides in 2014, writes Kay [Reuters]

“Somalia” and “success” are not words often found in the same sentence. But as we look back on 2014 and forward to 2015, it is time for us all to catch up with reality; Somalia is succeeding in recovering from decades of internal conflict. From a failed state, it is now a fragile state on the path to stability and eventual prosperity.

I am not blind to the challenges and risks. I have lived and worked in Mogadishu since June 2013. I have witnessed Somalia’s difficult march towards better governance and stability. I have heard, seen and felt the impact of the bombs and callous terrorist attacks. I have evacuated the dead and comforted the grieving.

Despite the challenges, Somalia has made impressive strides in 2014. Somalis have led the process, but much of this could not have been achieved without a strong international partnership.

I am the first to acknowledge the enormous contribution and sacrifice made by the African Union and its mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The European Union, too, has had a key role in supporting AMISOM and in multiple other ways. The Intergovernmental Authorities on Development – IGAD‘s political facilitation has been vital. And major states outside the EU, such as the US, Turkey and the UAE – to name but a few – have played a significant part.

Success in Somalia

But I would like to zero in on the role of the UN, which is often misunderstood. Some of our work is visible at first glance, other activities can only be seen when one takes a look behind the scenes. The UN is the largest international entity present in Somalia.

In what is often termed one of the world’s most dangerous places, the UN is now in more areas and with more people than at any time since 1996. Every day we have, on average, 450 international staff across Somalia and 1,000 Somali staff.

Our presence across Somalia, beyond Mogadishu, means we are able to provide vital political, logistical, humanitarian and development support nationwide.

People & Power – Rebuilding Somalia

Somalia is a hard place to work and the needs are enormous, but the UN can be proud of its contribution. In 2014 the UN improved the lives of millions of Somalis in very practical ways. 

Every day more than a million Somalis received life-saving food and livelihood support; including 180,000 severely malnourished children under the age of five.

In 2014, there were 2.8 million vaccines administered to immunise children against polio and measles while 40,000 children attended school for the first time ever.

Aiding the farmers, around 24 million livestock were vaccinated or provided veterinary care.

The year also showed 17,000 national army and police registered for a new biometrical payment system while short-term employment was created for over 400,000 men and women altogether and 300 members of the Somali diaspora were employed in senior, technical positions.

Last, but not least, 500 refugees were voluntarily resettled in Somalia from Kenya (the first such reversal of the outward flow since 1991). 

Somalia’s development and future depends upon security. In 2014, the UN supported the world’s largest mandated peace operation; the 22,126 troops and police in AMISOM were sustained logistically by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) in what is truly one of the world’s most complex, challenging and cost-effective peace enforcement operations.

UNSOA now also gives logistic support to nearly 8,000 Somali National Army (SNA) forces. This combined effort has allowed the federal government and AMISOM to recover nearly 20 towns and strategic locations from al-Shabab fighters. This year also saw the most dramatic expansion of state authority in Somalia for decades; it was the year the balance tipped decisively against al-Shabab and in favour of eventual peace firmly rooted in a culture of rule of law.

Building peace

In 2014 Somalia took big steps towards becoming a strong, united federal state. Somalia’s Provisional Federal Constitution sets an ambitious agenda for creating federal member states, agreeing to a new constitution and democratising the country.

Progress may be behind schedule, but such transformations cannot be engineered from the outside, and they cannot be achieved overnight. The UN has lent significant political and technical support to these processes and in 2014, a new and emerging federal member state was established in Baidoa, known as the Interim South West Administration, while a process for the central regions was launched.

Somalia needs to complete its ambitious task of political engineering and recreate itself as a federal state with powers, revenues and resources shared between the centre and the emerging federal member states.

As we start 2015, a new government is being formed in Mogadishu under Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. Its “to do list” is daunting. But the UN and many friends are at hand to assist.

Somalia needs to complete its ambitious task of political engineering and recreate itself as a federal state with powers, revenues and resources shared between the centre and the emerging federal member states.

The government, in partnership with the international community, must strengthen Somali institutions and systems for financial accountability to restore public confidence.

This must also be the year of delivery of the New Deal Somali Compact – programmes to build peace and the state should be coordinated, funded and launched.

Somalis will judge their government when its term expires in September 2016 according to whether it has delivered benefits for them in their daily lives – improved security, justice, schools, healthcare and jobs.

The UN will also be held accountable. As a linchpin for AMISOM and Somali peace operations and as the most present international organisation on the ground, the UN is the face of the international community’s commitment to Somalia.

I am determined in 2015 that, as the UN, we shall hold our nerve, expand our presence and continue to help Somalis wake gently from their two decade-long nightmare.

Nicholas Kay is the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia, a position he has held since June 2013. Prior to that, Mr Kay served at the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, holding a number of positions including Africa Director, Ambassador to Sudan.