Three decades of violent conflict in Somalia have eroded institutional structures and severely strained the economy of this traditionally pastoralist society. Severe drought, clan disputes, corruption and al-Shabaab attacks all exacerbate the situation with regards to security and access to justice, jobs, healthcare, food and nutrition.
However, there are reasons for hope. In February 2017, Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo was elected president in a more inclusive process than in recent transitions. Work towards one-person-one-vote elections in 2020-21 must begin right away, but the path to democracy in Somalia will be gradual and challenging, especially given the large amount of territory that remains outside of formal government control.
Despite an ongoing drought, Somaliland remains peaceful and in November 2017 it elected a new president, Muse Bihi Abdi, in an election that was judged by domestic and international observers to be fair and representative– a major achievement given regional instability. Saferworld will continue engaging with civil society and government stakeholders for the completion of planned House of Representatives and local council elections in 2019 based on new laws promoting greater inclusion and representativeness through a fair regional allocation of parliamentary seats and new features such as a women’s quota.
Saferworld is playing a significant role in supporting democratisation and improving governance in both Somalia and Somaliland. Together with civil society organisations that provide crucial services that are usually the responsibility of the state, we help build better relations between the government and Somali citizens. Saferworld aims to strengthen the participation and influence of civil society in important policy and decision-making processes on peace, security and development. We helped establish and develop non-state actor* platforms in Somaliland (SONSAF), Puntland (PUNSAA) and South Central Somalia (SOCSENSA). These platforms offer a two-way channel for Somali people to connect and communicate with national and international policymakers – important for inclusive governance as citizens' voices are rarely heard. The platforms’ legitimacy stems from the inclusion of a diverse range of participants from many different sectors of society, and a consultative approach to policy-making.
Saferworld supports civil society organisations in overseeing democratic processes across Somalia and Somaliland. For example, in the lead-up to the Somaliland presidential election in 2017, Saferworld supported voter education on the voter registration process, built the capacity of the three political parties that contested the election, and trained and deployed 620 election observers. We will continue this work in advance of the upcoming parliamentary and local council elections in 2019, and have already begun assisting parliament in amending the House of Representatives election legislation.
Drawing on lessons from peace processes around the world, we also research and analyse conflict dynamics and how these might help or hurt potential peace agreements.
*Defined as: An individual or organisation that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state.