Efforts that focus on making people less vulnerable to shocks by building their resilience have long been viewed as a way to link emergency response and long-term development aid. These linkages which address the root causes of a crisis are particularly critical for sustaining life in a protracted emergency like Somalia.
So, it was fitting that on 30 January 2018, the Resilience and Recovery Framework (RRF) was launched in tandem with the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Somalia.
The framework will not only provide medium to long-term options to finance and implement recovery interventions, it will also define policies and institutional arrangements needed to support ways to make people resilient.
This joined-up approach is the realization of a central theme of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the directive of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for ‘A New Way of Working’ between humanitarians and development actors.
However, the road to more joined-up planning in Somalia didn’t start in 2018.
Shortly before my arrival in Mogadishu as the head of office for OCHA Somalia in May 2012, Somalia had emerged from a famine in the southern and central parts of the country, which had killed an estimated 258,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis had sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya; and people remained extremely vulnerable. Efforts to help people were hampered by severe access constraints and the limited capacity at the then newly formed federal government. However, even during the Transitional Government of Somalia’s tenure (which ended with the election of Hassan Sheik Mahmud in September 2012 and led to the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia), the concept of enhancing resilience to foster recovery was already being explored by Somali actors and international partners.
The intention to implement programmes that built people’s resilience was reflected in the three-year US$ 4 billion Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) produced by the humanitarian system, which was supported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The 2013-2015 Somalia CAP, was one of the first multi-year humanitarian planning processes in the world. It was launched in Mogadishu on 4 December 2012 by the new Minister of Interior, Abdikarem Guled, for the newly installed Federal Government.
While the overall requirement was massive, it was based on assessed needs and not on expected financial contributions, which fell far short of what was requested.
However, it wasn’t just the lack of resources that limited the extent to which the plan addressed root causes and in ending need. The focus on household level resilience embraced by the UN and the NGO consortia was intended to increase the ability of people to withstand shocks such as the current protracted drought that Somalia faces before eventually falling into crisis. The efforts at least in some part, successful. This did not however mitigate the impact of the shocks, whose frequency and severity have only increased as the world’s climate changes. Some of the effects of severe climate-related shocks can only be addressed through long-term development efforts such as making infrastructure more resilient. These include large-scale water management and conservation schemes; making choices to invest in drought-resilient agriculture and livestock production to support livelihoods; and finding durable solutions for the internally displaced.
But before we condemn the approach taken in 2012 and subsequent years, it’s essential to understand that the type of activities that could bring about more robust resilience are only possible in a stable and secure environment with coherent governance, which was not the reality in those days.
Since then, security and governance has improved (while still underdeveloped and in some areas wholly inadequate); and now the New Way of Working has a chance to work.
The fact that Somali authorities, diaspora, civil society and the private sector, with the support of international partners backed by unprecedented financial support from donors of $1.3 billion, could avert a likely famine in 2017 is partially attributable to the broader footprint and better working environment that exists today compared to 2011. In 2017, there was massive displacement, but it was almost exclusively internal and localized within dozens of kilometers from people’s place of origin and not the several-hundred-kilometer walk which took so many lives in 2011 and 2012.
Now that the RRF and HRP have been launched and the senior officials from various office headquarters who came to mark the day have departed, the question remains whether the reality on the ground will match the rhetoric? Will humanitarian and developments actors in coordination and cooperation with Somali authorities at all levels of Government continue to adopt this new way of thinking? This is essential to help shed entrenched positions and siloed ways of doing business to match the New Way of Working and to realize the promise of moving past cycles of crisis and response to achieve collective outcomes.
by: Justin Brady, OCHA Somalia Head of Office
How Somalia’s charcoal trade is fuelling the Acacia’s demise
The Acacia bussei, a slow-growing hardwood, has long been the backbone of Somalia’s multimillion-dollar trade in charcoal.
For decades, the country struggled to implement a 1969 ban on charcoal and firewood exports. The gradual erosion of state institutions, which resulted in complete lawlessness and an outbreak of a full-fledged civil war in 1991, only further undermined the initiative.
The production and export of charcoal – an economic activity that dates to pre-colonial times – has long served to meet local and regional energy requirements as well as provide livelihoods opportunities for many families.
However, with the protracted conflict, weak law and order, vague rules over resource ownership, and a lack of alternative sources of energy and livelihoods, the last few decades have seen an increase in unsustainable charcoal production.
Consequently, the trade in charcoal has accelerated threats such as environmental degradation and conflict over the control of resultant revenue. Despite a 2012 UN Security Council ban on importing Somalia’s charcoal, the trade has continued apace: the market value of the exported commodity was estimated to be more than $250 million dollars over the two years following the ban.
Why should the environmental community care about the threat posed by charcoal?
A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization, in conjunction with the Somalia Water and Land Information System, estimated that there is a 5 per cent annual decline in the Acacia bussei due to felling. In 1996, the War-Torn Societies Project reported that northeastern Somalia was producing approximately 4.8 million sacks of charcoal annually. Such a volume would require the logging of nearly 2.1 million Acacia trees.
Consequently, with the deforestation and lack of replanting, the Acacia bussei was placed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.
For years, this evergreen, drought-tolerant indigenous tree has provided feedstock to pastoralists and helped them stay resilient to droughts. But with increased demands for charcoal, the Acacia bussei is becoming an impractical source of fodder. This has jeopardized the livelihoods of many pastoralists.
The losses due to such recurring droughts will only increase in the future: In a global ranking of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, Somalia ranked 7th out of 233 countries and regions.
Following the Security Council ban, in 2016 various UN agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UN Environment, launched an initiative to promote international cooperation in support of the ban.
The initiative, the UN Joint Programme for Sustainable Charcoal Reduction and Alternative Livelihoods, notes that due to the absence of an effective government, the country lacks adequate natural resource management and enforcement mechanisms. It calls for an in-depth assessment of its institutional capacity to address environmental degradation.
“Overcoming the challenges charcoal poses to the environment requires strengthening of institutions and the provision of alternative and sustainable livelihood opportunities. Natural resource-sharing and management mechanisms should be implemented in partnership with the Government of Somalia,” said Saidou Hamani, the coordinator of UN Environment’s work on resilience to disasters and conflicts in Africa.
With the prevalent political instability, influential traders and militia groups – who do not engage in the charcoal production process – have infiltrated the charcoal distribution chain to extort income.
The value of the revenue has also been acknowledged by the Al-Shabaab extremists, who earn millions from this “black gold” and offer protection to export companies that are owned by the group’s ideological affiliates.
However, recent advances of the African Union Mission in Somalia troops, Kenyan, Ethiopian and Somali forces, have led to the recovery of territory from the Al-Shabaab group and appear to have halted the trade.
“Somalia has a huge opportunity to diversify its energy sources through reduction of reliance on charcoal and firewood in favour of alternatives like wind, solar, liquefied petroleum gas, biogas, hydro and high-efficiency thermal generation and distribution systems,” said Hamani.
Despite possessing untapped reserves of numerous natural resources such as uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt and natural gas, Somalia’s energy sector remains grossly under-developed. Organic plant and animal material provide over 95 per cent of primary energy for households either as firewood or charcoal.
The UN agencies hope to exploit the huge opportunity to div
Contact Oli Brown
UAE is using local instability to sow discord in Somalia
Tensions between Somalia’s Federal Government (FGS) and Somaliland’s government have come to a head over a tripartite revenue-sharing agreement among the Republic of Somaliland, the Dubai-based company DP World, and the Ethiopian government, based on DP World’s management of a port in Berbera. (more…)
Civil strife in Ethiopia has the potential to destabilise the whole region
Ethiopia is experiencing ethnic and political tensions that could have far-reaching implications for its neighbors in the Horn of Africa, and beyond.
The Horn of Africa is among the most congested, eventful, and most volatile geopolitical intersections on earth. It is where the West meets the East in a highly competitive game of strategic positioning for economic or hegemonic advantage.
China and Turkey who, more or less, employ similar soft-power strategies have tangible investments in various countries in the region, including Ethiopia. However, the widespread discontent with Ethiopia’s repressive impulses and its ethnic favoritism that led to a particular ethnic minority (Tigray) to exclusively operate the state apparatus has inspired Arab Spring-like mass protests. These protests have caused serious rancor within the ruling party. It is only a matter of time before this haemorrhaging government might collapse.
So, who is likely to gain or lose from this imminent shockwave in the region’s balance of power?
The Nile Tsunami
Ethiopia — a country previously considered as a stable regional hegemon, a robust emerging market, and a reliable counter-terrorism partner — is on the verge of meltdown, if not long-term civil strife.
Today, the Ethiopian government is caught between two serious challenges of domestic and foreign nature: the Oromo/Amhara mass protests tacitly supported by the West, and the water rights conflict with Egypt, Sudan and Somalia.
Ethiopia is claiming the lion’s share on the Nile that runs through it and other rivers that flow from its highlands for the Grand Renaissance Dam – thus presenting existential threats to the connected nations.
For the third time in three years, the Shabelle River has dried up, putting millions of Somalis at risk of starvation.
But the current government is not ready for a substantive change of guard. The longer the mass protests continue and the minority-led government continues to offer artificial or symbolic gestures of prisoner releases — while declaring a second ‘state of emergency’ in two years— the faster Ethiopia will become destabilised and the faster foreign investments will fizzle away.
Worse — though seemingly unthinkable — the ‘favorite nation’ status granted to Ethiopia after becoming the US’ main partner in the global ‘War on Terroris’ is slowly corroding.
Despite this week’s visit from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the US State Department is gradually turning its back on Ethiopia for a number of reasons; chief among them, is its double-dealings on the South Sudan issue.
Despite the facade of US/China collaboration to end the South Sudan civil war, the geopolitical rivalry between these two giants has been pressuring Ethiopia to pledge exclusive allegiance to one over the other.
With China’s huge investments on Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan’s oil fields – making a choice won’t be too difficult.
The Kenya Factor
Several years ago I wrote an article arguing that the two most stable nations in the Horn (Kenya and Ethiopia) will become more unstable as Somalia becomes more stable.
Today, the Ethiopian government is facing the most serious threat since it took power by the barrel of the gun, and Kenya has a highly polarised population and two presidents ‘elected’ along clan lines.
Kenya — the nerve center of the international humanitarian industry — could just be one major incident away from inter-clan combustion.
The Somalia Factor
The Ethiopian government has launched a clandestine campaign of strategic disinformation intended to fracture or breakup opposition coalitions and recruit or lure potential comrades.
Ethiopian intelligence officers and members of the diplomatic corps together with some ethnic-Somali Ethiopians have been recruiting naive Somali government officials, intellectuals and activists with a Machiavellian disinformation campaign.
Meanwhile, IGAD — Ethiopia’s regional camouflage — calls for an open-borders agreement between member states. Despite broad-based public perception that for a fragile state like Somalia, such an agreement would be tantamount to annexation, some Somali politicians are eagerly carrying its banner.
These kinds of desperate campaigns and the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn only underscore the fact that the government’s days are numbered.
The Sudan Factor
Sudan is caught in a loyalty triangle (Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey) with competing powers. Sudan needs Egypt to address threats faced by the two nations regarding the diminishing access to the Nile by reasserting rights granted through the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty.
It needs Ethiopia to protect China’s economic partnership and to shield President Omar al Bashir from Western harassment through IGAD.
It also needs Turkey for development and for a long-term strategic partnership. Sudan has become the second country in Africa to grant Turkey a military base, with Somalia being the first.
The Eritrea Factor
When neocons dominated US foreign policy and the global ‘War on Terror’ was the order of all orders, Eritrea was slapped with sanctions. It was accused of being the primary funder and weapons supplier to al Shabab.
Today, though neither the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia or Eritrea nor any expert free from Ethiopian influence holds such a view, yet the sanctions have not been lifted.
The Ethiopian lobby and certain influential elements within US foreign policy-making circles continue to label Eritrea as a Marxist rogue state that undermines regional institutions such as IGAD and international ones like the UN Security Council; a closed society that espouses a deep rooted hatred towards the West.
Against that backdrop, the UAE has been investing heavily in Eritrea since 2015 or the beginning of the Yemen war that has created one of the the worst humanitarian disasters. The Emirati military (and its Academi/Blackwater shadow) now operates from a military base in Assab. Whether that’s a Trojan Horse or not, is a different discussion altogether.
Ins And Outs
The current wave of discontent against the Ethiopian government is likely to continue. But, considering how the Tigray has a total control on all levers of power, a transition of power will not be an easy process.
Ethiopia is also rumoured to have created an ethnically Somali counterinsurgency force in the Liyu Police. This ruthless force has already been used against the Oromos as they were used against Somalis of various regions that share a border with Ethiopia.
The extrajudicial killings and human rights violations are well documented. Despite all this, the Oromo and Amhara are set to reach their objectives albeit with bruised and bloody faces.
Will their coalition remain or, due to their historical distrust, will each eventually invoke its constitutional right to secede?
Whatever the outcome, any scenario of civil war or chaos in Ethiopia could put the entire Horn in danger and create a potential humanitarian catastrophe, especially in Somalia.
Meanwhile South Sudan is a lightyear away from sustainable political reconciliation especially since the foreign elements fueling the fire are not likely to stop any time soon. Djibouti remains the host of the most intriguing geopolitical circus. So, that leaves Eritrea as an island of stability in the region.
In the foreseeable future, Turkey could divest her investment out of Ethiopia into Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. China will diversify her portfolio to include Eritrea. And the US — with no new policy — will continue droning her way through geopolitical schizophrenia.
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