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  • Report
  • 16 February 2021

Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Somalia: Chapter 1


chapter 1

Strengthening joined-up humanitarian–development–peace (HDP) responses requires a shift towards ‘development where possible and humanitarian only when necessary’, as recognised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Humanitarian and development actors have a joint responsibility for preventing, managing and recovering from crises. However, they approach crises with different priorities, objectives, policies and programmatic approaches, as well as different mandates and accountabilities to donors. This can lead to gaps in responses in crisis contexts. Research by Development Initiatives and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)[1] identified the need for further research on the current and potential role of development finance and institutions in complementing humanitarian action to provide more durable solutions for crisis-affected people. This is pertinent in responding to Covid-19, which involves needs for both immediate lifesaving assistance and longer term support for health systems, socioeconomic impacts and peacebuilding.[2]

This country report on Somalia contributes to a multi-country study[3] focusing on the role of development actors in addressing people’s longer term needs, risks and vulnerabilities, and supporting the operationalisation of the HDP nexus.

Somalia has been selected as a focus country and its experience can inform global policy and practice for several reasons. Somalia has been in a state of protracted conflict and political instability for decades and experiences chronic displacement and food insecurity linked with recurring environmental shocks, including droughts, flooding and most recently locusts, which highlight the need for sustainable and preventative responses. The absence of an internationally recognised federal government, ongoing armed conflict and the threat of terrorism and lawlessness was, until recently, a barrier to development investment, and the country has depended on humanitarian assistance to address chronic vulnerability for decades. However, since 2017 Somalia’s political transition has opened doors for longer term development and recovery. Somalia is also a priority country for the UN Joint Steering Committee to Advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration and the Humanitarian Development Peace Initiative (HDPI), a joint initiative of the UN and World Bank that emerged from a commitment made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

This report aims to improve understanding of how development actors operate in Somalia and their current and potential role in addressing the longer term needs, risks and vulnerabilities of crisis-affected populations. It explores the extent to which development actors work alongside or in collaboration with humanitarian and peace actors at the strategic, programmatic and institutional levels. It identifies examples of good practice, learning and recommendations for how development assistance can better prevent and respond to crisis situations and support the delivery of the HDP nexus agenda, both within Somalia and more broadly.

The research findings are based on a desk review of relevant documentation and key informant interviews with approximately 30 development and humanitarian actors engaging in Somalia and based at local, national and international (HQ) levels (Appendix 1).

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Box 1

Definitions of key terms

Nexus: This paper uses ‘nexus’ or ‘triple nexus’ as shorthand terms for the connections between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding approaches. We align with the OECD DAC definition:

“’Nexus approach’ refers to the aim of strengthening collaboration, coherence and complementarity. The approach seeks to capitalize on the comparative advantages of each pillar – to the extent of their relevance in the specific context – in order to reduce overall vulnerability and the number of unmet needs, strengthen risk management capacities and address root causes of conflict.”[4]

Achieving collaboration, coherence and complementarity means quite different things to different actors. We understand the three ambitions to sit on a spectrum from complementarity to coherence, with complementarity being the minimum requirement for approaching the nexus. At the higher end of the spectrum, the nexus can fundamentally challenge existing divisions between humanitarian, development and peace systems, encouraging stronger coherence and working towards shared outcomes. The concept of shared or collective outcomes was conceived by the UN in preparation for and follow-up to World Humanitarian Summit and recently adopted in the UN-IASC Light Guidance on Collective Outcomes.[5] We also recognise that there are three dual nexuses within the triple nexus – the well-established humanitarian–development, the development–peace and the humanitarian–peace nexuses. In the context of Somalia, working at the nexus translates into actions under a range of existing concepts including resilience, preparedness and early action; recovery; durable solutions in displacement contexts, inclusion and peacebuilding; and embedding risk, among others.

This report focuses explicitly on the role of development actors, covering the development–peace and development–humanitarian nexuses. Specifically, this means understanding how development actors are working collaboratively, coherently and complementarily with humanitarian and peace actors at the strategic, practical and institutional levels to address the needs of vulnerable crisis-affected populations.

Resilience: We align with the OECD DAC definition:

“The ability of households, communities, and nations to absorb and recover from shocks, whilst positively adapting and transforming their structures and means for living in the face of long-term stresses, change and uncertainty. Resilience is about addressing the root causes of crises whilst strengthening the capacities and resources of a system in order to cope with risks, stresses and shocks.”[6]

Resilience is understood as cross-cutting to humanitarian, development and peacebuilding activities.

Early recovery: An approach that addresses recovery needs arising during the humanitarian phase of an emergency, using humanitarian mechanisms that align with development principles. The multidimensional process of recovery begins in the early days of a humanitarian response.

Recovery: This is the restoration, and improvement where appropriate, of facilities, livelihoods and living conditions of disaster-affected communities, including efforts to reduce disaster risk factors, largely through development assistance.[7]

Development: This report focuses explicitly on the role of development actors and actions in crisis contexts. Here, we understand ‘development’ as long-term support to developing countries to deliver sustainable solutions for addressing poverty, supporting livelihoods and providing basic services, with a particular focus on those in greatest need and furthest behind. We understand development actors to include donors, NGOs, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, local and national authorities, and private sector and community-based organisations.

Peace: There are many ways to understand conflict and peace, and clear overlaps with development and resilience. In this report, where there is not yet consensus on what is covered in the ‘peace’ aspect of the triple nexus, we understand it to include conflict prevention, conflict sensitivity (to ensure programming avoids harm and where possible builds peace), peacebuilding and mediation efforts at local, national and regional levels. To cover all possible ‘peace-related’ activities in the research, we have included a focus on stabilisation and efforts to tackle violent extremism though recognise the contentions between political priorities on security and stability and safeguarding humanitarian principles.

Humanitarian action: Humanitarian action is intended to:

“…save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and after man-made crises and disasters caused by natural hazards, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for when such situations occur.”[8]

Furthermore, humanitarian action should be governed by the key humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, as well as the guiding principles for humanitarian assistance set out in UN General Assembly resolution 46/182. In Somalia, the centrality of protection is also at the core of humanitarian intervention, as set out in the Humanitarian Country Team-led Centrality of Protection Strategy.[9]

Durable solutions: The IASC framework on durable solutions for internally displaced people describes that:[10]

“…a durable solution is achieved when internally displaced persons no longer have any specific assistance and protection needs that are linked to their displacement and can enjoy their human rights without discrimination on account of their displacement. It can be achieved through:

  • Sustainable reintegration at the place of origin
  • Sustainable local integration in areas where internally displaced persons take refuge
  • Sustainable integration in another part of the country.”


  • 3
    Development Initiatives, with support from the FAO and NRC, is leading the wider policy study under the umbrella of the IASC Results Group 5 (on Humanitarian Financing). The other focus countries are Cameroon and Bangladesh.
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