Image by ©Danish Refugee Council
  • Report
  • 16 February 2021

Supporting longer term development in crises at the nexus: Lessons from Somalia: Chapter 5

Programming approaches

chapter 5

This section outlines several programming approaches and models used by development actors to address vulnerability and risk and build resilience, peace and recovery in Somalia, as captured in the research. It highlights areas of best practice and key challenges, for learning purposes in Somalia and globally.

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Supporting durable solutions in parallel to lifesaving assistance

Somalia is a strong example of where progress has been made in supporting durable solutions in displacement contexts and addressing the structural causes of crisis in parallel to immediate lifesaving assistance.

Momentum at the international policy levels on fostering durable solutions in displacement situations, as articulated in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the Global Compact for Refugees,[1] has been matched by an expansion of the range and scale of programming on longer term approaches in Somalia since 2016. Notable progress has been made in a short period. The EU, donors (notably the UK, Denmark and Switzerland), UN agencies (including IOM, UNDP and UNHCR) and international and local NGOs, with support from ReDSS, have played a key role in pushing this agenda at both the policy and operational levels.

At the policy level, these actors focus on building the capacity of government ministries and authorities on a durable solutions approach – at both FGS and member state levels – through secondments of international agency staff to national authorities and pushing for political buy-in to this agenda within Somalia and regionally. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has played a key role in driving this and supporting governments in the Horn of Africa region to develop national action plans for durable solutions, notably in alignment with the Kampala Declaration on Jobs, Livelihoods and Self-Reliance for Refugees, Returned and Host Communities (March 2019).[2]

In Somalia, durable solutions are identified as a development priority in NDP9. The Durable Solutions Secretariat, housed under MoPIED, led the development of a national durable solutions strategy (supported by the Danwadaag Solutions Consortium) and the National Action Plan on Durable Solutions for Somali Returnees and IDPs (supported by UNHCR). This progress has been instrumental in furthering the prioritisation of durable solutions within national development plans and supporting the FGS to develop and adopt a set of endorsed programming principles on durable solutions, with support from ReDSS and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office.[3] These principles focus on government leadership, area-based, joined-up HDP and community-driven approaches, inclusion and sustainability. Interviewees report that secondees from UNHCR to MoPIED initiated the formation of the Durable Solutions Secretariat, which is the coordination body for cross-government collective progress on this agenda. Furthermore, UNHCR has played a lead role in supporting the FGS to ratify the Kampala Convention, key for the protection of IDPs,[4] and the development of domestic displacement legislation.

At the operational level, three key programmes have emerged from the political focus on durable solutions and seek to test the endorsed programming principles:

  1. Enhancing Somalia’s responsiveness to the management and reintegration of mixed migration flows (RE-INTEG) programme. Learning from the delivery of durable solutions programming principles, which include criteria around the provision of capacity development and secondments, have informed a similar approach in the Durable Solutions Programme and the Danwadaag programme.
  2. The Danwadaag programme (2018–2022), led by IOM with NRC, CWW, Juba Foundation, Gargaar Relief Development Organisation and ReDSS members and funded by the UK. This programme incorporated learnings captured in RE-INTEG. Danwadaag has a focus on early solutions planning and local integration.
  3. The Durable Solutions Programme 2017–2020, led by the Danish Refugee Council with Tetra Tech and ReDSS as partners, and funded by Denmark, seeks to facilitate successful (re)integration of displaced communities by ensuring physical, material and legal safety is achieved through a combination of protection, livelihoods and basic needs programming.

Key challenges to date include the need for greater coordination between HDP actors, shared data and greater transparency, localised approaches and government leadership of the durable solution agenda with appropriate capacity building support from international actors.

Another challenge is the application of the government’s recognition of IDP rights. Although the FGS’ ratification of the Kampala Convention in 2019 was a positive step, some interviewees are pessimistic as to how this will be applied in practice. Gaining greater acceptance from politicians and clans to allow rights for IDPs living in their communities will be important to continue progress on this agenda.

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Community-based resilience and preventative action to address the risk of crises

Interviewees unanimously argue that a crisis is not a crisis if it happens every year. This highlights the need for sustainable development investments in preparedness, early action and resilience to address the risk of flooding, drought and, now, the locust crisis. Interviewees suggest a cost-effective and sustainable solution to recurring (often bi-annual) flooding in Somalia (e.g. in the city of Baidoa) is to invest in infrastructure to rebuild the river embankment though development assistance, as opposed to the current reactive short-term humanitarian assistance. The cost benefits of investing in disaster prevention and in resilient communities and systems is captured in the NDP9 and the Recovery and Resilience Framework (RRF) and reflected in partner strategies (e.g. of the UN, World Bank, EU and individual donors). Development investments in preparedness and resilience are crucial given the constraints faced by humanitarian actors and the challenge of focusing beyond immediate lifesaving assistance within finite resources.

Somalia has been a target of much innovative resilience work over recent years, especially since the 2011 famine. NGO consortia have played a key role in testing community-based resilience efforts in Somalia, particularly BRCiS and SomReP. While there has been significant progress through community-based initiatives, interviewees highlight the need to scale-up project-level interventions and connect them strategically to government policies and agendas for greater sustainability and impact. Donors interviewed highlight the need for resilience to be embedded holistically within national priorities on safety nets, social protection, food systems and livelihoods. The RRF provides the policy framework for this, but practically this requires greater coordination of actors working on resilience, safety nets and recovery towards shared outcomes, and a scale up of development investments in these areas, shifting from a historically humanitarian-led resilience agenda.

In other countries in the Horn of Africa region where government structures are well established, donors have supported national safety nets and livelihoods programmes to embed shock-responsive mechanisms for addressing peaks in needs; for example, the Productive Safety Nets Programme in Ethiopia. Development partners should seek to support the government to establish similar nationally led programmes in Somalia. The World-Bank-funded Shock Responsive Safety Net for Human Capital Project ‘Baxnaano’,[5] and the Shock Responsive Safety Net for Locust Response Project that builds on it, may be the foundation for this. Embedding shock-responsive mechanisms within the national safety nets programme will enable development actors to scale up and down in response to changing contexts. Documenting and publicly sharing lessons will be vital to inform the scaling up of national shock responsive safety nets programmes in Somalia (through an iterative process as government capacity develops) and elsewhere.

Building on effective existing resilience and preparedness programmes will be key, such as BRCiS, SomReP and the FAO, WFP and UNICEF joint resilience programme. The BRCiS consortium is in discussions with the Ministry of Finance to scale up pilots trialled through the programme in partnership with the World Bank. This is funded under the early recovery component of the World-Bank-funded Somalia Crisis Recovery Project (see ‘Financing tools’ chapter), and BRCiS is scoping opportunities to link it to the World Bank national safety nets cash transfer programme.

Disaster risk reduction is also an important point of synergy for humanitarian, development and peace actors. Drought and flooding are among the most common hazards in Somalia and are major causes of socioeconomic risk, and the intersection of drought, famine and violent conflict has contributed to internal and cross-border displacement.[6] The Somalia Drought Impact Needs Assessment is a significant example of close collaboration between humanitarian responses and development investment in this area, gathering 180 sector experts from across the FGS, UN, EU and the World Bank.[7] In 2017, the FGS established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, with disaster risk reduction interventions within its remit. The FGS also adopted the Somalia National Disaster Management Policy, setting out the legislative framework for disaster management and improving governance at the federal and state levels. The Drought Impact and Needs Assessment was an important step that led to the development of the RRF, which provides a comprehensive framework for policymaking in this area. According to interviewees, however, the status of the RRF is currently unclear.

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Medium- to long-term support for risk reduction, prevention and recovery

Some major development partners are beginning to support medium- to long-term recovery and development efforts in Somalia, addressing the structural drivers of crisis and supporting durable approaches to managing disasters, conflicts or forced displacement in parallel with immediate lifesaving assistance. The World Bank, which has been described by interviewees as a ‘game-changer’ on this agenda, established the ‘Baxnaano’ government-led national safety nets programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour to lay foundations for longer term social protection systems. This programme supports vulnerable households “to increase their income and consumption and to improve their ability to cope with shocks through predictable access to transfers, while enhancing and protecting human capital”. The Shock Responsive Safety Net for Locust Response Project builds on this existing safety net programme and focuses on the locust-oriented protection of food security and livelihoods (adding a US$40 million IDA grant to the safety nets programme).[8] It targets the immediate impact on poor and vulnerable households through short-term food security and consumption needs and safeguarding livelihoods and human capital assets through emergency cash transfers.

The safety net programme is delivered through UN agencies and international NGOs with pre-existing programmes (in partnership with WFP and UNICEF). This is a transitional measure until government structures are established and have the capacity to lead in government-held areas, and where this is appropriate in terms of safeguarding humanitarian principles. While the Ministry of Labour is a lead agency, decentralising the management of this programme to member state and local government levels will be crucial for developing the social contract between the government and society for greater sustainability and impact.[9] The branding of the programme as a nationally led initiative has also been key for building state legitimacy. Channelling development finance through humanitarian structures is relatively rare, though it has been trialled in other countries such as Yemen and Bangladesh. Yet, to meet policy ambitions to scale up and prioritise developmental responses to crises, this approach should become standard, with lessons shared for uptake in other contexts.

The EU also plays a key role in the delivery of safety net programming. EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa funding is channelled through existing humanitarian cash transfer structures with the aim of transforming them into predictable, scalable and sustainable programmes with embedded mechanisms for responding to shock. The EU has also supported a separate pilot safety nets programme as the third component of the Inclusive Local Economic Development Programme funded through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa since 2019 (€98 million).[10]

There is a clear division of responsibilities between humanitarian and development actors working in parallel to complement each other in the delivery of national safety net programming. The World Bank aims to address the livelihood and recovery needs of vulnerable families, and ECHO to support transitory needs in response to shocks.[11] ECHO is piloting the provision of humanitarian assistance to top up assistance provided through the national safety nets programme in the context of heightened needs resulting from the triple impact of floods, locusts and Covid-19. A key learning is that targeting the same communities enables close collaboration across the nexus. The safety net programme targets the same beneficiaries of developmental nutrition and health programming to enable coordination across humanitarian and development assistance.

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Foundations for development and recovery during a crisis

Parallel HDP programming is evident in active crises where development and peacebuilding actors work to lay the foundations for recovery alongside ongoing humanitarian assistance. Examples include:

  • Strengthening longer term education for displaced communities provided by development actors in parallel to humanitarian assistance: ECHO and DEVCO work collaboratively to provide education services for displaced communities in hard-to-reach areas, with DEVCO supporting longer term ambitions through teacher and vocational training and distance learning since the emergence of Covid-19.
  • Strengthening capacities of local government: The Joint Programme for Local Governance is a five-year (2018–2023) joint UN programme led by UNDP, UNICEF, IOM, UN Capital Development Fund and UN Human Settlements Programme that complements humanitarian assistance. It builds local government capacity in early recovery areas where humanitarian assistance is active, specifically in terms of systems for public procurement, budgeting and tax collection, and supports service delivery in health, market access and education. The programme has not only strengthened local institutions but also demonstrated that (re)building a local tax base is a durable way to raise revenue for local authorities and solve chronic deficiencies in public service provision while improving accountability to and participation of citizens. The programme has enabled municipalities to complement humanitarian and development assistance through locally raised tax revenues to finance service delivery. Interviewees report that humanitarian actors, such as NRC and WFP, also prioritise capacity building for local government institutions to support durable solutions, sustainable food systems and safety nets.
  • Laying foundations to strengthen health systems through the Covid-19 response: The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF and WHO support parallel lifesaving and longer term responses to Covid-19. For example, UNICEF supports the establishment of COVID emergency sites within existing health clinics, working closely with WHO and UNFPA who support the longer term needs of the health facility to reduce transmission and training. UNFPA Somalia produces Covid-19 vulnerability mapping by risk factor and related indicators from the Somali Health and Demographic Survey for major towns in the country, designed to guide humanitarian partners for targeted Covid-19 risk communication and community engagement activities. UNFPA supports activities to help prevent the spread and transmission of Covid-19 in emergency obstetric care and neonatal care facilities.[12]
  • Strengthening market access and agricultural value chains to support recovery and longer term development: development actors have a clear role to play in transitioning from humanitarian-led livelihoods and cash-for-work programmes to longer term private-sector-led recovery and development. The Promoting Inclusive Markets in Somalia programme (2014–2018), funded by the UK and Denmark, aimed to strengthen private sector development and market systems by improving productivity, livelihoods and job creation in key agricultural value chains (livestock production, fisheries, poultry and crop production). The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Growth, Enterprise, Employment and Livelihoods Programme and the UN Joint Programme on Youth Employment also pursued similar objectives. The Promoting Inclusive Markets in Somalia programme integrated a cash-for-work component to rehabilitate market infrastructure, which created durable assets with long-term economic benefits to farmers. It also promoted productivity-enhancing inputs and practices (e.g. high-yielding seeds, suitable fertilisers and harvesting techniques). A key challenge is the limited access to finance for smallholders and learning around the need to address this issue in parallel to market system strengthening efforts.[13]
  • Stabilisation providing conditions for longer term government-led service delivery in liberated areas: Stabilisation and security actors (e.g. the African Union Mission in Somalia and USAID through the Office of Transition Initiatives) work to liberate areas held by al-Shabaab. While this creates conditions for recovery and enables access, there is a significant time lag between liberation and transition to government-led service delivery. UNDP is scoping ways to support appointed district governments in advance of a formally elected government to establish services. There is a need to identify interim solutions where development actors can support durable approaches to recovery and service delivery in recently liberated areas where local government structures are not yet in functioning.
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Role for development actors in promoting peace

Over the last decade, key donors have focused on state-building, governance and security as a prerequisite for socioeconomic recovery and development. The EU committed €286 million to programming in Somalia from 2014 to 2020, of which €119 million was for state-building and peacebuilding;[14] the US provided extensive support for state-building and security, including military support to reduce the threat posed by al-Shabaab.[15] Many development actors support security and state-building objectives in Somalia, such as UNDP’s support for security sector reform, and some actors incorporate conflict-sensitivity tools and approaches into development programming.

The approach to stabilisation, including internationally backed military operations to clear territory controlled by al-Shabaab, has clear political and security objectives. It is therefore a departure from conflict-sensitive and peacebuilding approaches that many development actors have adopted. In many ways it has overshadowed investment in community-based peacebuilding and social cohesion. There has been an effort recently to address this and scale up programming on social cohesion and community peacebuilding. The UN Peacebuilding Fund has been an enabler for the UN to link recovery, stabilisation, local governance and peacebuilding in Somalia. Since 2015, it has invested close to US$40 million in programmes seeking to improve governance by enabling local authorities and communities to rebuild trust around the delivery of services, resolve local conflicts and strengthen employment. The ‘Midnimo’ project seeks to strengthen community-driven responses to displacement and instability. It is led jointly by the FGS, and the ministries of interior of South West State and Jubaland and is implemented by IOM, UN Human Settlements Programme and UNDP. Through the risk-taking and catalytic nature of this fund, development actors can support durable approaches and recovery in areas previously accessed only by humanitarian actors.[16] The challenge now is to scale up community-based approaches to peacebuilding and conflict-sensitive recovery. Interviewees highlight the need for social cohesion efforts to also include rural areas where peacebuilding efforts between returning IDPs and local communities is vital.

There is a lack of consensus in Somalia on how to include ‘peace’ in a joined-up HDP approach where active crisis persists. Engaging closely with stabilisation and counter-insurgency efforts in these regions is particularly sensitive for humanitarian agencies, who are concerned about safeguarding humanitarian principles. Nonetheless, there may be scope for greater cooperation in contexts in which both humanitarian and stabilisation actors target the same beneficiaries. For example, IOM’s stabilisation programme works with women associated with al-Shabaab who are in IDP camps served by humanitarian actors. As a minimum, humanitarian agencies accept social cohesion and conflict-sensitivity and ‘do no harm’, and the Durable Solutions Secretariat and related programming efforts are making progress in generating lessons for this.


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    The African Union (AU) Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Africa.
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