Development in Somalia is moving forward but remains in a critical phase. Sweden’s new strategy for development cooperation with Somalia (adopted by the Government this year) doubles the volume of Swedish support.
During the annual high-level Somalia Partnership Forum held in Brussels in July, the EU also announced increased support for Somalia. The Forum was co-hosted by Sweden, the EU and Somalia.
A combination of greater Somali engagement and international support is crucial to build on the advances made so far.
Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries. Recurring humanitarian crises and an armed conflict, particularly in the southern and central regions of the country, have hampered the country’s development. However, international pressure and increasing international support – including from the UN – have helped to kickstart the reconstruction of the state and its institutions.
A more representative government was elected in 2017, the proportion of women in parliament increased significantly and regional parliaments have been established in the federal states. Politically, Somalia is in an important phase, with major opportunities to further build on the advances made so far.
“Now it is a matter of continuing to develop federal governance, reviewing the constitution and preparing and holding general elections in 2020/2021. The country also needs to lay the foundation for socio-economic development and increase state revenue,” says Andreas von Uexkull, Sweden’s Ambassador to Somalia.
Sweden is currently one of the most influential partners in Somalia. We are the fourth largest bilateral donor of development assistance with a strong commitment to coordinating international development assistance locally as well. We also work closely with both the UN and the World Bank. Sweden’s Ambassador and staff from the Somalia section at the Embassy in Nairobi spend several days a week in Mogadishu and other locations in Somalia. Sweden’s large and engaged Somali diaspora (95 000) contribute to the strong ties between the two countries.
Sweden’s new strategy still focuses on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society, in particular women, girls and young people. An overarching objective is to strengthen resilience in Somali society, which is very fragile after decades of conflict and recurring natural disasters. It is also essential to make use of the diaspora’s skills and knowledge.
New to the strategy is the greater priority given to environment and climate issues. Climate change and recurring periods of drought regularly affect the people of Somalia. This has resulted in Somalia now ending up in a humanitarian crisis, with half of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.
“It is now important to build resilience against recurring disasters, including by helping to build sustainable and climate-adapted livelihood opportunities and strengthening institutional capacity at all levels of society,” says Per Karlsson, Minister Counsellor responsible for development assistance at the Embassy.
For example, Sweden is supporting a newly started project to combat the production and export of charcoal by creating alternative energy sources and thus alternative livelihood opportunities for the population. This is a project for both the environment – by reducing charcoal production – and the security situation by reducing the criminal activities that charcoal exports lead to (charcoal exports have long been one of the largest sources of income for the terror organisation al-Shabaab).
Another new project that Sweden supports is a collaboration between public institutions and business on sustainable energy. The project aims to provide people, particularly young women, with professional training in the fast-growing sustainable energy sector.
The difficult security situation in Somalia is one of the greatest challenges to continued positive political and economic development. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which continues to guarantee security, began reducing its troop presence at the end of last year. In light of this, building security and reforming the Somali security sector are both high priorities for the Somali Government and the international community.
“Helping to strengthen security through Sweden’s development cooperation can involve the institutional building of the police force, the judicial sector and maritime security – all of this based on a clear focus on human rights and UN resolution 1325 on women, peace and security,” says Christina Dahlman, senior programme officer at the Embassy.
Since September 2017, the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi has co-chaired the working group for the international community and Somali authorities working to combat violent extremism. Enhanced capacity to prevent and combat violent extremism and radicalisation has therefore been highlighted in the new Swedish strategy as a goal in itself.
“Sweden provides support to rule of law programmes, in which the Swedish Prison and Probation Service is also active, and we also support initiatives for rehabilitation and reintegration of convicted al-Shabaab members. Our commitment to human rights also focuses on former child soldiers. And we are running a project to build up a women’s mediation and reconciliation network,” says Christina Dahlman.
The Somali Government has made major and important advances with regard to economic reforms over the past year. This means that there has been an increasingly strong focus on economic reform work in the international community’s cooperation with Somalia. Sweden has given support via the World Bank for reforms within the framework of the IMF support programme so that Somalia in the long term can reach the goal of receiving debt relief.
Measures for sustainable economic growth will now become increasingly important and are a part of Sweden’s new strategy.
For example, Sweden is supporting a guarantee programme for bank loans where we go in as a guarantor and share the risk with the banks, so that loans become cheaper for small and medium-sized businesses. These loans will lead to job creation activities, and at least 30 per cent of the loans will go to women entrepreneurs.
Sweden is also an influential actor and the largest donor to women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including maternal health care. Support is provided mainly via the UNFPA country programme.
“Maternal mortality rates in Somalia are among the highest in the world, and the country also has one of the world’s highest birth rates. Even normal pregnancies can be life-threatening for Somali women. This is why it is important to help make a difference in this area, for example by supporting the training of midwives,” says Barni Nor, senior programme officer at the Embassy.
Increasing numbers of Swedish government agencies are becoming active or showing an interest in building the judicial and security sectors in Somalia. The Swedish Armed Forces is taking part in all of the EU’s crisis management operations in Somalia, and the Swedish Prison and Probation Service is increasing its engagement in Somalia and seconding ten people to the UN body in the country. Their tasks will include making prison welfare in the country more legally secure and resilient against radicalisation.
Other agencies working in Somalia include the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the Swedish Police Authority, Statistics Sweden, the Folke Bernadotte Academy and the Swedish Coast Guard.