Progress towards the MDGs

Ilyas Ibrahim Mohamed
Social Watch Somalia Coalition

Despite the vision of the Somali Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), a pro-poor instrument and support from the international community, Somalia is unlikely to meet most, if not all, of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Almost 66% of the population is living in severe poverty. Moreover, with another food crisis looming on the horizon, Somalia will not be able to recover from the worst famine in 60 years, one that affected over one-third of its population in 2011. Armed conflict continues in many areas of the country and the international aid system is unable to meet basic needs: again 857,000 are now in need of emergency aid. Ambitious plans of governments are always thwarted by fierce armed insurgency, and the aid agencies strive to mitigate the impacts as the disasters come and go. Somalia is amongst the largest aid recipients in the world. But why progress is not made towards the MDGs? Why the country is unable to break the vicious cycle of crisis?

At a time when major breakthroughs were taking place in the history of development in 1990s, including the appearance of new approaches, most importantly the human development, Somalia was in its death throes. Moreover, the two decades of armed conflict that followed the state collapse in 1991 have taken a heavy toll on people, institutions, the economy and the environment.

Nevertheless, the first post-civil war administration, the four-year old Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG) was among the states that participated in drawing up the Millennium Declaration in 2000. The formation of Transitional Federal Institutions in Somalia in 2004 was seen as a critical opportunity to “achieve peace and security, promote governance and the rule of law, begin recovery, reconstruction and development, reverse regression from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and advance sustainable socio-economic development throughout Somalia.”

In 2005, responding to the request of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community, the United Nations Development Group and the World Bank co-directed a Post Conflict Needs Assessment (PCNA), the first and the largest of its kind in Somalia. The main objective of the Somali Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) was ‘to assess needs and develop a prioritized set of reconstruction and development initiatives to support Somali-led efforts to deepen peace and reduce poverty,’d a process that finally produced the Somali Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), a pro-poor instrument, strategy and a framework for recovery and development interventions.

However, progress reports produced since 2007 by UNDP Somalia and the TFG have indicated that the country is lagging far behind track to meet most of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. Oxford’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) reported from a 2006 survey that 65.6% of the population lives in severe poverty, lacking basic services, including access to education. Moreover, the Fund for Peace report in 2012 indicated that appalling as it was in the past, the situation is growing worse. Together with the rest of Horn of Africa, Somalia is now facing another food crisis, and the politicized aid system is unable to meet basic needs.

With few months remaining until the MDGs target date of 2015, why is there so little change in Somalia? What will it take to achieve the MDGs? Or rather what will it take to overcome challenges that are hindering progress towards the MDGs? While such questions cannot be answered in this short report, as they involve much broader discussions, it is important to describe the situation to stimulate more national and global debates for better post 2015 reform.

Vicious cycle of crises

Progress towards achieving the MDGs in Somalia is confronted with worst combination of challenges the country has faced in many years. Yet, except for piracy, problems of insecurity, anarchy, human rights violations, displacement and droughts, to name just a few, have existed long before the before the MDGs were adopted.

While UNDP’s 2010 International Assessment report, “What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?” stated that progress on one of the MDGs contributes to progress in the others, calling for a multisectoral approach and coordination, it would not be practical to consider progress on one challenge as a real achievement before making sure that it not causing regression on other challenges. Progress is multifaceted problem.

Massive deforestations, concomitant shortages in rainfall, and the long-neglected impacts of droughts are the main issues related to conflict and environment. Although the incidence of off-shore piracy has declined, it is generally recognized, including by the UN Security Council that patrolling the coast is not enough to fight piracy without addressing its underlying causes – social, economic and environmental.

Illegal fishing and waste dumping are now seen as a new form of piracy, including by the new pirates themselves. However, the fact that wastes have been imported to Somalia since the onset of the chaos is hard to refute. The 2004 Tsunami also washed some strange objects ashore, primarily in Puntland. A report by Al Jazeera Arabic on 2 November 2012 showed a strange barrel that washed up on the Mogadishu coast. Lack of equipment and specialized government agencies prevents the analysis of such objects and the assessment of their danger on health and the environment.

Recently, the combination of pirates kidnapping ships, boats and crews for ransom, and the Combined Task Force 150 doing the same to curb piracy has done much to make Somalia less attractive as a waste dumping destination. However, the by-product is more than 2,000 people involved in piracy acts, the majority of them young people who can no longer fish beyond three kilometres without being arrested as pirates or livestock keepers who had lost their livestock to frequent droughts, and even educated individuals who cannot find jobs. This will continue to jeopardize security if the causes are not addressed. The question is, has the impact of piracy that also affected food prices for the poor purchasing power been curbed?

In addition, continuous armed confrontations are not only causing death and destruction of property but also affecting environment. The worst confrontations took place in the southern agro-pastoralist areas in 2006, when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia. The environmental implications of the new settlements of Elasha-Biyaha – situated between Mogadishu and Afgoi, an agricultural district known for its fresh vegetables and fruits, including bananas – are too early to predict.

While security in Mogadishu has improved as armed confrontations moved to agricultural areas of Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle, as well as to the regions of Lower Jubba, Gedo, Bay, Bakool and Hiiran, the costs for these badly drought-affected areas will be huge. If the confrontations intensify in these regions, it will cause damages to the meagre agricultural resources, causing the agro-pastoralists slide back into famine.

Furthermore, the strides made in stabilizing Mogadishu are coupled with deteriorating personal security in the so-called liberated areas, including Merka, Jowhar, Kismayo and parts of Mogadishu. Rape cases have also increased, particularly among women in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) camps according to reports by activists. Targeted killings, particularly of journalists, are still widespread in Mogadishu.

The fact that more areas have become accessible, given the weakness of Government security forces, is undoubtedly creating favourable conditions for increased rates of crimes and violations. Hence, resorting to ‘muscles’ is not enough to ensure stabilization without addressing underlying causes, including the reasons that made these areas fertile land for the current insurgency. Unless this happens, progress, achievements, even stability is unlikely to be sustained as progress in some sectors results in regression in others, and impacts that have been mitigated may make a resurgence if their causes are left intact.

Coordination conundrum

Then again, why progress is more or less the same in stable areas of Somalia, where the situation is less complex and access is smooth? The Somaliland Millennium Development Report concluded that the direct implementation of programmes, without local coordination, resulted in inappropriate prioritization and increased delivery cost. Not utilizing the existing development expertise and obtainable facts and figures, and not taking into account the priorities of local beneficiaries turned aid into “rain, where no one has a say about when, where, and how much to rain”. In such cases the aid organizations themselves are perceived by the public as clouds that carry such rain.

The dozens of organizations that work in these stable areas assess the needs prior to their interventions, as a practical way to discover the needs of destitute people. However, the findings are seldom used to refine objectives, develop new strategies or design new interventions that are tailored to the needs of the targeted people. They are very often used for validating ideas of pre-decided objectives of a certain project.

One rural villager, addressing a team commissioned in 2012 to conduct assessments in that area, stated: ‘Every month, two or three assessment teams come to our village enquiring about our needs. We tell them the challenges we face. They disappear and do not come back. I wonder what kind of needs these people look for that they are not seeing in our communities.’

Coordination and information sharing saves time and resources for organizations looking for information. Establishing a data and information hub that continuously generates evidence and facilitates interventions is not unknown in Somalia. For example, an effective information management system administered by OCHA is already in place. This includes the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) 3Ws (Who, What, Where), and infographic and geospatial products that made it easier to coordinate humanitarian interventions in Somalia.

There are many other successful examples that other development interventions could follow, adjust to the nature of their work and use for measuring impacts. Measuring impact, however, is not viable with the current approach, where Somali aid dependants exaggerate in order not to lose the opportunity of being targeted.

Moreover, the expected impact itself – as the current reality on ground proves – is not likely to be achieved while some other needs that render it impossible are not prioritized. As such coordination requires as much information as possible, any data on the needs of beneficiaries should be circulated and addressed in one way or another.

Building Better Responses

The election of the new President in Mogadishu, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, marked the end of the transition period. The new government and parliament has also been perceived as ‘Revolution by Somali Civil Society,’ that is, mainly by academics and civil society activists.

However, for the average Somali, over two decades of transitional governments and chaos, and nearly a decade of confusion which preceded the collapse of the state in 1991, can be summed up in the words of the Somalia Special Envoy to the United States, Abukar Arman:

“Still, the average Somali sees his/her government as the archetype of power abuse, the magnet of demagoguery, the personification of partisanship, the agents of disunity, the epitome of incompetence, the exploiters of resources, the executioners of injustice, the promoters of corruption, the purveyors of propaganda, the distorters and manipulators nationalism, of duty, of citizenship, and mutual interest!”

Therefore the biggest challenge that the current Government faces is not security, it is the ‘hungry and angry’ people still counting on change.

At no time in history of Somalia has the hope for changing this perception been more possible than now, with public worn out and striving to sustain the little hope that has existed in Mogadishu recently, and the Government run by visionary intellectuals who are fully aware and even affected by the turmoil over the last two decades.

With the establishment of Somaliland Development Fund (SDF), Somaliland has started playing active role in leading development interventions in their territories. It is about time for the Federal Government, learning from the experience of previous government, to initiate the initiatives of meeting the needs of its people.