About Somalia


Somalia is a complex political, security, and development environment, and much of its recent past has been marked by poverty, famine, and recurring violence. The country has existed in a state of armed conflict of one form or another since 1988 and without a functional central government since 1991.


Comprised of a former British protectorate and an Italian colony, Somalia was created in 1960 when the two territories merged. Since then its development has been slow.


In 1970 President Barre proclaimed a socialist state, paving the way for close relations with the USSR. In 1991 Barre was overthrown by opposing clans. But they failed to agree on a replacement and plunged the country into lawlessness and clan warfare.


The overthrow of the government in January 1991 triggered violent upheavals followed by a prolonged period of anarchy and warfare. In South Central Somalia, clan-based militia competing for control of resources and engaging in looting and other forms of criminal activities led to a catastrophic famine from 1992 to 1993.


This prompted the UN Security Council to establish the UN Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I) in 1992, and the US-supported Unified Task Force (UNITAF) and the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) in May 1993. The UN withdrew from Somalia in March 1995 after peacekeepers were repeatedly attacked by Somali militia, killing 18 American troops and hundreds of Somalis.


After the failure of UN-led peacekeeping interventions, several externally sponsored national reconciliation conferences on state-building were initiated. In August 2000, the Arta National Peace Conference formed a Transitional National Government (TNG) by adopting the so-called ‘4.5 powersharing formula’ for proportional representation of Somali clans in government. The TNG failed to produce a national unity government, however. In 2002, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) revived the peace initiatives, which led to the formation of the TFG in late 2004. It was slated to lay the foundation of a national government over a five-year period. But an umbrella organization of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), comprising Mogadishu’s seven Islamic courts, took control of Mogadishu on 5 June 2006, and then extended their control over most of South Central Somalia.


The north-western region of Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991 as a result of a home-grown, clan-based reconciliation process, culminating in the Boroma Conference of 1993, which elected Mahamed Haji Ibrahim Egal as President. The north-eastern region of Puntland followed Somaliland’s example with the creation of the semi-autonomous Puntland State of Somalia in August 1998. Constitutionally, Puntland is part of Somalia, and its Government is working towards rebuilding a unified Somali state.

Moving Forward

In 2004, the establishment of the Transitional Government helped provide a framework for growth and development of functioning institutions – leading the way for state-building in Somalia. In 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia was formed marking the end of the interim mandate of the Transitional Federal Government. A provisional constitution developed with UNDP support was adopted in August 2012.


The Somali Compact, signed on 16 September 2013 at the New Deal Conference in Brussels, is seen as a


roadmap for promoting state-building and peacebuilding over the next three years in Somalia. This framework provides a strategic plan towards stability and peace across Somalia. To this end, the New Deal lays out five Peacebuilding and State-Building Goals (PSGs) which focus on inclusive political processes, security, justice, economic foundations and revenue and services.

Humanitarian Context

Despite these gains, the challenges posed by Somalia’s humanitarian situation and high levels of insecurity affect the delivery and impact of development support throughout the country. While Somalia’s humanitarian situation has slowly stabilized since the devastating famine that killed 260,000 people three years ago, it is still extremely fragile. Half of the population has experienced abject poverty. More than one million people remain displaced in often appalling conditions and more than one million people are refugees in the region. One serious or a series of shocks – such as failed rains, increased insecurity or reduced access – and Somalia could slip easily back into a deep crisis.


Development indicators in Somalia remain among the worst in the world. One in seven children die before their first birthday; one in eighteen women die in childbirth; and only one in three people have access to safe drinking water. Global acute malnutrition levels among internally displaced persons are above global emergency levels of 15 per cent.


Approximately 857,000 people in Somalia require urgent and life-saving assistance. An additional 2 million people are on the margin of food insecurity and require continued livelihoods support. Decades of conflict have displaced over one million people inside Somalia. They are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and susceptible to human rights violations, such as sexual and gender based violence.


Only 42 per cent of school-age children in Somalia are in school, one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates. Of those, one a third are girls.


Extreme poverty and lack of employment opportunities leave many young Somalis with few prospects for the future. Over 70% of Somalia’s population is under the age of thirty. However, the unemployment rate for youth in Somalia is 67% —one of the highest in the world.


Somalia remains one of the most complex environments in which to deliver assistance. However, to the extent possible, humanitarian and development partners are managing rather than avoiding risk, in order to be able to continue to deliver critical, life-saving programmes.


Sources: BBC and UNDP