From conflict to reconstruction: Somalia’s sustainable development goals story

UNCT-SO-Eid Celebrations-2015

This year, Somalia will issue its first National Development Plan (NDP) in over thirty years. The NDP constitutes a remarkable milestone for a country that is still suffering from the aftermath of a protracted and devastating civil war that impoverished many of its citizens and incapacitated most of its institutions.

The NDP’s significance cannot be understated, for three reasons in particular. First, the extensive consultation process through which the Plan has been developed has demonstrated a strong will, on the part of the government, to make it a genuinely Somali owned initiative. Second, following decades of an exclusive, albeit inevitable, focus on humanitarian assistance, the NDP provides an opportunity for Somalia and its international partners to embark on a long term developmental trajectory, with a focus on durable solutions to long standing challenge in a range of areas, from dilapidated infrastructure to the dearth of social services and the plight of displaced people.  Lastly, and remarkably, the NDP incorporates a global agenda, the SDGs, into the national aid agenda for the coming three years.

The effort to embed the SDGs into the country’s first NDP in decades may seem at first as purely aspirational, in light of the many severe challenges that Somalia still faces, including an incomplete political transition, on-going insurgency and immense humanitarian needs. Yet, it points to both the remarkable progress made since 2012 and to the commitment, expressed by Somalia’s people and its leaders, to chart an irreversible path away from conflict, and towards long term development and stability. Over the last four years and in the face of tremendous odds, Somalia and the international community have built a robust development architecture, based on the New Deal Compact, with Somali led financing mechanisms and aid coordination structures, which now culminates in the NDP and provides the space for meaningful planning and policy making around the SDGs.

The NDP, who will guide national and international development efforts for the next three years (2017-19), is built on six thematic pillars: Consolidating peace, security and Rule of Law, institution building, rapid inclusive and sustainable economic growth, social capital, restoring and protecting strategic infrastructure, and building national resilience. In addition, gender, youth, capacity development, human rights, and environment are crosscutting themes. The government has made various efforts to raise awareness about the NDP and its priorities and to address questions and uncertainties from the public, for example via day-long Twitter chats, hosted by the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

The SDGs have been mainstreamed throughout the NDP, in accordance with context-relevant priorities that have been identified through consultations on federal, regional state and community level, including with civil society and youth and women’s groups in particular. In an important improvement from the Compact, the NDP will be equipped with an M&E Framework, developed by a dedicated task force, which will translate relevant indicators from the SDG M&E framework into the NDP. This ‘translation’ will be selective and incremental, to reflect Somalia’s unique situation and constraints.

Of course, challenges, both technical and political, abound. The dearth of reliable data will require collective attention and dedicated focus over the next few years, and may constrain attempts for comprehensive reporting.  As a result, and differing from the SDG’s framework, which will measure outcomes with impact indicators (e.g. reduce poverty), the NDP will use process indicators (e.g. number of beneficiaries reached with cash-for-work programmes), which will take precedence over impact level indicators in the coming years. Seemingly technical level discussions over targets, results achieved and allocation of resources will expose underlying political tensions and fault-lines over the federalist project that still need to be addressed. Yet, these obstacles now bear the mark of a vulnerable country committed to pursuing long term development ambitions away from conflict, with the SDGs providing the unmistakable and inspirational signposts for the road ahead.