Establishing legitimate and functional institutions in Somalia is urgent. In August 2012 the country officially adopted a federal system in a provisional constitution, but the concept was not clearly defined. The country is currently divided into three regions: Somaliland, which declared itself autonomous in 1991, the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and South Central Somalia. The latter includes the capital, Mogadishu. Conflicts and endemic food insecurity affect a large part of this region.
Since 2013, the SDC has been supporting a project jointly conducted by five UN agencies which aims to strengthen the capacities of local authorities with a view to promoting peace and development. Regardless of the political system chosen by the people of Somalia, local authorities have a key role to play in rebuilding the country. Restoring trust in institutions at the local level, clarifying the relationship between the central and local governments and encouraging citizens to define their priorities in terms of development are essential stages in the process of achieving a fair and lasting peace in Somalia.
A promising start
During the initial phase of the project, from 2008 to 2012, seven municipalities in Somaliland and six municipalities in Puntland developed basic skills in administrative and financial management. These skills make it possible to run a public body and thus to access specific development funds. By closely reflecting the priorities of the population, and by involving the latter in the monitoring and follow-up of the projects, these municipalities have been able to carry out basic public works, such as building roads, schools and marketplaces. As a result, the local inhabitants have experienced the fund’s benefits in their daily lives and have gradually regained trust in the authorities. Thanks to the introduction of simple but effective accounting methods, the participating municipalities have seen their tax revenues increase by 40%.
Delivering equitable public services and supporting the local economy
Convinced of the value added, the SDC decided to contribute CHF 9 million to the project. In the period from 2013 to 2017, the partner municipalities will consolidate their skills and will be called upon to assume new tasks, particularly for the purpose of implementing decentralisation policies. Another important goal for this period is to gradually extend the project to South Central Somalia, provided that the municipal councils' legitimacy and representativeness are assured.
The project focuses on three main goals:
- Improve the public administration skills of local governments (taxation, planning, budgetary management)
- Develop a political and legal framework conducive to the gradual decentralisation of public functions from central to local government
- Ensure local authorities are accountable, transparent and responsive to citizens' needs, in particular by promoting local economic development
Promoting local economic development involves, for example, rehabilitating livestock markets, which are an essential component of the Somali economy, and launching public-private partnerships, especially in water management. A thriving local economy generates more tax revenue and thus makes it possible to provide more and better services for the population.
First encouraging signs
Thanks to the project, in 2014 the city of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, has seen a significant increase in tax revenues and a drop in fraud and corruption levels. Backed by the project, the central authorities of Somaliland and Puntland have developed and adopted a range of decentralisation policies in cooperation with the local authorities. More good news: extending the project to municipalities in South Central Somalia seems to be a realistic goal. Two municipalities have been selected for this purpose and have already received basic training in public administration.
SDC's engagement in Somalia is part of the Swiss regional Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa 2013-2016 and reflects Switzerland’s determination to increase its supportin fragile contexts. Switzerland has adopted a “whole-of-government” approach in Somalia: the federal departments concerned pursue common objectives and coordinate their actions to ensure consistency and efficiency on the ground. Within the framework of its regional strategy for the Horn of Africa, Switzerland’s commitment focuses on four core thematic areas: food security, health care, governance for peace, and migration.