by Nic Watkins
The international community, led by the European Union (EU) met in Brussels this month pledging 1.8bn Euros ($2.4bn; £1.5bn) and endorsing a three year plan for Somalia’s continued recovery from decades of conflict.
The delegation included the Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed’s, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, heads of donor organisations as well as state representatives from across the world. The pledges include €650 in EU funding in addition to the $1.6bn it gave Somalia from 2008 to 2013. The agreement also saw Somalia sign up to the Cotonou agreement, the framework for the EU’s relations with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific which allows Somalia to be eligible for aid from the European Development Fund.
The ‘New Deal’ is a standard package for failed states, making Somalia an ideal candidate as it has come top of the list of world failed states for the previous six years. The ‘New Deal’ focuses on peace and state-building, based on a belief that without building these solid foundations, other efforts and funding goes to waste. The EU believes this is the right time as Somalia enters a new phase with a more stable government with plans for elections in 2016 and continued military success against al-Shabab militants across the country.
The deal sets out the plans of the Somalian government to improve security, establish a federal political system, re-establish a judicial system, and begin to provide basic local services. The road maps and pledges are based on Somalia-led initiatives. Supporting efforts to create local buy in and ownership is incredibly important. It’s pleasing to see an initiative attempting to break the traditional cycle of imposed state building. All too often the ‘subject’ of aid is not consulted and plans of action are thrust upon them. African solutions to African problems is a well trodden mantra, but in this case it appears that the EU is listening. Creating local ownership will foster a stronger commitment to the plan and ensure accountability from both sides.
There are some concerns among practitioners that the pledges made in Brussels will not become a reality; that the ‘New Deal’ will be the latest in a long list of expensive conferences about Somalia that end with ambitious announcements but have little or no impact on the security or development inside the country. Al-Shabab dismissed the ‘New Deal’ as “Belgian waffle” taking to twitter to denounce the meeting in “sweet on the outside but really has not much substance to it.”
The ‘New Deal’ is an attempt by the European Union to continue the momentum gained over the last few years, but we have been in this position before. The EU obviously feels the political and security environment are stable enough to inject such large sums of cash in a time of austerity. The ‘New Deal’ commitments sit nicely alongside the EU considerable efforts in the region. The EU has been funding AMISOM, the African Union’s peace support operation in Somalia to the tune of €600m. The funding is mainly used to cover the salaries of soldiers deployed. This support is alongside the ‘Atalanta’ maritime mission tackling piracy of the cost of the horn of Africa, and EUTM mission to train Somali security forces, and EUCAP NESTOR that has now begun a follow-up mission to train Somali coastguards. The EU approach in Somali highlights the shift in EU CDSP peacekeeping operations to an indirect approach, using financial firepower to shape the situation in which the peace is kept by others. The focus is on capacity building of local partners to create the security.
Although AMISOM may be making progress there is no guarantees that the ‘New Deal’ will not suffer the same set-backs as previous attempts The conflict dynamics in Somalia are regularly changing but what is clear from the recent Nairobi shopping mall attacks is that al-Shabab are from defeated. It was only on the 14th August that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced a completely pull out of from Somalia after 22 years citing “extreme attacks on its staff in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers.” In September, Norway decided to directly pay government employees their salaries in order to curb corruption and UN monitoring Group on Somalia said Somalia’s central bank had become a “slush fund” for political leaders. If the EU doesn’t tackle these issues its taxpayers money may be heading the same way.
The ‘New Deal’ makes Somalia the darling of the donor word, ands the EU is putting a lot of stock in its potential recovery, the rewards are very high, but so too is the risk.