The New Way of Working is not exactly “new’ to Somalia – Justin Brady

Justin Brady talks with internally displaced people in Gaalkacyo, Somalia. Thousands of families had been displaced by violence and were forced to live in open spaces in the outskirts of the town. Credit: OCHA
By Justin Brady, OCHA Somalia Head of Office                                                                                                                                                                                           
Efforts that focus on making people less vulnerable to shocks by building their resilience have long been viewed as a way to link emergency response and long-term development aid. These linkages which address the root causes of a crisis are particularly critical for sustaining life in a protracted emergency like Somalia.

So, it was fitting that on 30 January 2018, the Resilience and Recovery Framework (RRF) was launched in tandem with the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Somalia.

The framework will not only provide medium to long-term options to finance and implement recovery interventions, it will also define policies and institutional arrangements needed to support ways to make people resilient.

This joined-up approach is the realization of a central theme of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the directive of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for ‘A New Way of Working’ between humanitarians and development actors.

However, the road to more joined-up planning in Somalia didn’t start in 2018.

Shortly before my arrival in Mogadishu as the head of office for OCHA Somalia in May 2012, Somalia had emerged from a famine in the southern and central parts of the country, which had killed an estimated 258,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis had sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya; and people remained extremely vulnerable. Efforts to help people were hampered by severe access constraints and the limited capacity at the then newly formed federal government. However, even during the Transitional Government of Somalia’s tenure (which ended with the election of Hassan Sheik Mahmud in September 2012 and led to the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia), the concept of enhancing resilience to foster recovery was already being explored by Somali actors and international partners.

The intention to implement programmes that built people’s resilience was reflected in the three-year US$ 4 billion Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) produced by the humanitarian system, which was supported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The 2013-2015 Somalia CAP, was one of the first multi-year humanitarian planning processes in the world. It was launched in Mogadishu on 4 December 2012 by the new Minister of Interior, Abdikarem Guled, for the newly installed Federal Government.

While the overall requirement was massive, it was based on assessed needs and not on expected financial contributions, which fell far short of what was requested.

However, it wasn’t just the lack of resources that limited the extent to which the plan addressed root causes and in ending need. The focus on household level resilience embraced by the UN and the NGO consortia was intended to increase the ability of people to withstand shocks such as the current protracted drought that Somalia faces before eventually falling into crisis. The efforts at least in some part, successful. This did not however mitigate the impact of the shocks, whose frequency and severity have only increased as the world’s climate changes. Some of the effects of severe climate-related shocks can only be addressed through long-term development efforts such as making infrastructure more resilient. These include large-scale water management and conservation schemes; making choices to invest in drought-resilient agriculture and livestock production to support livelihoods; and finding durable solutions for the internally displaced.

But before we condemn the approach taken in 2012 and subsequent years, it’s essential to understand that the type of activities that could bring about more robust resilience are only possible in a stable and secure environment with coherent governance, which was not the reality in those days.

Since then, security and governance has improved (while still underdeveloped and in some areas wholly inadequate); and now the New Way of Working has a chance to work.

The fact that Somali authorities, diaspora, civil society and the private sector, with the support of international partners backed by unprecedented financial support from donors of $1.3 billion, could avert a likely famine in 2017 is partially attributable to the broader footprint and better working environment that exists today compared to 2011. In 2017, there was massive displacement, but it was almost exclusively internal and localized within dozens of kilometers from people’s place of origin and not the several-hundred-kilometer walk which took so many lives in 2011 and 2012.

Now that the RRF and HRP have been launched and the senior officials from various office headquarters who came to mark the day have departed, the question remains whether the reality on the ground will match the rhetoric? Will humanitarian and developments actors in coordination and cooperation with Somali authorities at all levels of Government continue to adopt this new way of thinking? This is essential to help shed entrenched positions and siloed ways of doing business to match the New Way of Working and to realize the promise of moving past cycles of crisis and response to achieve collective outcomes.