Climate Security in Somalia : Next Steps for a Resilient Future
The duality of conflict and climate in Somalia has been debated for several years. Increasingly frequent drought and flooding kills pasture, crops and livestock and drives hunger and migration, and hardship is a tinder box for insurgency. We’ve seen this on a loop for 40 years of civil war, tentative peace and rising temperatures. So why are the two issues of security and climate resilience still planned by different Ministries of Government, UN agencies and donor departments? And what is needed to address climate security in a more joined up way?

The Centre for Humanitarian Change recently co-hosted an important debate posing this question to experts from across the spectrum of aid and governance in Somalia, working with teams from Overseas Development Institute, USAID and the Centre for Climate Security. Somalia is one of the case studies in a programme which aims to develop policy recommendations to make humanitarian assistance more sensitive to long-term climate risk and security dynamics.

Somalia is a country in rapid flux, as outlined in our recent report on Somalia’s Capacities to Respond.  Livelihoods are still primarily agropastoral, but up to 60% of the population are living in large towns and they are not so much displaced as highly mobile. Recently this mobility has been driven in the main by the worst drought in 40 years which decimated an estimated 3.5 million livestock. Somalia is at a crossroads, and the future risks from climate hazards depend on our ability to think laterally about the interdependencies of urban and rural livelihoods, peace and security initiatives, and disaster risk management and climate adaptation strategies. The next decade of joint strategic planning could spell a new era of climate security for Somalia, or a repeat of the past.

Aware that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it, our starting point was the reality that parallel action on political stability and climate adaptation is crucial for long-term resilience in Somalia. Without first addressing fragility, no amount of aid can build resilience – and with or without peace, climate change impacts will accelerate. Building climate resilience necessitates that politics and people are connected. This is currently not the case in Somalia, where civil society has little voice and politics tends to be used as a means to advance individual and clan interests.

Sometimes imagining the worst case scenario is a helpful tool for think tanks, where we can interrogate and tear apart the doom we see around us. This process can offer clarity on which policies are needed to halt the most dangerous trends. We imagined a pessimistic scenario, which combined socioeconomic disruption, rapid unplanned urbanisation and increasing severity and frequency of climate change-driven hazards contributing to a large loss of livelihoods and a collapsing security landscape, deepening the already dire humanitarian crisis of the 2020s and prompting renewed civil war.

Civil war has a looming presence in any policy analysis of Somalia because even today’s power-sharing government is built on clan allegiances which drive policy and culture and divide resources and aid. Our summary report found that: “these clan-based power imbalances are the root cause of low levels of climate resilience in Somalia as they complicate issues of representation, marginalise and exclude the most vulnerable, and erode social cohesion; thereby undermining Somalia’s resilience to all types of crises. This exclusion has also contributed to a legitimacy gap in governance and created avenues of exploitation for domestic powerbrokers and extremist groups alike.

“There’s an urgent need for a shift away from the current status quo to a more concerted peace and reconciliation process including the disarming of clans and need for non-military solutions for extremist groups.

 “Climate finance providers need to adjust their risk tolerances and deliver climate adaptation through a more localised agenda, as opposed to the current approach of working only with and via the Federal Government.

 “There is a shortfall of climate adaptation finance to Somalia despite Somalia’s high vulnerability to climate change and six consecutive failed rainy seasons. Donors are willing to support billions of dollars worth of humanitarian action in Somalia but lacked the risk appetite to finance climate adaptation projects to build future resilience”.

The discussion groups tabled numerous potential solutions, and whether progress lies in urban development and youth employment or elevating the role of civil society, it’s clear that women and young people should be engaged as champions of their futures, as their voices are currently not heard by the political class. We also discussed what conditions are needed for climate finance to be effective in building resilience, drawing on recent policy guidance

Our report outlines a five point plan including: visionary political leadership; progress in securing peace and security; debt relief; a shift in mindset of international actors and the need for their coordinated and risk-informed approach. As one colleague from the aid sector observed, we need to stop muddling along on the margins, change the rules of engagement and stop being a parallel NGO state. Well said.



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