Designing for Fragility in Somalia

BY Marc Jacquand | April 12, 2017|Comments 0

In vulnerable districts of Somalia, we at the UN in Somalia and our partners have limited visibility of the situation on the ground. Due to security issues, we do not have a significant physical presence in districts  where violence continues.

This brings us to dilemma: How can we plan our programs effectively if we are not aware of realities on the ground? This weakness undermines the impact of the resources we invest, while increasing the risk of doing harm through ill-designed programming and weak implementation.

Unpacking fragility

To plan and program, we need to understand what is happening in these vulnerable districts, particularly what we refer to as “fragility”:

  1. What triggers conflict and what are the avenues for reconciliation?
  2. What are the security, rule of law and justice arrangements?
  3. What is the capacity of the government?
  4. What socioeconomic activities are communities involved in?

Standard situation analyses and needs assessments often do not provide a clear picture of fragility as they tend to be state or country-wide, and are too far removed from details at the district-level. If the UN’s strategic plan and joint programmes are designed based on sound fragility measurements, we hope they will not only be more accurate, but also increase impact for vulnerable areas and populations. We need to gain a better understanding of fragility to understand the vulnerability of districts, particularly if they relapse into conflict under the influence of armed groups. 

The lack of district-level data and intelligence

So why haven’t we been gathering this kind of data? There are three reasons:

  1. Until now, planning and programming in Somalia has been fragmented with little effort to share data, information and intelligence about what happens at the district level. This is true both within the UN and between UN and its partners.
  2. Until recently, the UN’s stabilization efforts had little focus on community-level realities and the multidimensional elements of fragility.
  3. Until not so long ago, many districts were inaccessible. Recent military gains, as fragile as they may be, offer an opportunity to know more and do more in these districts – if we have the analytical and risk management tools to do so.

We want to improve our analytical capacity, at a time when we are designing a new strategic plan and supporting the government of Somalia with their national development plan.

We are now focused on community recovery and the extension of state authority and accountability. What does this mean? Supporting Somali-owned and Somali-led processes remains central to our new approach, but it is based on a greater focus on locally-led recovery efforts in areas that have never felt a positive presence of the state. We are also focused on better analytics to understand conflict dynamics and respond accordingly.

Stress testing and a one-stop shop
We believe that robust risk management and greater investments in fragility measurements at the district level will increase the UN’s impact.

Our new approach focuses on advances in risk management. For example, we applying stress testing methods, where a strategy or a programme is subjected to a series of assessments against potential risks and obstacles. This is to ensure that the strategy or programme contains all the necessary measures to address, prevent and respond to risk or obstacles.

We also want to provide a coherent and consistent trend analysis of the situation in South Central Somalia. To measure fragility, our core analytical product is an open platform called the Fragility Index Maturity Model, which will be officially launch soon. This model puts together a basic operational picture of progress at the district level. It brings together internal UN resources as well as data from other partners already operating in Somalia, such as the Stability Fund and the US Office of Transitional Initiatives. The model will assess districts by tracking progress on security, policing and the rule of law; governance and reconciliation; and the quantity, quality and accessibility of education, health and other social services.

We hope that this information will be useful for UN agencies and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, and other partners such as USAID, DFID and the federal and local government in Somalia.   Check back here for updates and do get in touch if you have advice or questions.


Marc Jacquand Marc Jacquand is Head Integrated Office / Resident Coordinator Office and Risk Management Unit - United Nations in Somalia. You can follow him on Linkedin.

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