19 May 2007 04:16

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  • [SW Country] (Burci M. Xamsa ) The Somali Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) and Reconstruction and Development Programme – A Critique -  Part One : Posted on 7 Dec 2005

  The Somali Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) and Reconstruction and Development Programme – A Critique - Part I

                                                

 

 

The Somali Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) Inception Retreat, recently convened in Nairobi, Kenya, has received extensive media coverage. It has been reported that more than 100 representatives from the Somali Transitional Federal Government, the United Nations, the World Bank, donors, Somali experts from the diaspora, Somali regional representatives, and NGOs have met in order to “discuss the objectives, methodology and timeline for producing Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) – a document to mobilize and coordinate international assistance for a five-year period (2006-2010). A team of Somali and international technical experts will undertake assessment and prepare a set of priority reconstruction and development initiatives for presentation to a global donor conference in 2006[1].

The JNA is jointly led by the United Nations and the World Bank in response to a request put forward by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) and the international community. Given the importance of this undertaking, and prior to the convening of the Retreat, the Nairobi-based JNA Secretariat and the Somali Aid Coordinating Body (SACB) embarked on an outreach initiative through its websites to disseminate information regarding the JNA and RDP. I remained particularly interested in the details elucidated in the “Concept Note: Somali Joint Needs Assessment and Reconstruction and Development Programme”, which was also published on some of the Somali Internet websites.

The introductory part of the Concept Note reveals, among other things, “in recent month a series of consultations were held with the Somali authorities, NGOs, research groups and the private sector. These consultations were conducted in Nairobi, Hargeisa, Garowe, and Jowhar. To ensure ownership and participation of Somali stakeholders, workshops were organized in Hargeisa and Nairobi to identify and discuss priority needs and proposed areas of intervention, and the Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) Methodology. This Concept Note reflects the outcome of these discussions and workshops”.  

Reading the above paragraph a bit more meticulously, it appears to me that the capital city and other regional capitals such as Marka, Baidoa, and Kisimayo have been excluded as venues for the said initial consultations and discussions, despite Ali Mohamed Ghedi’s assertion, in his opening remarks at the recent JNA Retreat, that consultations were conducted in Nairobi and in all parts of Somalia. Can this exclusion – based on what I have inferred from the Concept Note – be construed as being a reinforcement of the perception, or perhaps the reality, that these areas are still unsafe and risky? Obviously, Mogadishophobia and the perceived insecurity prevailing in Marka, Baidoa, and Kisimayo still haunt the international community, particularly the Nairobi-based UN agencies and NGOs. This alleged insecurity has regrettably precluded the possibility of involving indigenous stakeholders from these areas in this cogent and compelling undertaking.  The fact that these indigenous stakeholders of Mogadishu, Lower Shebelle, Bay and Bakool, and Lower Juba regions have been, unwittingly or intentionally, denied to participate in such consultations and workshops, it would be utterly unfair to claim that this UN and World Bank’s initiative has from the very outset ensured ownership and participation of a wide range of Somali stakeholders from all regions of the country.

Moreover, the exclusion of the said regions as venues for the initial consultations and discussions of the JNA, albeit their strategic importance in the Somali political and economic landscapes, is inconsistent with what was echoed  in the opening statements made at the Retreat by the TFG, and the UN and World Bank: the Prime Minister of the TFG succinctly stated “The Joint Needs Assessment is a process for all Somalis and therefore necessitates being an inclusive one that involves all segments of Somalia – particularly women, civil society, diaspora, and regional authorities”. The Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of the TFG similarly argued “We encourage the effective participation of all regions of the country in the identification of their local needs and priorities to begin achieve sustained reconstruction and development programme”. The Representative of the World Bank said “Given the magnitude of this challenge, I am very pleased to see such a wide range of participants in this Joint Needs Assessment. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of Somalis here and taking such a prominent role. Experience elsewhere has demonstrated how critical such participation and ownership are. The Joint Needs Assessment is a strategically important instrument for all Somalis to express their views”.  The mere fact that the consultations and discussions were not also held in the regions mentioned above, the alleged ownership and participation as articulated by these important dignitaries in their opening remarks at the Retreat are nowhere near the reality.

The Concept Note admits that continuing lack of basic security in central and southern regions of the country remains to be a major stumbling bloc for the JNA.  Improvement in the security situation in these areas is essential as the JNA will be based upon the best data following field-based assessments”. The Concept Note goes on to reveal some specific challenges to JNA and to the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP): violation of arms embargo and its impact on the security and peacebuilding efforts; the disputed border between Somaliland and Puntland; the political uncertainties within the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) ; the absence of public institutions; uncertainty with regard to the ability of all regions in the country to participate in the JNA and RDP; and constraints related to capacity limitations and the absence of baseline data. And to be able to counter these challenges, the Concept Note states that the scope and the methodology of the JNA would probably be in a position to internalize challenges pertaining to, at least, capacity limitations and the absence of baseline data, but the other challenges will depend on the progress in the peace process.

 It is, therefore, obvious that the JNA is bracing for very serious impediments further on.  Nevertheless, the Concept Note contends that if security risks limit or impede the assessment teams’ access to certain parts of the country, desk assessments and inputs from local groups would be employed to provide some basis for some parts of cluster assessments, and a maximum use will also be made of existing national capacity (authorities, civil society, NGOs and private sector) both during the needs assessment and during implementation. As Mogadishu, Lower Shebelle, Bay and Bakool, and Juba Valley allegedly fall under the category of insecure zones, and the fact that security risks in these parts of the country might impede access for the assessment teams to carry out there work, it would then be reasonable to conclude that inputs from local NGOs, other civil society groups and the private sector in these regions of the country would be used as the basis for the major parts of cluster assessments. It is, however, a well established fact now that the current civil society organizations, NGOs, and the private sector in the Lower Shebelle, Juba Valley, and Mogadishu, incepted during the 14 years of devastation and lawlessness, are literally alien to these regions and can by no means be dubbed “local” or “indigenous”. My argument here stems, to a very large extent, from what is highlighted in the World Bank report on Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics[2] which argues “demographically, the Somali civil war has altered the clan settlement patterns. The strong clans have occupied valuable urban and agricultural real estate by force. The patterns of clan settlements have changed mainly in the urban and arable lands such as Lower Shebelle, Juba Valley, and Mogadishu”. The World Bank’s finding is further substantiated by the International Crisis Group report[3], which argues “Lower Shebelle, Juba Valley, and Mogadishu have undergone substantial change due to heavy infusions of non-resident clans supported by their militias. The stronger marauding clans have grabbed rich plantations and real estate owned by agricultural clans and indigenous groups, often leading to their displacement, or worse still, their enslavement. The displaced are forced to move out of traditional land into new areas, thus changing demographic constitution”.  There is, therefore, an apparent change in the demographic constitution of Lower Shebelle, Juba Valley, and Mogadishu engendered by the protracted civil war in Somalia, notwithstanding the fact that the indigenous populations by and large outnumber the populations of the invading clans.  This new reality has produced, not only hegemonic warlords capable of imposing their authority in these regions coercively, but also a vibrant private sector and effective civil society organizations made up of non-resident clans that claim full legitimacy and the right to exercise political as well as economic activities in the areas.

 It is very likely that the TFG together with the UN and the World Bank will pursue to engage these new “locals” in the JNA process, as they might contend that a better alternative cannot be improvised at this juncture. But this decision would potentially fuel controversy, legitimate occupation in these regions, and compromise the credibility of the TFG and the UN and World Bank.  Moreover, the decision would run counter to the broad guiding principles of the Joint Needs Assessments and Reconstruction and Development Programme, which call for the involvement of all the Somali stakeholders to guarantee national and regional ownership.

 As I conclude my first part of the critique, I call upon all concerned Somalis to voice their views on this important initiative. The JNA has been launched – with the UN agencies ostensibly determined to provide the funding required for its priority clusters and cross-cutting issues. The “Concept Note: Somali Joint Needs Assessment and Reconstruction and Development Programme” has been skillfully crafted to respond to post-conflict transition in a very systematic way – the JNA Coordination Secretariat must be commended for its professionalism and competence.  We are, however, deeply concerned about the impact of the current escalating tensions between Jowhar and Mogadishu camps on the process. The two opposing groups are still at loggerheads over some contentious issues, despite the glimmer of hope that has recently loomed. Furthermore, the precarious situation in Mogadishu, Lower Shebelle, and Juba Valley due to, among other things, the structural violence unleashed against the indigenous populations in the various parts of these regions, leaves a great deal to be desired. The exclusion of the indigenous stakeholders from these regions and also from Bay and Bakool – both inside the country and in the diaspora – in the planning and implementation phases of the JNA process, will only touch off a political controversy and raise a series of questions that will have to be faced head-on. The exclusion, unwittingly or intentionally, will also weaken the entire momentum of the process, render it lopsided and asymmetrical in its outcome targets and priorities, and undermine the credibility of the TFG and the UN agencies.

I am confident this critique would not be construed as being an attack directed to one particular group or the other, but rather as an input that would ultimately contribute to the enrichment and the success of the JNA and RDP.

 

Burci M. Xamsa

Toronto, Canada

buri.hamza@gmail.com


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