Zahra Abdi Mohamed is the Director for Durable Solutions and Chairperson of the Durable Solutions Secretariat for the Federal Government of Somalia. She has interesting ideas and plans on how to handle refugees, returnees and IDPs in Somalia.
The Durable Solutions Unit, a national entity that covers the whole of Somalia, was established in November 2018 to strengthen government leadership in addressing displacements, coordinating and facilitating durable solutions and enhancing strategic prioritization of key durable solutions interventions in the national development plan and the Social Development Road Map and other relevant frameworks.
One of the immediate areas of concern that Zahra noted when she became the Unit’s Director was the lack of coordination on issues of durable solutions within the government and very limited government leadership. To her, government leadership was a key issue.
Different entities felt that it was their role to handle durable solutions, but it was soon understood that due to the multi-sectoral character of durable solutions, all government institutions have a critical role to play and have specific roles and responsibilities linked to their area of work.
For example, if you are addressing solutions on basic services such as education or health, you would involve the line Ministries such as Education or Health to take up their roles, and the same goes for employment and livelihood issues, the Ministry of Labour and Social Services should be on board etc. Everyone has a key role to play. The Secretariat operates on a ‘Wholistic Government Approach’ for finding long term sustainable solutions.
Zahra is responsible for leading, spearheading and facilitating durable solutions for displacement affected communities and to ensure that there is proper coordination within the government and with external parties such as NGOs. Civil Society, the private sector, donors, and other entities within and outside Somalia.
“One of the things that became very clear immediately was that within the government very few entities understood what ending displacement meant. This is what Durable Solutions is about. Finding long-term and sustainable solutions to the issues that are of concern to displacement affected communities,” she begins, in an interview that lasts about an hour and touches on everything from the role of the private sector in Somalia to the pledges made in Geneva (late last year) and to the need for ending the cycle of drought and flood in Somalia through Somali-led solutions.
“We need to focus on addressing the root causes of displacement and finding sustainable solutions instead of only responding to the consequences of disasters. A development approach must be linked to humanitarian response so that lasting solutions are addressed as part of the overall intervention.”Zahra Abdi Mohamed, Director for Durable Solutions, Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development and Chairperson of the Durable Solutions Secretariat.
Understanding of Roles
In order to address the problem of lack of understanding about Durable Solutions, the Durable Solutions Unit at the Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development conducted a technical training for government institutions in April 2019 that was aimed at fostering a common understanding of durable solutions and the various roles and responsibilities, increasing the knowledge on legal frameworks and criteria and indicators used to measure progress and challenges and to formulate recommendations for the development of a common approach and strategy on durable solutions involving all relevant actors.
She further explains, “The next thing we did was to work on finding a platform. We had different coordination platforms where we met and engaged with the external parties, but we had no platform within the government where we could initiate discussions, guide, and make key decisions and coordinate on durable solution issues. The deliberations and search for a way forward on this particular matter actually led to the formation of the Durable Solutions Secretariat.
The Secretariat is responsible to lead, coordinate, facilitate, provide technical expertise, high-level strategic guidance, and oversight on Durable Solutions issues in Somalia through wholistic government approach and support the attainment of sustainable solutions for displacement-affect communities in Somalia.
The Durable Solutions Secretariat is hosted by the Ministry of Planning, Investment, and Economic Development and is under the Social Development Road map at the Office of the Prime Minister. The Secretariat has 14 government institutions as members including among others; the Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, the National Commission for Refugees and IDPs, Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, Ministry of Public Works, Housing and Reconstruction, and Ministry of Labour among others.
She also found out that there was a lack of government prioritization of the issues affecting displacement affected communities (refugees, returnees, IDPs, and the host communities) and has worked to escalate these issues as a national priority with the inclusion in the Government National Road Maps and the National Development Plan.
The Secretariat in 2019
They did quite a lot actually. They established and launched Durable Solutions Secretariat of course. This was a major milestone. Getting the government to coordinate within itself was an important step. Once this was done, the Secretariat embarked on mainstreaming key Durable Solutions priorities into the 9th National Development Plan 2020-2024 (a 5-year National Development Plan-NDP-9) which was successfully completed. The NDP articulates the development priorities of Somalia and is being implemented in 2020.
“We also included key Durable Solutions priorities and milestones in the 2019 National Roadmaps coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister, specifically focusing on Social Development Road Map to ensure that issues of durable solutions for displacement affected communities become a national agenda and priority. This wasn’t there before. To go with this, we also built the technical capacity of government officials at the Federal level to foster a common understanding of durable solutions, their key roles, and responsibilities, and to ensure that durable solutions initiatives were included in their milestones, plans, and regular activities,” she explains.
The Secretariat also focused on advocacy and visibility, taking part in global engagements on various platforms to bring Somalia to the table where the issues of displacement affected communities are discussed. The highlight of this was when the Secretariat participated in the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland held on 16th – 18th of December 2019.
Forward looking in 2020
Zahra sees an opportunity to set a clear agenda for the Secretariat to lead on Somalia-led Solutions for displacement. The main areas that the Secretariat will focus on finalizing the development and of the National Durable Solutions Strategy and Action Plan for Somalia a key milestone in the National Development Plan 2020 – 2024 and ensuring that the Strategy is implemented. The National Strategy is due to be submitted for Cabinet approval before the end of second quarter of the year. This is the first task of 2020.
“The second task is on finding permanent solutions for the floods cycle that results in massive displacements each year. The urgency in this has been necessitated by the recent Beledweyne floods crisis which could have been avoided. We already know what needs to be done. A rapid assessment and execution of our strategy are what remains so that we don’t have to wait for a tragedy to strike and then react to it. These disasters can be prevented from happening by finding solutions to the root causes such as rehabilitating the rivers, fixing dams, harvesting water, relocating people living on riverbanks and setting up early warning systems etc.”
The realization of humanitarian and development nexus in finding durable solutions for root causes of displacement is her main drive. “There is a need to link development approaches to emergency responses to ensure that these disasters do not cause displacements in the next cycle,” Zahra says.
The third area of focus in 2020 is private sector engagement for long-term solutions. The Secretariat will focus on working in partnership with the private sector in providing durable solutions. What can they do to support prevention, resilience, and in looking for long term solutions? They will also explore how the government can encourage the private sector to take up significant initiatives. She feels that the private sector has a substantial role to play in Somalia-led solutions. The Secretariat will also work with civil society and diaspora who are also key stakeholders in solutions.
And finally, the Secretariat will work on Somalia-led solutions programming including supporting displacement communities to rebuild their livelihoods in their areas of origin encouraging return and also continue strengthening government leadership on durable solutions matters.
The Secretariat has 14 Federal Government Institution Members
These members include:
- Office of the Prime Minister
- Ministry of Planning, Investments and Economic Development
- Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation
- The National Commission for Refugee and IDPs
- Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management
- Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
- Ministry of Public Works, Reconstruction, and Housing
- Ministry of Women and Human Rights
- Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
- Ministry of Energy and Water Resources
- Ministry of Fishery and Marine Resources
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Directorate for Environment
- Directorate of Immigration and Naturalization