2014-09-19
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The UN’s integrated mission in Somalia


Friday, May 10, 2013


Experts, fear that with the integrated mission, striking a balance between military and humanitarian operations might be a challenge. UN Photo/Stuart Price


NAIROBI, 10 May 2013 (IRIN) - Following the unanimous adoption of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution setting up an integrated mission in Somalia, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) will be set up for an initial one-year period beginning on 3 June; it will be based in the capital Mogadishu.

The UN defines an integrated mission as one in which there is a shared vision among all the UN actors at country level.

“This strategic objective is the result of a deliberate effort by all elements of the UN system to achieve a shared understanding of the mandates and functions of the various elements of the UN presence at country level and to use this understanding to maximize UN effectiveness, efficiency, and impact in all aspects of its work,” say the Integrated Mission Planning Guidelines endorsed in 2006 by the Secretary-General.

According to the resolution, the mission is intended to help Somalia build on the political gains made over the past year; assist the country to develop a federal system of government; review its constitution and hold a constitutional referendum; and facilitate preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016.

In addition, UNSOM will “promote respect for human rights and women's empowerment, promote child protection, prevent conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, and strengthen justice institutions.”

UN agencies working in Somalia are expected to move there. Many are currently based in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

In this briefing, IRIN looks at what an integrated approach means for Somalia.

What is the political, humanitarian situation in Somalia?

Somalia has recently made progress towards stability. In 2012, the country set up a functioning federal government under the leadership of President Sheikh Hassan Mohamud, the first such administration since 1990.

However, there continue to be huge political and humanitarian challenges. Insurgents, who still control parts of the country, continue to launch deadly attacks regularly, while more than one million Somalis are displaced due to conflict and drought. One million more have crossed into neighbouring countries, mainly Kenya and Ethiopia.

A 2013 report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that over 250,000 Somalis, many of them children under five, died as a result of famine between October 2010 and April 2012. They were unable to receive any humanitarian assistance, in part, due to insecurity.

What is UNSOM’s role?

On 6 March 2013 the Security Council had, while partially lifting a 20-year-oldarms embargo on Somalia and extending the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), for another year, agreed with the UN Secretary-General that the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) had “fulfilled its obligation” and needed to be replaced by an integrated mission to give the Somali administration “a single door to knock on”.

The new mission, to be headed by a special representative of the Secretary-General would include, “the provision of policy advice to the Federal Government and AMISOM on peace-building and state-building in the areas of governance, security sector reform and rule of law (including the disengagement of combatants); development of a federal system (including preparations for elections in 2016); and coordination of international donor support.”

All the UN country teams, both political and humanitarian in Somalia, would be expected, with immediate effect, to coordinate all their activities with the head of the newly established mission.

The office of the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia is expected to fall under the office of the special representative from the beginning January 2014.

What now for UNPOS and AMISOM?

With the creation of an integrated mission, UNPOS ceases to exist. Established in 1995 and headed by a special representative of the Secretary-General, UNPOS’s role was mainly political, facilitating political dialogue and peace-building activities. In his letter to the UNSC seeking the establishment of an integrated mission in Somalia, the Secretary-General said UNPOS had fulfilled its mandate and should “be dissolved and replaced by a new expanded special political mission as soon as possible”.

The Somalia Federal Government is largely propped up by the 18,000-strong AMISOM force.

A technical assistance mission to Somalia by the Secretary-General recommended in its report “use of local UN-contracted and trained security guards, the impending deployment of an AMISOM guard force in Mogadishu, and reliance on Somali National Security Forces (SNSF). If these are deemed insufficient, UN Guard Units or international private security companies could be utilized.”

AMISOM has always been involved in limited humanitarian assistance but it is not clear if this will continue with UNSOM.

The UNSC in its resolution, urges the newly appointed special representative to align closely with other stakeholders in Somalia, including UN country teams, the federal government, AMISOM, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the European Union and “other regional, bilateral and multilateral partners”.

Experts, say the success of UNSOM will depend on whether it aligns its operations with the different actors in Somalia, some of whom may have qualms about sharing their areas of expertise and/or influence.


“The number of pivotal actors dealing with Somalia has increased as of late, not least as new donors have come in and stepped up their support. Hence, if the international community is serious about UNSOM and would like to see it fulfil its mandate, actors need to be aligned behind UNSOM,” Dominik Balthasar, an expert on Somalia at Chatham House, told IRIN. “Yet, this might possibly be a hard bullet to bite for other actors such as AMISOM or IGAD, as the participation of UNSOM is likely to restrict the roles they have played thus far.”

Abdi Aynte, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), a Mogadishu-based think tank, said: “With respect to its relations with AMISOM, the hope is that they become mutually reinforcing [and] not mutually exclusive [since] AMISOM is widely viewed positively.”

What are the merits of UNSOM?

UNSOM will merge the UN’s humanitarian and political operations in Somalia, providing an opportunity to harness the operational capacities of the many agencies into a single mission.

“It looks like an ambitious plan and is probably the most significant engagement in Somalia by the UN in decades,” Cedric Barnes, director, Horn of Africa programmes at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN.

HIPS’s Aynte said the integrated mission will provide a single international community narrative on Somalia, something he says the Somalis have wanted for a long time.

A unification of the development and humanitarian pillars in Somalia, others have argued, would help marshal the much-needed international funding to remedy the situation in Somalia while also “creating coherence and unifying strategies”.

Elmi Ahmed Duale, Somalia’s ambassador to the UN, described the resolution as important and said it had ensured “there was only “one door” to knock on, “as opposed to fragmented approaches in coordinating assistance”.

According to ICG’s Barnes, this will be dependent on how much the government is willing to cede in the new engagement.

“It would be interesting to see how this will play out with a government that might want to assert authority while at the same time fronting the issue of sovereignty,” Barnes added.

The fact that Al Shabab is listed as a terrorist group has made it difficult for many humanitarian agencies to have an engagement with it, at least for the purposes of offering humanitarian assistance in areas still under the group’s control.

Why the dissenting voices against UNSOM?

Humanitarians have voiced their concerns against merging humanitarian operations with political and military activities, arguing it would make their work in Somalia difficult as it runs the risk of delegitimizing humanitarian actors.


In Somalia, 2.7 million are in need of humanitarian assistance James Reinl/IRIN


“As many Somalis continue to struggle to obtain the basic necessities for survival, such as food, health care, and protection from violence, humanitarian assistance must remain a priority and it must remain completely independent of any political agenda,” Jerome Oberreit, secretary-general of Médecins Sans Frontières, said in a statement.

“The humanitarian aid system must not be co-opted as an implementing partner of counter-insurgency or stabilization efforts in Somalia,” he added.

In March, InterAction, The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and Voluntary Organizations in Cooperation in Emergencies (VOICE), said in a joint statement that the decision risked jeopardizing the delivery of impartial humanitarian assistance in the country: “By requiring UN humanitarian coordination to fall under the political mandate of the new UN peace-building mission in Somalia, the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian action will be compromised.”

Russel Geekie, public information officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Somalia office, said: “The integration should not hamper the delivery of aid. In its most recent resolution on Somalia (SC resolution 2102, which follows up on 2093), the Security Council reiterated that impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian assistance must be ensured, wherever those in need are.”

According Chatham House’s Balthasar, integrating humanitarian operations into the broader politico-military stabilization plans “runs the risk of constraining humanitarian space, but that this does not necessarily need to be the case. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that humanitarian aid has always been political and that it has frequently been instrumentalized by a wide variety of actors - not least by those who oppose the government.” With an eye towards the dynamics surrounding humanitarian space in Somalia, he added that ever since Al Shabab had been put on the back foot, humanitarian actors who had become accustomed to negotiating with the insurgents to deliver humanitarian aid lacked clarity over who was in control and how to safely deliver aid.

“Basically, the political situation on the ground appears to have become more, rather than less, complicated. In this situation, devising an integrated mission might not be the worst of all options for the sake of prioritizing stability and the establishment of functioning structures of governance,” he added.

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