In this joint op-ed, Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud, Programme Management Officer at UN-Habitat, and Nimo Mohamoud Jirdeh, Governance and Policy Advisor for the Horn of Africa at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, explore the role of empowering local governments for sustainable development in Somalia. This article is a summary of the full op-ed.

Mogadishu, 14 March 2024 — Localized interventions, rooted in Somali culture and values, significantly contribute to peace and stability, accountability, and provision of public services. The focus of the United Nations Joint Programme for Local Governance (JPLG) on supporting Somali-owned and managed systems has been instrumental in fostering peace, development, and prosperity for the past 15 years. This approach has not only revitalized communities but has also enhanced local service delivery towards sustainable development.

At its core, empowering local governments is pivotal for fostering democratic principles, accountability, and sustainable service provision. By bolstering sub-national structures, nations like Somalia can advance state-building efforts, promote peacebuilding, address societal disparities, and strengthen the social contract.

In Somalia, the significance of local governance cannot be overstated. It plays a pivotal role in stabilizing fragile contexts, fostering peace, driving economic progress, enhancing administrative efficiency, and ensuring social inclusion. Local governments are instrumental in upholding peace, stability, and establishing state legitimacy.

Towards a stronger social contract

Local governments, due to their close proximity to citizens, are uniquely positioned to deliver justice and stimulate economic development tailored to local needs. It is thus imperative for central governments to fortify financial and institutional frameworks for local bodies, enabling them to fulfil these pivotal roles. Strengthening local governance systems fosters citizen engagement, accountability, and state-citizen interaction, thereby encouraging idea-sharing and community-driven initiatives.

Ensuring fiscal sustainability

Sustainable fiscal transfer mechanisms are imperative for the financial health of local governments. Despite challenges posed by limited resources and unpredictable transfers in Somalia, initiatives like JPLG have significantly improved revenue generation and service provision across numerous districts.

Tapping into the potential of urbanization

While rapid urbanization presents challenges, it also offers opportunities for economic growth and infrastructure development. Harnessing this potential requires innovative financing mechanisms and partnerships with the private sector and diaspora communities, unlocking essential resources crucial for service provision, investment, and infrastructure enhancement.

Local governance as a building block for State construction

Through sustained JPLG support, Somali ownership has been strengthened, empowering local stakeholders to take charge of their development and governance processes. This collaborative approach promotes sustainable, inclusive, and resilient communities, deeply rooted in Somali culture and values, thereby contributing to long-term peace and development.

Enhanced and sustained local services

Acceleration of service delivery, championed by local governments, has brought visible change and stability. Somali-owned and managed systems, encompassing district planning, revenue generation, budgeting, and leadership development, exemplify the efficacy of decentralized governance.

In essence, empowering local governance serves as a blueprint for sustainable development in Somalia, paving the way for a brighter future built upon strong foundations of peace, inclusivity, and prosperity.

Read the full op-ed.