The bedrocks of peace and prosperity

12 June, 2018 - Somalia connects disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable development to reach 2030 Agenda and Paris Goals

By Umberto Labate and Keith Bettinger


In 2017 Somalia elected its first president since the ousting of strongman Siad Barre in 1991, an event which plunged the country into an extended period of civil conflict from which it is only now beginning to emerge. The landmark election marked a turning point for the people of Somalia as they work to rebuild their country after more than a quarter-century of violence, worsening famine, and national disintegration.

Changing climatic conditions have been identified as a key driver of conflict and a significant factor in the overall deterioration of human well-being in Somalia. The latest statistics indicate that 2.7 million Somalis do not have secure access to food. Below-average rainfalls in 2017 have been cited as a prime driver for these disturbing numbers. With projected rainfalls also lower than average, this situation could worsen, with dire consequences for the over 300,000 children that are acutely malnourished in the country today.

The interactions between climate, conflict, development, security, policy and economic growth are highly complex, but understanding them is integral for peace building, socioeconomic development, and alleviating the chronic humanitarian crises that have affected the country in recent years.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working in partnership with the Government of Somalia to navigate these complex interactions. 

Planning for climate change in a place like Somalia is like pulling together a thousand-piece puzzle without seeing the picture on the top of the box. Settled agriculture is only practical in a small portion of the country, so over countless generations the lifeways of the Somali people have evolved. An estimated 65-70% of Somalis derive their livelihoods from agriculture and pastoralism.

In recent decades, however, rainfall patterns have shifted, and the droughts that once came roughly once per decade and were manageable are occurring more frequently. As a result, pastoralists’ seasonal migration patterns have shifted, in some cases resulting in conflicts between groups. In addition, unsustainable harvesting of timber resources for charcoal has contributed to a loss of biodiversity and an increase in land erosion, and increasing temperatures are making both settled agriculture and pastoralism more precarious.

The interaction of these factors has contributed to instability in the country, as hundreds of thousands of Somalis have been internally displaced by conflict, drought, and other factors. In addition, these processes undermine food security, as the country currently relies on aid and imports to fulfill approximately half of its food requirements, and remains trapped in an unvirtuous cycle where disasters undermine long-term plans for peaceful and sustainable economic and social growth.


Racing toward a solution

The Federal Government of Somalia and its constituent states have recognized that the stability of their country depends on developing comprehensive solutions to these problems, which combine climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, socio-economic development, and conflict resolution.

To help address these issues, UNDP is supporting Somalia in the formulation of its first National Adaptation Plan (NAP) for climate change adaptation. The NAP will provide a blueprint to guide Somalia in implementing a comprehensive approach to climate change adaption. To make it simple, it’s the picture on the top of box for the thousand-piece puzzle.

One major thrust of this blueprint is to incorporate climate change considerations into emerging institutions and structures of governance and planning. This presents unique opportunities not only for innovative approaches to mainstreaming climate change into governance, but also for designing a national framework for climate change adaptation that outlines clear roles for the national, state, and district authorities in a way that reinforces the new federal system and contributes to national reconciliation.

In addition to guiding the mainstreaming and acceleration of this improved climate governance, the NAP will also help build capacities and put in place the enabling conditions so that government, non-government, and private-sector stakeholders can effectively work together to identify priority adaptation actions to address the most urgent vulnerabilities, and formulate innovative blends of financing to support these projects.

Taken from a 50,000-foot perspective, this policy support will provide the backbone for the country to make good on its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, fuel low-carbon, climate-resilient development, and solidify the bedrocks of peace and prosperity for generations to come.



Keith Bettinger is a Country Support Consultant for the UNDP National Adaptation Plan Global Support Program (NAP-GSP), specialising in climate change adaptation, resource management and governance issues. Keith earned his doctorate in Geography from the University of Hawaii. 

Umberto Labate is a climate change adaptation Programme Specialist and Manager on a number of UNDP programmes, including the NAP-GSP and the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag). Umberto studied in Denmark, earning an MPA from Roskilde University as well attending Copenhagen Business School.