The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is marking a huge milestone in Somalia’s history. UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan, is the highest-ranking UN official to visit the country’s capital in two decades.
She travelled there to announce that the UNDP would be relocating its offices back to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, from Nairobi, Kenya where they had been operating since 1994.
“This is an incredibly exciting moment,” Grynspan said. “For the first time in two decades, there is a real opportunity to build lasting peace. UNDP is privileged to be working closely with the new federal government during this time…”
Somalia’s last sovereign government effectively ended after the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. From there, governmental services ceased functioning, infrastructure and the rule of law deteriorated, and various factions and militia groups fought each other for power.
But after enduring years of war, instability, and chaos, the East African country formally swore in a new Parliament and a new president in August 2012, ending the interim transitional government set-up by the UN in 2004.
Ms. Grynspan called this the “most significant opportunity in 20 years to rebuild institutions and ensure Somali citizens’ basic needs are met and human rights are protected.”
The UNDP and the Somali government are particularly focused on rebuilding and expanding law enforcement and justice system institutions, protecting human rights and free speech, protecting women from sexual and gender-based violence, and creating opportunities for young people.
Decades of civil war has altered the demographic make-up of Somali society. Currently, more than 70% of the population is under the age of 30, making the development needs of young Somalis a very high priority. Overall, the unemployment rate is extremely high at 54%, but for 14-29 year-olds, it is one of the highest in the world at 67%.
Last month, one of the first projects aimed at keeping Somali youth from becoming involved in militancy, piracy, or other crime was announced. Leaders from the international shipping industry signed a $1 million agreement with UNDP and the Somali government to provide start-up grants through 2014 for youth to create or expand small businesses in the fisheries, livestock, and international trade industries.
With a functioning democracy in place and peace returning to its cities and towns, Somalia is ready to build a bright future for its people.
– Jordan N. Hunt