Special Bilan Media series on the United Nations’ efforts to improve local governance across Somalia 

Effective local governance is an essential part of rebuilding Somalia’s physical infrastructure and social mechanisms, much of which have been destroyed during decades of conflict and instability. The Joint United Nations Programme on Local Governance (JPLG) has played a key role in improving the way government is run at city and state levels. It helps to build roads, clinics, schools and other facilities, train government staff and improve the political representation of marginalised groups, including women. Journalists from Bilan Media have travelled across Somalia to assess the progress of some of JPLG’s work. Farhio Mohamed Hussein went to the city of Hargeisa in Somaliland to ask people about the effectiveness of a five-year JPLG training programme for local government staff.

Three decades of relative stability in Somaliland have given local councils time to establish themselves in different parts of the territory, although a lack of resources and training mean they are often inefficient and ineffective.

The UN JPLG, in collaboration with the government of Somaliland, has provided targeted training to try to improve the quality of local government, including in the areas of Office Management and Administration, Human Resources Management, Local Government Laws, Leadership Management, and Gender and Conflict Management. It has also helped provide technical consultants and on-the-job training to further build the capacity of local council staff.

The director of the JPLG’s local government decentralisation project in Somaliland, Mahmoud Umar, said the training has been going on for the past five years with the third phase of the project scheduled for completion in June 2023.

The chairman of Hargeisa’s district council, Mohamed Mooge, said there had been a marked improvement in the way operations are run as a result of the training.

“One reason for its success is that the trainers were people with a lot of experience. They included UN staff, university teachers and people who have worked in local government for a long time,” he said. “The trainers shared their deep knowledge with our staff, many of whom are young graduates from local universities with little experience of working in local government.”

Some of the graduates who participated in the training sessions receive the first year of their $300 monthly salary from the UN. The majority of them are women as the aim is to increase female participation in local politics. After a year, they become part of Somaliland’s official local government staff and receive their salaries from the administration.

 

Over time, some of the university graduates trained by the JPLG have gone on to become trainers themselves, helping improved the capacity of staff in local councils across Somaliland’s regions and municipalities.

One young graduate, Ugbad Ahmed, said JPLG should train more women as so few of them occupy roles in local government.

“During my training programme, I noticed there were not many women in the sessions,” she said. “This is one of the reasons why there are not enough women in management roles in local councils.”

Ms Ahmed believes there are plenty of women in Somaliland with the necessary qualifications to find work in local government.

“In the past it was believed that women should not study, that there was no place for women in higher education,” she said. “But times have changed. Most of the people who graduate from Somaliland’s universities are women, and most of the highest grades are earned by women.”

Hibaaq Mahmoud Ismail also participated in the JPLG training sessions. She now shares her knowledge and experience with other local government workers in Somaliland’s regions.

“It’s important for the JPLG to provide a consistent programme of training over time,” she says. “In that way, those like me who have benefitted from the courses can travel across Somaliland to train others.”

Nimco Ali Omar is one of the few women working in Hargeisa’s district administration. She says the training has been especially helpful when it comes to dealing with difficult issues. Most of her time is spent working to resolve land disputes, addressing public complaints and addressing social problems.

“The training really helped raise my knowledge of dispute resolution techniques,” she said.

The overall response to the training was positive, with calls for it to continue in a coordinated, consistent way over time, with more focus on women.

 

About Bilan Media

Bilan Media is Somalia’s first all-women media house, set up by UNDP and hosted by Dalsan Media Group in Mogadishu.

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