Time for Sweden to support Somaliland's development fund

The Somaliland Development Fund (SDF) is the most effective aid agency to have operated in Somaliland for the past 25 years. For the first time, Somaliland is experiencing ownership and significant progress in development projects, and the business is welcomed by the public. It is extremely important that SDF receives continued support from the outside world, and therefore Sweden should immediately join the development fund, writes Samir Dualeh at Somaliland Committee in Sweden.

Liberal MP Birgitta Ohlsson recently asked Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, if she is prepared to support the good democratic development in Somaliland by joining the Somaliland Development Fund (SDF). SDF is a development fund established in Somaliland in 2013. The Development Fund supports Somaliland's elected government by financing projects in line with the national development plan for 2012-2016. Despite the fact that Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are already members of the SDF, Lövin's answer was no, which indicates that the Swedish government does not take the issue seriously.

In Somaliland, the SDF is seen as the most effective aid agency that has operated in the country for the past 25 years. This is for two reasons: First, the SDF is adapted to meet specific national and regional priorities. Secondly, the SDF emerged through dialogue between local political actors, civil society and donors, all of whom saw the positive development in terms of socio-political commitment, free press, democratic elections and political pluralism in the country.

Donors on the right track

As a participating observer during SDF's regular steering group meeting this summer, I witnessed dialogues between ministers and donors that were very constructive and productive. The fact that civil society was allowed to participate as observers during the dialogues also promoted accountability and transparency. We at Somaliland Committee in Sweden (SKS) believe that donors are now on the right track, as SDF's activities have also been welcomed by the public as a realistic and rational development model.

The SDF has contributed to Somaliland's development by improving the infrastructure, which was largely destroyed in the civil war against President Siad Barre's dictatorial regime, thereby also promoting the nation's growth. The strategic framework for international development cooperation with Somaliland, Somaliland Special Arrangement (SSA), which is part of the New Deal, has further promoted the SDF's work. This is the first time that Somaliland has experienced ownership and significant progress in development projects. In other words, the SDF initiative highlighted how traditional development assistance has failed to bring about any concrete effects on developments in Somaliland.

Necessary focus on mutual accountability

Of course, there are things that the political actors in Somaliland need to work on. There are principles that the international community and donors demand that the Somaliland government follow. These include free and open elections, transparent electoral processes, free press, peaceful transfer of power, respect for human rights and the fight against corruption and inequality. It is therefore important that all political actors, both the government and the opposition parties, openly support these principles in order to increase the opportunities for more partnerships with donors.

It is also necessary for both the Somaliland Government and international partners to learn from the SDF's successful working methods and focus on mutual accountability. The progress made so far shows that the SDF has succeeded in achieving remarkable improvements with very little money (62 million donated by the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway). With local and international involvement, the SDF has succeeded in overcoming many obstacles that have previously undermined people's pursuit of development.

In line with feminist foreign policy

There is no doubt that the next stage in the SDF's efforts requires joint funding from the Somaliland government and donors. The country has succeeded in creating peace, stability and democracy in a region characterized by violence, terrorism and dictatorship regimes. That is why it is extremely important that you continue to receive support from the outside world. Sweden can contribute to the positive development in the country by joining SDF. In addition, joining the Development Fund is fully in line with the government's feminist foreign policy, as it would facilitate efforts to strengthen women's participation and inclusion in democratic decision - making in Somaliland.

In conclusion, it is important to point out that civil society in Somaliland does not support the government's decision to postpone the parliamentary elections, something that has been criticized by several partner countries. The risk is that this affects both potential and current donors to SDF. Such disagreements must not overshadow and undermine the long-standing development cooperation that already exists between donors and Somaliland. The way forward should focus on mutual cooperation and friendly terms in the agreements between Somaliland and donors.

Samir Dualeh

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