Global perspective Human stories

Somalia’s private sector thrives, but country still faces huge challenges, UN reports

Somalia’s private sector thrives, but country still faces huge challenges, UN reports

After a decade of civil war and the collapse of the central government, Somalia’s private sector and civil society are playing crucial roles in providing people with opportunities to rebuild their political, social and economic systems, according to a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP Human Development Report for Somalia, launched yesterday in Nairobi, says the growth of the private sector has been one of the major changes in the country over the past 10 years. In the absence of a national government, private enterprise has helped to provide social services, though the report cautions that this increased role is unlikely to improve equity, wealth distribution and welfare.

As for the country’s social systems, the report says Somalia still ranked near the bottom of world human development, with a life expectancy of 47 years, the death of nearly a quarter of all children before the age of five and basic literacy for only 20 per cent of Somalis. Moreover, less than a third of Somalis have access to health services and more than three quarters have no access to clean water.

With more than 1 million Somalis living outside the country, Somali society has been essentially globalized, exposing it to both the beneficial and harmful effects of globalization, the report notes. Trade deregulation has helped the expansion of international trade networks throughout the country, though the same lessening of rules is also aiding the flow of weapons, the dumping of poor quality drugs and expired foodstuffs, and is weakening disease surveillance and control in the important livestock trade.

Meanwhile, respect for human rights reached bottom during the civil war and famine in the early 1990s, according to the report, which says that the situation “defies simple generalizations.” In areas of political and economic recovery, the human rights situation is greatly improved and there is progress in restoring judicial systems. But where political instability and chronic humanitarian need persist, the human rights situation remains dire. The report also notes that the issue of post-war justice has received little attention, and poses a potential obstacle to dialogue and reconciliation.

To help the Somali people overcome these developmental challenges, the report recommends a number of initiatives, including support for a participatory system of governance, reconstruction of the economy and strengthening Somalia’s position in the globalization process. Other suggested measures include promoting human rights by reconciling traditional concepts with modern democratic ideals and creating opportunities for future generations.