Conflict and Development in Africa: Somalia Historical Term Paper

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Conflict & Development in Africa: Somalia

Historical Analysis of the Effectiveness of Nongovernmental Organizations in Somalia

As the only country in the world totally devoid of a functioning central government, Somalia is particularly vulnerable to humanitarian emergencies. The humanitarian situation in Somalia is marked by chronic food insecurity due to the extended effects of drought, recurrent conflict and intermittent access to vulnerable populations particularly in south/central regions. Forgotten and Neglected Emergencies - Somalia, March 2006

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The epigraph above suggests that just when it looked like things could not possibly get any worse in Somalia, they did. The implications of the recent assertions of authority over various regions of Somalia by fundamentalist Muslims have the United States and its Western allies worried at a time when they cannot spare the resources. Indeed, the ongoing violence in the Middle East reinforces just how important agencies such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are in the reconstruction of war-torn areas around the world today. The United Nations (UN) and other international relief organizations, though, are faced with an increasingly complex and dangerous set of challenges in their delivery of such assistance in many regions of the world. To this end, this paper provides a historical analysis of the varied effectiveness of nongovernmental organizations in general and in Somalia in particular, followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview.

Term Paper on Conflict & Development in Africa: Somalia Historical Assignment

In reality, many types of political and humanitarian enterprises can be strictly considered as being "nongovernmental." For example, according to Naim (2002), al Qaeda, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace all are comprised of loose networks of individuals that are united by a shared commitment to a single cause, and based on cheaper communication and transportation systems, each of these groups is capable of projecting its influence on a global basis. Furthermore, other similarities exist between these strictly "nongovernmental organizations" as well. For instance, all of these groups are funded by voluntary donations and their effectiveness depends on the dedication of their respective cadres (Naim 100). While there are some similarities, this author emphasizes that the difference between them is that "while al Qaeda's suicidal terrorists want to bring down Western civilization, the members of Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and other such nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) want to make it better. And in many cases, they do" (Naim 101).

Today the United Nations (2003) defines a nongovernmental organization (hereinafter "NGO") as follows:

any non-profit, voluntary citizens' group which is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens' concerns to Governments, monitor policies and encourage political participation at the community level.

They provide analysis and expertise, serve as early warning mechanisms and help monitor and implement international agreements. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, the environment or health. (cited in Doh, Teegen & Vachani 463).

According to these authors, NGOs provide multinational enterprises (MNEs) with new opportunities to help develop socially responsive non-market strategies without the participation of any governmental agency; furthermore, NGOs have been able to help developing countries create new networks and business relationships with foreign investors, again without any specific governmental assistance. In fact, in many parts of the world, Doh and his colleagues maintain that NGOS represent one of the most important forces for economic and social development currently at work in the world. "With or without the active input of government," they advise, "NGOs have emerged as major new organizational forms and vehicles to deliver social services such as poverty relief and environmental protection" (463). This point is also made by Evans (2005), who reports that, "The United Nations, World Bank, donor states, NATO, OSCE and other regional security bodies -- and nongovernmental organizations -- have been much more sharply focused in the last fifteen years than ever previously on conflict prevention and management" (6).

Moreover, from a purely business point-of-view, in many regions of the world where trade is characterized by corrupt practices with potentially dangerous (and legal) consequences, foreign companies that use NGOs to help establish new business relationships have much to gain. In this regard, Doh and his colleagues (2004) conclude that, "Firms that successfully solicit the input and guidance of NGOs can avoid negative reprisals" (464). It remains to be seen, though, whether even the best nongovernmental agency can successfully effect any meaningful change in some parts of the world where there is an insufficient governmental infrastructure in place to provide the protection these NGOs need while delivering their services, just as it is important to have a basic civilian infrastructure in place to provide the developmental resources needed for a successful enterprise. In some cases, it would seem, NGOs do not work despite their best efforts, and these issues are discussed further below as they have historically applied to Somalia.

Current Situation in Somalia.

Commonly referred to by the international community as a "failed state," the country of Somalia today is in major trouble by any measure. According to U.S. government analysts, "Somalia's economic fortunes are driven by its deep political divisions. The northwestern area has declared its independence as the 'Republic of Somaliland'; the northeastern region of Puntland is a semi-autonomous state; and the remaining southern portion is riddled with the struggles of rival factions. Economic life continues, in part because much activity is local and relatively easily protected" (Somalia 5). Some relevant facts about Somalia help to illustrate the dire state of affairs confronting the people and those who would seek to help them:

1.7 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, out of which 1.4 are situated in southern Somalia;

Approximately 400,000 people are scattered in 34 refugee sites throughout Somalia who remain extremely vulnerable;

Over 70% of the population is undernourished;

The crop production for 2006 is expected to be 50% of the post-war average - the lowest cereal production in over 10 years;

Life expectancy is a miserable 48 years; and,

One in four children die before the age of 5 years (infant mortality rate is 225 deaths per 1,000 live births) (Forgotten and Neglected Emergencies - Somalia 2).

In reality, there has not been a viable government in place for the past 15 years in Somalia, with the country being ruled by various feudal warlords - some with the support of the United States, but this is changing as this paper is being written. According to Black's Law Dictionary (1990), Somalia has recently been a perfect example of the worst state of anarchy by its definition: "Anarchy," they advise, is the "absence of government; state of society where there is no law or supreme power; lawlessness or political disorder; destructive of and confusion in government. At its best, it pertains to a society made orderly by good manners rather than law.... At its worst, the word pertains to a terroristic resistance of all present government and social order" (emphasis added) (84). In this regard, U.S. government analysts report that the country maintains ties to global terrorist organization, an issue that further exacerbates the administration and delivery of social services throughout the country (Somalia 3). Even more troublesome for the West but perhaps good for the people of Somalia as it relates to their state of anarchy is the fact that a central government of sorts is emerging right now, but the Islamic state that is apparently being forged from the leftover pieces of Somalia is going to be faced with some profound challenges in the future.

According to the UN's executive summary from its Consolidated Appeal for Somalia (March 21, 2006), Somalia is experiencing the consequences of the worst drought in over ten years and the impact of ongoing violence has placed tens of thousands of the country's most vulnerable citizens - its women and children - at particular risk. The country's meager economy has been limping by for years based on the remnants of a crumbling infrastructure and an agricultural industry that has been adversely affected by a persistent drought. In fact, the failed growing season in 2005 resulted in a revision of the UN's consolidated humanitarian appeal for Somalia and the current estimates of need are overwhelmingly just for food (see table and figure at Appendix A). Other problems include disease and an inability of humanitarian organizations to deliver their services where they are most needed.

According to Feldman and Slattery (2003), though, the most important thing for Somalia today is to provide the people of the country with the infrastructure and political framework they desperately need to secure the basic necessities of living rather than pointing fingers at who is to blame for their predicament:

There is little value in identifying single causal explanations for war and state collapse in Somalia. To focus solely on the contradictions between a foreign imposed colonial system of government and an indigenous political system would be to overlook the impact of the oppressive, corrupt and violent system of political patronage that marked the 21-year… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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