Mainstreaming Environment into the “Somali New Deal Compact”
Sun 29-12-2013 21:09:09

It appears that the Somali Compact – a process based on the New Deal Principles developed to determine the priorities of Somalia for the next three years (2014 – 2016) – has failed to mainstream the environment into its different Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs).  Environmental mainstreaming is the inclusion of relevant environmental concerns into the decisions of the institutions that drive national development policy. It establishes, for instance, linkages between the different pillars of peacebuilding and the environment, particularly those that are related to security, economic recovery, and justice.

Gender issues, capacity development, and the respect of human rights are mainstreamed in the Compact as cross-cutting issues. The environment, however, is not. The inclusion of some information on the management of natural resources in the “PSG 4” of the Compact is noted; but it is limited in its coverage.

Environmental mainstreaming is important because economic and social development and the environment are fundamentally interdependent. “Our Common Future”, also known as the Brundtland Report, which was published in 1987, highlighted that sustainable development can also be achieved by mainstreaming environment into economic planning and decision-making. The finalization of this Report was preceded by the convening of the World Commission on Environment and Development, which was established by the United Nations in 1983 to address the growing concern about the consequences of the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and the natural resources. And since the launching of this Report, governments have been rallied to respond to the emerging environmental worries and threats: global warming, biodiversity loss, depletion of the ozone layer, toxic wastes, and desertification and deforestation.

Environment and Poverty

The environment is mainstreamed into the Poverty Reduction Strategies Papers (PRSPs) because of the linkages between poverty and environment.  Environmental assets such as clean water, fertile soil, and biodiversity are important for the poor people’s income, security, and health. If these assets are used beyond sustainable levels and are not properly managed, environmental degradation can occur and the poor people can be affected. Moreover, peace cannot be built without alleviating poverty, and the country cannot be secure amidst starvation. The Somali Compact has fallen short of integrating environmental concerns into its Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals and account for the role of resource access and environmental management in the lives of the poor. Inequitable access to resources or their overexploitation can pose a threat to peace and stability and may induce a re-occurrence of violence.

Environment and Security

The environment is also linked to security. The relevance of environmental issues to the overall security of the state need not be emphasized. The environment has a fundamental role to play in bringing about a lasting peace in post-conflict situations. Environmental assets in post-conflict situations can contribute to job creation, especially for the ex-combatants following their demobilization and disarmament. Despite the fact that security in war-torn societies is one of the prerequisites of peacebuilding, and is linked to environment, the Somali Compact has marginalized environmental issues in its discussion related to security.  The focus in terms of the security priorities in the Compact appears to be military-centred. In other words, the military-only solution to the problems of Somalia, which currently dominates the national security debate, is also reflected in the Compact. No attention is accorded to the importance of understanding the political, social, economic, and environmental grievances that have prompted the genesis of radicalization. It is now established, for instance, that radicalization of the youth in certain areas in Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia is attributed to the impacts of harsh environmental conditions that the population in this part of the country has succumbed to.

The need for a better trained, more disciplined, and more inclusive Somali Armed Forces   is imperatively cogent and compelling.  But if security in Somalia remains critical for political, social, and economic progress, then a resort to a military-only solution may lead to the perpetuation of state failure rather the state resurrection.  For Somalia to be able to target the different stages of the radicalization spectrum and address the threats generated by the insecurity, the country’s institutions – the military included – will need to tackle the security issue from its human perspective. Human security cannot be tackled through conventional mechanisms alone. Durable peace requires a broader vision encompassing areas such as environmental security, food security, health security, and economic security.

Security in some of the most fertile areas of Somalia is jeopardized because of the production and export of charcoal. Somalia cannot be safe with the export of charcoal continuing unabated. The impact of the production and export of charcoal on the country’s environment is devastating. The revenue accrued from this export continues to foment further radicalization and exacerbate insecurity. The largest source of income for Afghanistan’s Taliban remains the drug trade. And that is the reason why the Taliban remains a threat to the country’s security and wields power in much of Afghanistan despite the deployment of massive military forces. This is the case in Afghanistan. Al Shabaab in Somalia will continue to wield power if the country provides them and their leaders with the funds needed to pay and sustain its forces. The leaders of Al Shabaab have enriched themselves from the exportation of charcoal. Charcoal – an important environmental asset – can therefore play a crucial role in reducing or exacerbating conflict.  

Environment and Economy

The strategic objective of the PSG 4: Economic Foundations in the Compact is: “Revitalize and expand the Somali economy with a focus on livelihood enhancement, employment generation, and broad-based inclusive growth.” The Compact also argues that an “improved economy, with a vibrant private sector, can also increase opportunities for peace and reduce conflict.” The restoration of the economy following the protracted crisis in Somalia is an essential prerequisite for a durable peace. The Compact is to be commended for emphasizing the need for a gradual elimination of widespread poverty. Unemployment is a threat to peace. It is one of the underlying issues that have contributed to the upsurge of radicalization. Our youth without jobs have shown to be more amenable to radicalization and recruitment.

However, the Compact needs to acknowledge also the negative impacts of an unbridled growth of the private sector. The telecommunication firms, hawaala banks, and other businesses in Somalia are believed to be insensitive to the externalities that are generated as a result of their unregulated activities. And while these businesses enjoy an unrestrained access to resources, it is yet to be established whether they are bound by and committed to the principles of corporate social responsibility.  The private sector is reported to be adamantly reluctant to internalize the social and environmental costs that it generates. For instance, the increased demand of electronics and the ensuing e-wastes produced are polluting the environment on a massive scale. The plastic bags imported by businessmen are ubiquitous and are seen everywhere. These are causing a great deal of harm on our terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and the folks who are responsible for their introduction into the country are reticent and show no concern over their deleterious impacts.

Conclusion

This short critique should not be construed as being an attempt to undermine the noble objectives of the New Deal Compact for Somalia. The Compact’s aim to lay a strong foundation for building political inclusiveness, security, justice, economic foundations in Somalia is commended.  But it should not get by without some constructive criticism. A critique that enriches the objectives of the Compact should be welcomed, appreciated, and taken into account. The Compact should consider to mainstream environmental dimensions into its Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals.

Moreover, the Compact should acknowledge and respond to the interconnectedness of the different components of peacebuilding: political inclusiveness, security, justice, economic foundations, and revenue and services. It should recognize the relationship that exists among these different components.  Political and security pillars of peacebuilding reinforce each other and play an important role in consolidating economic growth.  Environmental assets interconnect with politics, security, justice and economics.

The Compact’s focus on the conventional and realist approaches only in dealing with the radicalization in Somalia may eventually prove to be counterproductive. To put an end to radicalization and violence, and prevent reversals and the recurrence of conflict in the country, an attempt must be made to understand the underlying factors that have led to violence and instability in the first place.  An analysis of the roots of discontent that might have triggered young Somalis to resort to violence must be carried out. The political, social, environmental, and economic factors that have led to the genesis of radicalization in Somalia must be given a great deal of attention.

Hon. Buri M. Hamza
MP in the House of the People of Somalia
bhamza@hotmail.com
 

Qoraaga: Hon. Buri M. Hamza