Achieving Local Solutions To Displacement Crises In Somalia: A Human Security Approach To Durable Solutions

Human mobility should be considered in conjunction with the spatial repercussions that population movements have on the locations affected by displacement. Over the course of more than two decades of conflict, access to land, security of tenure and more broadly settlement have become central issues affecting Somalia’s security and stability going forwards; influencing the country’s trajectory towards recovery and development in future; and ultimately playing a key role in establishing the foundations for human security for displaced populations, returnees, other mobile groups and their hosts. 


Issues related to land tenure in Somalia are inextricably linked to voluntary and forced migration. Land is central to many different economic, social, cultural, environmental and political goals, making tenure security vital for peace and stability. Yet, land becomes a conflict driver when forms of dispossession take place, or when rights to land use, access and transferability are violated. Any disruptive or forcefully imposed change in how groups and individuals connect with their land usually produces contentions, which may – and in Somalia did - result in forms of organised violence. Conflict, natural disasters or rapid social and economic transformations (e.g. state formation, industrialization and urbanisation) trigger migrations that separate populations from their belongings, assets, livelihoods and the cultural landmarks they identify with. Having in place fair mechanisms to protect formal and customary rights to access, use and transferability of land and regulate land use and allocation is essential to prevent outbreaks of conflict and violence.


Regarding movements and dispossessions produced by conflict and natural disasters, in Somalia the number of internally displaced has almost tripled over the past ten years. The urban dimension of internal displacement is evident and corroborated by the trends in rural to urban migration which has, over the past ten years, averaged rates of 4.1-4.5%. The relevance of cities in strengthening security, responding to large population influxes and consolidating peace dividends is unquestionable. Yet, city expansion in major urban centres in Somalia is largely unplanned and unregulated and land is arbitrarily redistributed. Increased commercial interests have triggered large-scale investments, as well as construction works for commercial and residential structures. However, the trickle-down effect of this renewed commercial interest is extremely limited. Vulnerable populations hardly ever are in the position to harness the benefits of this rapid transformation. Displaced persons, returnees urban dwellers and urban poor are caught in a negative feedback loop, whereby the lack of regulation, good governance and law enforcement, exacerbates insecure access to land, exposure to violent land disputes and forcible eviction, as well as exclusion from public service delivery. This vulnerability and marginalization contributes to pervasive fragility and conflict, In sum, nascent formal institutions are unequipped to equitably re-establish tenure units, and customary rights are often arbitrary and not accessible to “identity-defined” strangers - this would be the case of returnees and migrants who cannot access, control and transfer land customary rights on the same grounds as local communities.


The recent announcement by the government of Kenya expressing intention to repatriate Somali refugees has raised the already prominent issue to a critical level in some areas. In the absence of a well-established legislative framework and law enforcement procedures for land, context appropriate, consensus based, and equitable solutions to land remain key establishing foundations for sustainable recovery and stability. Conversely, the failure to address land issues, security of tenure and sustainable housing could result in instability, conflict and the destitution of affected groups.    


The multidimensional aspect of community driven responses to instability and conflict mitigation related to mobility and housing, land and property as well as urban planning requires a multi-agency approach, through which each agency will capitalize on its own experience and expertise. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) have the expertise and mandates to support these locally owned processes in addressing mobility/displacement and space/urban planning. IOM, as the leading agency on mobility and migration, will utilize its experience in supporting community driven approaches to respond to drivers of displacement and mitigate disputes related to mobility and movements, while UN-HABITAT, as the leading agency for urban planning and addressing issues related to space, including land, will employ its expertise in supporting locally driven approaches to promote participatory urban planning, participatory settlement upgrading,  resolve land disputes and map conflicts and dispute resolution mechanisms related to housing, land and property.


Given the scale of Somalia’s population movements summarized above, geographic targeting through a first phase of support needs to be carefully considered and the following criteria are used to prioritize targeting for this project. Firstly, areas impacted by the return of Somalis from Dadaab refugee camp are prioritized for this intervention. Whilst the number of IDPs by far exceeds the number of those returning from Dadaab, the former are living in protracted situations of displacement and the latter will return over a short space of time. This justification is therefore based on the time critical impact that returns will have in existing fragile contexts and the accompanying need to provide support at social, infrastructural and legislative levels. The second criterion is to target those areas highly impacted by internal displacement particularly those not currently covered by existing interventions. When combined with the first targeting, of areas being impacted by return, the following areas become an obvious priority.



Estimated IDP population

Estimated No. of returns based on intention surveys[1]

Returnees from Dadaab to date






























For the funding from the Human Security Trust Fund, the interventions will focus on Kismayo and Afmadow, while additional co-funding from other sources (Peacebuilding Fund, etc.) will focus on other locations within Jubaland. Members of the joint programme currently have either an existing operational footprint or will expand to these locations in the coming months which also supports the feasibility of supporting interventions there.  Furthermore, all of the above referenced locations have been identified as priority by the Federal Government Ministry of Interior and are therefore in line with government’s current focus for the types of interventions proposed.       
Region: Africa
Donors: United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security
Theme: Advanced technical and managerial training
Project Timeline
End Date: 28th February 2021
Start Date: 1st September 2017
Budget Utilisation
Budget: $786,434
Expenditure: $388,298
Outputs / Results