Addressing the issue of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mogadishu needs a comprehensive approach

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As Mayor and Governor of the capital city of Mogadishu, I appeal to all Somalis and our international partners to show leadership, commitment and determination to help us find a durable solution to the looming crisis of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mogadishu. Their plight is not simply a Somali problem, in a strange country thousands of miles away, but a personal, individual and humanitarian trial that should not be experienced by any people. Over 500,000 IDPs live in deplorable camps in Mogadishu and despite our best efforts they lack basic services, shelter, water, hygiene, education and health services. We can no longer simply watch to see the suffering of our vulnerable groups in the society. They deserve every right to live with dignity and hope so that they can contribute to the society they are a valuable member of.

Although this focus is within the Benadir Regional Authority & Mogadishu Municipality, the issue of IDPs is a global issue that requires our collective effort to find an urgent comprehensive approach in order to genuinely address the issue. In trying to resolve rather than ameliorate the problem, we are finalizing the Benadir Regional Policy on IDPs and establishing a Durable Solutions Unit that can better coordinate with all agencies and stakeholders that are assisting with IDPs. These procedural initiatives are within our scope, but we need material support.

The current pace of displacement in Mogadishu is reaching critical mass. Droughts, floods and violent conflicts continue to drive an influx of people seeking refuge in large urban cities. According to recent report released by UNOCHA, at least 700,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and thousands of refugees returning from Kenya and other neighboring countries have expressed preference to return to Mogadishu for obvious reasons associated with socio-economic opportunities. The urgency to tackle displacement has never been greater.

Of the estimated 3 million residents in Mogadishu, 25 percent of them are IDPs and poverty levels among ordinary residents are very high. This is a volatile situation that creates extreme problems for the IDPs and the host community alike.

Camps across the Benadir region are below standards. Over 80 percent lack basic services, shelter, water, hygiene and health services. The majority of those displaced are children with less than 30 percent having access to basic education. Women and girls are at higher risk of gender-based violence both in and outside settlements due to the inherent vulnerabilities displacement brings. Economic opportunity and social inclusion is a remote reality for most in Mogadishu, let alone IDPs.

As Mogadishu seeks to rebuild from decades of conflict, such mass scale displacement is over-stretching an already fragile urban infrastructure. The unprecedented growth rate has created a humanitarian crisis and a government in search of solutions. The Benadir Regional Authority & Mogadishu Municipality is responding and accepting its responsibilities with a bold and visionary commitment to ending displacement by 2022. As Mayor & Governor, I view displacement not only as a humanitarian issue, but an issue that hinders development of a metropolitan capital city that is poised to reclaim its glory, beauty and relevance in the nation. We wish to integrate our IDPs into Somalia’s capital city which will both meet their personal needs and allow them to re-join society, boosting the city’s and their country’s, economic development and social cohesion.

How to end internal displacement?

It is commonly understood that displacement is political and economic conundrum which, although a regional problem, has an impact in many countries. A process that challenges the narrative of exclusion and alienation begins with a vision and a commitment. Our vision to end displacement in the capital city is historic in nature, but since the city is recovering from a devastating conflict it is the right time to address all the challenges. This commitment to improving the living conditions of all vulnerable groups, including displaced communities, aligns with key pillars of the Benadir Development Plan, which is directly linked to the National Development Plan of the country.

The current development of an IDP policy is an inaugural event led by the local goverment. It is our first step in ensuring that the process of ending displacement is informed, consultative and rights-based. The policy is framed to respect and ensure the social, economic, cultural, political, and civil rights of displaced communities. More so, it will create opportunities for displaced communities to participate in public affairs and in the decision-making process as full citizens of their nation. Finally, it will ensure access to basic services such as housing, land as well as economic and employment opportunities.

While the IDP policy is at the heart of rights-based process, policy alone will not address displacement. Enhancing the region’s resilience and capacity to reverse the trend of protracted displacement and substantially reduce the number of IDPs by facilitating and supporting durable solutions is fundamental. Moving from humanitarian focus and placing increased emphasis on development opportunities to tackle disenfranchisement of IDPs and host communities will promote early recovery and resilience. It will also turn the narrative from a problem to solve to an opportunity to cease for all.

Innovation

New innovative approaches to tackle displacement are urgently needed as affected communities are evolving. A significant number of people are seeking assistance to move beyond emergency relief and build more productive lives in the form of Durable Solutions. This will reduce the current humanitarian caseload by connecting IDPs with developmental solutions and priorities in place of humanitarian actions.

The local government is exploring such innovative options through multi-sectorial engagement to address these challenges. The Benadir Region’s Durable Solutions Action Plan is designed to integrate priorities in the National Development Plan and other relevant frameworks such Intra-Agency Standing Committee on Durable Solutions (IASC), Drought Impact Needs Assessment (DINA) and Recovery and Resilience Framework (RRF) to secure durable solutions for over half million displaced in the region. We believe our approach will increase the overall impact of these initiatives, beyond the sum of their individual contributions in assisting IDPs.

Benadir Regional Authority (BRA) needs assistance. We understand that we cannot have a modern and forward-looking capital city with hundreds of thousands of displaced people in camps within the city. BRA’s plans lead the implementation of durable solutions and enacting enabling policies and frameworks. Our policy includes allocating land for families in protracted displacement, creating low cost housing models and incentivising the private sector to invest in this problem as part of their commercial development. This innovative approach is the only way to resolve the key challenges of providing basic services to the most vulnerable in Somali society with both the government and private sector contributing to the way forward.

There is arguably some notable assistance by international partners to IDPs in Mogadishu but we need this support to be better coordinated and aligned with the priorities of the Local Government so that wasteful duplication is avoided. Our individual implementation strategies will be more effective where all partners join hands to assist the IDPs in the capital.

We are one family

If our plans are achieved, we believe it will create a huge impact such that no one will have to label the other as disadvantaged but rather as people who contribute resourcefully to the day-to-day development of the city.

BRA believes integrating IDPs into the fabric of society, seeing IDPs as contributing members of the Benadir Region that bring income and resources both formally and informally. This social inclusion of IDPs will yield positive economic, social and political cohesion and improve the overall security of the city. It is important to remember that IDPs are real stakeholders of their capital too.

Yes, the Benadir Region is still experiencing the challenge of IDP settlements concentrated in the urban areas, creating high density and a lack of social services but, with assistance, Mogadishu can respond positively and effectively becoming a model for the country by promoting our inclusive and progressive agenda to address displacement.

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H.E. Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow)
Mayor of Mogadishu & Governor of Benadir Region