After decades of civil war and the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalis and international supporters have made progress in re-establishing state structures, such as a provisional 2012 constitution and the country’s first elections for a government since 1969. The African Union and the United Nations, with U.S. assistance, support the Federal Government of Somalia in restoring institutions. Still, continued attacks by the al-Shabab extremist group, plus corruption and regional and clan disputes, have complicated the government’s efforts to hold popular elections and establish stable governance. For example, consensus still must be reached about the composition, boundaries, and powers of Somalia’s constituent states. The government was unable to hold a direct vote for president in 2016 and scheduled an indirect election in parliament for February 2017. Of an estimated 10 million Somalis, more than 2 million are displaced and 5 million need humanitarian assistance, according to U.N. agencies.

USIP’s Work

The United Institute of Peace (USIP) provides education, grants, training, and resources to help Somalis strengthen the institutions and skills needed to build a more stable, resilient society and state. USIP pursues its growing work through partnerships with Somali civil society organizations and government institutions, the U.S. State Department, non-governmental organizations, and the large Somali diaspora around the globe. USIP’s recent work includes:

Constitutional Review: Reviewing the 2012 Provisional Constitution is one of the pillars of Vision 2016. Cellphones, social media, and other technologies can be harnessed to make Somalia’s national dialogue about the constitution more inclusive, participatory, and transparent. USIP, working with the associated non-profit PeaceTech Lab, brought together the constitution-drafting bodies, civil society organizations, and technologists to explore approaches.

Police Training: Members of the Somalia Police Force have taken part since 2013 in USIP courses on police methods to counter violent extremism through community policing.  The program emphasizes the key principles of service-oriented policing with a focus on the institutional requirements for building needed capabilities for a new national police system.

Generation Change: This program is dedicated to empowering and building the capacity of civically engaged youth (18-35 years old) as they emerge as leaders in their communities. The program provides young civic leaders with a range of conflict management and leadership skills. It engages young leaders from five countries across sub-Saharan Africa, including Somalia. Somali participants recently attended a program where they developed skills needed to implement conflict management and leadership trainings in their own communities.


USIP provides grants to projects that promote peacebuilding, nonviolent strategies and conflict resolution in Somalia, including:

Peace Education: A team of education specialists from Mogadishu, Puntland, and Somaliland has worked to revise the social studies curriculum for primary and secondary students. This work aims to remove cultural and ethnic biases from the curriculum and infuse themes of tolerance, appreciation for diversity, and respect for others.

Land Arbitration Initiatives: As in many countries, land ownership is a source of local conflicts and violence. USIP has supported Somali partners to help build national institutions to non-violently resolve land disputes. These include a central government repository of land records, which does not exist in much of Somalia.

USIP Events

USIP hosts events that gather thought leaders, scholars, experts, policymakers, and elected officials to discuss conflicts and peacebuilding efforts around the world, including in Somalia. Recent events include:

A Somali Plan for Peace: Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud laid out his plan for rebuilding stability and social peace in Somalia in a public address at USIP in April 2016. In his speech and in discussions with USIP, he pointed out the obstacles of mistrust and extremist violence that must be overcome with international help.

U.S. Foreign Policy in Somalia: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman spoke at USIP in June 2014 to announce the U.S. decision to recognize Somalia and re-establish diplomatic ties. She discussed new U.S. efforts to advance peace, stability and development in Somalia.

Progress or Peril in Somalia. In April 2014, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, joined Ambassador Johnnie Carson, a USIP senior advisor, to discuss with U.S. Somalia specialists and the public the role of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNOSOM). Kay discussed UNOSOM’s progress in achieving key governance and security goals.

Related Publications

Somalia Seeks Best Possible Elections, More Security Aid

Somalia Seeks Best Possible Elections, More Security Aid

Thursday, April 21, 2016

By: USIP Staff

Four years after the formation of a federal government in Somalia, the country has built nascent institutions, but it will need years of financial and security support to make the new state effective, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said April 20 at USIP. The country’s next critical step will be to hold national elections before September, a vote that Mohamud said will be less democratic than he and other Somalis had hoped—but an improvement in a country that has not elected any government since 1969.

Violent Extremism; Economics & Environment; Electoral Violence

Patronage and Peace in the Horn of Africa

Patronage and Peace in the Horn of Africa

Thursday, February 18, 2016

By: Gopal Ratnam

Peacebuilders in the Horn of Africa and across the larger Middle East are likely to get better outcomes with a greater understanding of the region’s “political marketplace,” where loyalties based on financial and economic means seem to create more stability than classic institution-building, according to Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a professor at Tufts University. But rather than succumbing to illegitimate patronage, some experts say the answer may lie i...

Economics & Environment; Peace Processes

Music, Poetry, Film: Shoring Up Identities for Peaceful Ends

Music, Poetry, Film: Shoring Up Identities for Peaceful Ends

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By: Nathaniel L. Wilson

A Somali master poet reconnects citizens to their government. A Lebanese filmmaker collects fighters' stories to dramatize the cost of war. Police in Northern Ireland adopt symbols of peace to signal a new ethos. In places simmering with long-standing social tensions and alienation, common cultural understandings can help ease hostility, suggesting a potentially powerful role for a mechanism still under-used in peacebuilding: the arts.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism; Non-Violent Movements

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