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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.

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Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States

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In Nigeria, a radio call-in show with local Islamic scholars provided an alternative to extremist propaganda. In Somalia, training youth in nonviolent advocacy for better governance produced a sharp drop in support for political violence. In the Lake Chad region, coordinating U.S. defense, development and diplomatic efforts helped push back Boko Haram and strengthened surrounding states. Such cases illustrate ways to close off the openings for extremism in fragile states, experts said in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

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Fighting Serious Crimes: Strategies and Tactics for Conflict-Affected Societies is an invaluable resource for anyone battling serious crimes in societies seeking to avoid conflict, to escape from violence, or to recover and rebuild. Packed with practical guidance, this volume includes real world examples from more than twenty of today’s conflict zones, including Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Colombia.

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