In Somaliland, local communities benefit from decentralization

Paralegal gives legal assistance to internally displaced persons
A paralegal trained by UNDP gives legal assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Ajuran IDP camp in Garowe. (Photo: Noor Khamis/UNDP Somalia)

For Fosia Ahmed Ismail, a returnee to the Somaliland district of Hargeisa, life was hard. Many basic services were inadequately delivered, and access to authorities was limited and sometimes even unthinkable.

“The local government resettled us here,” said Fosia. But infrastructure in local districts could not support all the returnees, and finding a way to make a living was increasingly difficult.


  • A joint UN programme on local governance is working with several districts in Somaliland to increase the capacity of civil servants while developing ways to help them deliver services to their constituents.
  • In the district of Hargeisa, 400 families benefited from shelters and infrastructure developed by the local authorities to support returnees.
  • The project is helping Somaliland’s administration develop fora for citizens to engage in policy formulation.

Today, a UN joint programme on Local Governance and Decentralized Service Delivery (JPLG) is working to empower local authorities and improve service delivery, especially to the most vulnerable communities. In Hargeisa, 400 families have benefited from shelters and infrastructure developed by the local district to support returnees.

“Our lives are getting better day by day, to the point that our children are now going to schools,” Fosia said.

Many community members actively support the development of infrastructure and systems that help local authorities respond to what their communities need. In one such case, land was designated by the local government of Hargeisa for economic development and led to the creation of a central market, greatly benefitting street vendors and vegetable sellers.

“We had an obligation to address the plights of our people as elected representatives at the time,” said Hussein Mohamoud Je’er, Former Mayor of Hargeisa. “We had a duty to help the displaced people and the refugees who had returned from Djibouti, Ethiopia and other places. They did not have land or homes.”

Local residents were employed as casual workers during the market’s construction, gaining valuable skills and a sense of ownership. The decentralization process aims to bring citizens closer to government decision-making, and to directly deal with and hold local authorities accountable.

Shuun Jirde Cali, chairperson for vegetable sellers in Hargeisa, has also experienced the benefits of local government working closer with its communities.  

“The person who collects taxes from me, I know them and I can easily get to their office,” she said. “When we have grievances to be addressed, we cannot access the higher authorities, so it’s this person that can serve me best.”

In Somaliland, the constitution adopted in 2001 lays down the legal framework for decentralization. To support these efforts, JPLG coordinates its work with central and local governments, five UN partner agencies (ILO, UNCDF, UNDP, UN Habitat, and UNICEF), numerous development partners, as well as the private sector and communities. Activities are financed by Denmark, United Kingdom, European Union, Sweden and Switzerland.

Currently, JPLG is working with seven districts to increase civil servants’ capacity while developing processes and systems that more effectively deliver services to their constituents.  

An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Local Governance was created to support this process, along with a forum for citizens to engage in policy formulation.

Phillip Cooper, UNDP Project Manager for the joint programme, said central and local governments have made immense progress to decentralize.

“The creation of the committee represents a great step in the right direction and is leading Somaliland’s administration and its citizens into the next generation of good governance and responsible service delivery,” Cooper said.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP European Union representation office
Go to UNDP Global