The root cause of instability in Somalia is poor investment in human development. The United Nations defines human development as equipping people with the “capabilities and opportunities they need to make choices to improve their lives.” Somalia’s instability is reflected by its human development index, ranked at 165 of 170 countries. 1 The drivers of instability are a neglected health and education infrastructure, a weak economy and an excluded youth social group. The derelict health and education infrastructure increases the population’s vulnerability to recruiting efforts by extremist groups. The Government’s weak control of the formal economy drives instability because disorganized financial management excludes youth from employment and business opportunities. The limited opportunities offered by education and the economy frustrate Somali youth as they struggle to mature into adulthood, providing a fertile ground for youth radicalization.
Infrastructure2 Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia 3 MSF Forced to Close All Medical Programmes in Somalia 4 MSF Forced to Close All Medical Programmes in Somalia
Somalia’s health and education infrastructure is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is 108 deaths per 1000 births and child mortality is 178 deaths per 1000 children, ranking third highest in the world. 2 The lack of external aid exacerbates the problem. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), known in North America as Doctors Without Borders, departed Somalia in August 2013 after two workers were released after being held hostage for almost two years. The release was the breaking point amidst dozens of previous instances of violence. Since first arriving to Somalia in 1991, 14 MSF staff members have been killed. To protect their workers MSF hired armed guards, providing Somalia the solemn distinction of being the only country in which the MSF employed armed guards. 3 Assistance from MSF was desperately needed to prop up existing infrastructure. In 2012, “MSF teams provided more than 624,000 medical consultations, admitted 41,100 people to hospitals, helped deliver 7,300 babies, immunized 58,000 people, and treated 30,000 malnourished children.” 4 The lack of medical care and decreased coverage from MSF’s departure dramatically increased the population’s vulnerability.5 Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen 6 Daly & Gerwehr, Al-Qaida: Terrorist Selection and Recruitment, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (2006)., 85
A study by the RAND corporation researched Al-Queda terrorist selection and recruitment techniques. RAND found that al-Queda recruiters tailor messages to match their audience and environment. The research is applicable to Somalia because al-Shabaab, the major terrorist group in Somalia, operates as an affiliate of al-Queda. 5 Al-Queda targets individuals with “a high level of current distress or dissatisfaction (emotional, physical, or both)” 6 The increased vulnerability and distress caused by inadequate medical care leaves many Somalis susceptible to terrorist recruiting campaigns, destabilizing internal security.7 Survey of Secondary Education in Central and Southern Somalia 2008 8 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, 6
Education infrastructure collapsed in 1991 along with Siad Barre’s Somali Democratic Republic because the taxation needed for public funding dissolved. Somalia has been slow to recover. Only 4.5 percent of Somali children attend secondary school. The reasons for the low enrollment rate include the inability to pay private school fees (87.2 percent), marriage (49.5 percent), distance to the school (28.4 percent) and a familial requirement to work at home (27.5 percent). 7 The lack of schooling harms Somali economic growth. A comprehensive U.N. report on 100 countries over 35 years “showed that economic growth is directly related to achievements in secondary schooling.” 89 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (1948), Article 26 10 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, 53
The failings of Somali education infrastructure deprive Somali youth of educational opportunities that would propel them into adulthood. Somali youth are well aware of the universal right to education. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” 9 A 2012 U.N. Human Development Report found that 82 percent of Somalis knew that they had a right to primary education. 10 The same U.N. report examined levels of youth frustration using factors such as “poor governance and justice” and “no outlets to express aspiration and need”. The overall frustration index for Somali youth was 3.96 of 5, where 5 is most frustrated. The gap between the right to universal education and the current Somali implementation frustrates youth by blocking their transition to adulthood. The blocked transition and frustration provide a seam that terrorist may exploit for recruiting efforts.
Economic Factors of Instability11 About us - African Development Bank 12 Somalia Country Brief 2013-2015, 2, Annex 11 xvi
The economy drives instability by excluding youth from employment and business opportunities. The African Developmental Bank Group (ADBG) is a financial institution that promotes economic and human development in Africa, and financed over $4 billion in improvement projects in 2013. 11 A country brief written by ADBG found that many of Somalia’s financial difficulties are related to its nascent central banking system. The Somali Central bank was reestablished in 2009 with a $2 million grant from ADBG. Though Somalia established a number of historic firsts, including the first national budget in two decades, the disorganized public finance management hinders human development. The Somali Central Bank has not yet implemented a national monetary policy. Until the Central Bank takes charge of monetary policy and implements a formal tax policy, inflation is expected to remain near 300 percent, and profitable businesses will continue to operate untaxed. The net result is a poor revenue base that leaves Somalia reliant on external aid to improve their infrastructure and business climate. 1213 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, xx 14 Jad Chaaban, The Costs of Youth Exclusion in the Middle East, 18 15 Somalia Country Brief 2013-2015, Annex 4 iv 16 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, 53
One consequence of the lackluster business climate is a saturated job market. The U.N. Human Development Report found that highest level of youth frustration was caused by the lack of employment opportunities. The frustration is understandable as overall unemployment stands at 54 percent and youth unemployment is a staggering 67 percent. 13 The high unemployment rate blocks youth from reaching adulthood by excluding them from the labor market. The cost of youth economic exclusion is well studied. Dr. Chaaban, an economics professor at the American University of Beirut, showed that the cost of youth exclusion exceeded 17 percent of GDP in Egypt ($53 billion) and 7 percent of GDP in Jordan ($1.5 billion). For comparison, the cost of Egypt’s youth exclusion is equivalent to the total value of Egypt’s agricultural sector. 14 Similar statistics are unavailable for Somalia because the last reliable socio-economic survey was published in 2004. Due to the dearth of statistics, ADBG noted that “it is almost impossible to undertake planning and programming work” or “monitor economic and social developments.” 15 As a consequence, the effect of various improvement programs cannot be measured and private investment firms look to invest in better studied countries, further suppressing job growth. As with education, the 2012 U.N. Human Development Report showed that the majority of Somali youth (71 percent) recognize that they have right to decent work as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 16 The financial missteps of the Government exclude Somali youth from business opportunities, increasing their vulnerability and frustration.
Social Factors of Instability
Somalia’s social dynamic drives instability because the frustration harbored by the large youth population predisposes them towards radicalization. The U.N. Human Development Report described the causes and effects of social issues as such:17 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, 2
18 United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012, xix 19 Daly & Gerwehr, Al-Qaida: Terrorist Selection and Recruitment, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (2006)., 85
Lost opportunities, unclear identity and a growing sense of marginalization among youth in an environment of state collapse, violent conflict and economic decline provide fertile ground for youth radicalization. The same reasons that have pushed young Somalis to join Al-Shabaab have also drawn them to join street gangs. 17
The overarching problem faced by Somali youth is the difficult transition into adulthood. As over 70 percent of Somalis are under the age of 30, the problem is both broad and consequential. The transition into adulthood is difficult because of “social, economic and political exclusions” related to “cultural affiliations, gender, age, illiteracy and poverty.” The exclusions diminish the opportunities available to youth and increase their frustration. 18 The frustration opens youth up to terrorist recruiting messages. RAND research found that al-Queda specifically targets “cultural disillusionment in a frustrated seeker (i.e., unfulfilled idealism)” as a factor in recruitment. 19
Conclusion20 Mary Chole Mulderig, An Uncertain Future: Youth Frustration and the Arab Spring in: The Pardee Papers, Boston University (2013), pg 26
The problems facing Somalia are not unique. A large youth population, youth unemployment and poor education opportunities were all major causes of the Arab Spring. Mary Mulderig, a cultural anthropologist, studied the commonalities between the Arab Spring movements, noting that combination of factors including “a youth bulge, massive youth unemployment, increasing quantity but decreasing quality of education […] translates into a massive societal problem not seen to this extreme elsewhere.” 20 Somalia, however, easily eclipses many of the statistics associated with the Arab Spring. A youth population exceeding 70 percent coupled with a youth unemployment rate of 67 percent bodes poorly for Somalia’s future. Youth exclusion perpetrated through economic and political avenues drives youth toward radicalization. The future of Somalia lies in its youth. To maintain the current tenuous level of stability, Somalia must prioritize human development of its youth through improvements in infrastructure and the economy.
Jad Chaaban, The Costs of Youth Exclusion in the Middle East
Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia
Daly & Gerwehr, Al-Qaida: Terrorist Selection and Recruitment, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (2006).
Mary Chole Mulderig, An Uncertain Future: Youth Frustration and the Arab Spring in: The Pardee Papers, Boston University (2013)
United Nations Development Programme, Somalia Human Development Report 2012