Somaliland’s progress on governance: A case of blending the old and the new. Somaliland has achieved the type of progress in Government to which the rest of Africa and Somalia can only aspire.

Written by Daniel Harris, Marta Foresti

The collapse of the unified Somali state under General Mohammed Siyad Barre in 1991 after a protracted civil war left in its wake widespread dislocation, death, and destruction. Yet despite the chaos in southern and central Somalia, the northwest region of Somaliland has achieved the type of progress in governance to which the rest of Somalia can only aspire. This former British protectorate has been defined by relative peace and calm and the development of an emerging set of state institutions. Somaliland has developed its own structures and systems of governance, drawing on elements of a kin-based system that provided the organizing structure for social, economic, and political activity during centuries of nomadic pastoralist history.

    1. Absence of easily recognizable formal state institutions should not be equated with an absence of institutions altogether. Coexistence and interaction between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ institutions have been key to balancing internal and external demands for legitimacy in Somaliland and represent significant progress in governance.
    2. These unique institutional arrangements have contributed to the effective provision of public goods in key areas, such as those relating to basic security, the investment climate, and service delivery at the local level.
    3. Lack of significant international aid revenues under the control of the state to date has forced nascent government institutions to rely on sources of financing that include taxation, the Diaspora, and loans from the business community, which have helped the state to provide essential public goods.

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About the Authors 

Daniel HarrisDaniel Harris

Research Associate

Daniel Harris is a political economist with an interest in the relationship between policy and practice in reform processes; the politics and governance of service delivery and sustainable, inclusive economic growth; and the ways in which organizational dynamics affect approaches to development and development assistance.

Marta ForestiMarta Foresti

Executive Director, ODI Europe

Marta is the Director of ODI Europe and she also leads our Human Mobility Initiative, managing the institute engagement on migration at global, regional and local level. She is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs and the London School of Economics. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Migration Policy and Practice as well as of the board of

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)Overseas Development Institute

UK’s leading independent think tank

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is global affairs think tank, founded in 1960. Its mission is “to inspire people to act on injustice and inequality through collaborative research and ideas that matter for people and the planet.”

© Overseas Development Institute 2011



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