Finland’s relations and development cooperation in Somalia

Finland's development cooperation in Somalia supports statebuilding and improves the position of women and girls.

Somali midwives in red robes.

By the end of 2020, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had trained 1,561 midwives through Finland’s support. In the five-year period from 2015–2020, maternal mortality dropped from 732 to 692 per 100,000 mothers in childbirth.  The figure is still high, but the direction is correct. Photo: Joonas Lehtipuu / MFA

Somalia is recovering from the decades-long circle of violence. The public administration and the country's taxation capacity are improving. Debt relief mechanisms given more economic leeway. 

Despite the steps forward, Somalia continues to be an unstable state. A radical Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has large areas of rural Somalia under its control. Approximately 70 per cent of the population live in poverty, and more than two million people are internally displaced. Violence against women is common, as is genital mutilation. The country suffers also from natural disasters and drought.  

Somalia has been one of Finland’s partner countries for development cooperation since the 1980s. Finland has supported, for example education, healthcare, gender equality and good governance. During the civil war in the 1990s, development cooperation was mainly replaced by humanitarian assistance but, in recent years, the emphasis has been on reconstruction again. In future, Finland and the other donors will work to promote Somalia’s efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The relations between Finland and Somalia are diversifying and the ties between the countries are strengthened by the more than 20,000 Finnish citizens, which constitute the Somali diaspora residing in Finland.  The diaspora community is actively developing trade relations between the countries and takes part in development cooperation projects. 

The objectives of Finland’s comprehensive activities in Somalia are described in the Country Strategy and the Country Programme. The latter focuses on development cooperation. The main goals of the Country Strategy for 2021–2024 are to diversify the bilateral relations between Finland and Somalia, to contribute to peacebuilding and statebuilding, to support gender equality and the realisation of women’s rights, and to advance inclusive development in healthcare and education. 

Finland’s Country Strategy for Somalia 2021–2024 (PDF, 305 KB)

Outcomes of Finland’s development cooperation in Somalia in 2021–2024

In 2021–2024, Finland’s bilateral cooperation in Somalia will focus on statebuilding and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The financial frame for 2021–2024 will be approximately EUR 54 million.

Finland’s Country Programme for Development Cooperation in Somalia (PDF, 648 KB)

Finland's planned development cooperation appropriations for Somalia 2021-2024. 27 million euros for statebuilding, 27 million euros for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Totalling 54 million euros.

In the previous programming period in 2016–2019, Finland concentrated on improving the position of women and girls and statebuilding.

Finland’s development cooperation to enhance trust in the government and to strengthen the social contract

Finland’s development cooperation is used to support the progress in the national reconciliation process, to strengthen local government, and to improve access to education and healthcare. 

Outcome: People have higher trust in the government and the social contract consolidates

  • The national reconciliation process advances
  • The local government strengthens and becomes more inclusive
  • The administration of education and healthcare strengthens and services are more readily available to citizens

Ongoing programs and projects

  • EUR 4.6 million in 2021–2022 to Somalia Multi-Partner Fund (MPF) via the World Bank
  • EUR 2 million in 2021 to improving healthcare and education, which the Somali diaspora is supporting via MIDA FINNSOM II, which is a project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Finnish development cooperation to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health and social inclusion

Finland’s development cooperation is used to support women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and their right to protection against violence and the threat of violence. Support is also directed to measures that are related to ending harmful practices that are related to gender-based violence and genital mutilation. 

Outcome: Women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in situations of crisis 

  • Women and girls have improved access to sexual and reproductive health services
  • Women and girls have the right to services protecting against violence and the threat of violence and opportunities to use these services
  • Increased commitment to ending harmful practices related to gender-based violence and genital mutilation

Ongoing programs and projects

  • The support for UNFPA’s Country Programme in Somalia is EUR 5 million in 2021–2024

Highlights of the Results Report 2022

Somalia is facing a humanitarian crisis caused mainly by drought and various internal conflicts. The Government of Somalia’s war against Al Shabaab, in addition to other conflicts, has caused instability. In 2022, more than half of the population needed humanitarian assistance, and more than 1.3 million people were internally displaced. Overall, there are more than 3.8 million internally displaced people in the country. However, major interventions by the international community succeeded in preventing famine in Somalia. 

In 2022, through Finland’s support, a total of 587,319 women and girls received integrated sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Finland supported the uptake of family planning services in Somalia, with 68,058 women using modern contraceptives in 2022, compared to 39,795 in 2021. Furthermore, communities were supported in discontinuing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. As a result, 22 internally displaced communities resolved to end FGM. This is a remarkable result, as the prevalence of FGM in Somalia is particularly high, at 98%.

Gradual steps were taken towards confidence in building the state and towards increased social cohesion for a renewed social contract. Around 4,000 teachers and educational staff in 1,736 schools were supported in the education sector in 2022, and the second round of school supervision using digital tools was rolled out in all the federal member states. 

The fragile situation in the country – conflict, drought, humanitarian crisis – requires development work, humanitarian aid and peacemaking to be implemented in parallel, i.e. a nexus approach. In response to this, Finland redirected additional funds to organisations with a double mandate to work in both the development field and the humanitarian field, namely UNFPA and WFP.

Finland’s partners of cooperation in Somalia

Finland works in Somalia as a member of the European Union and the donor community and as a representative of the group of Nordic countries. As an EU Member State, Finland participates in the EU’s dialogue with the Government of Somalia, where the country is encouraged, among other things, to improve the security situation, to strengthen the federal system, to fund the provision of basic services, and to root out corruption.

Finland also supports economic and social development in Somalia by providing funding for UN organisations and international development finance institutions. In addition, Finland provides needs-based humanitarian assistance especially via humanitarian organisations of the UN and Finnish civil society organisations. Finland also takes part in international crisis management operations that enhance security in the region.

Several Finnish civil society organisations support the development of Somali society in collaboration with the country’s civil society actors. The support is targeted, for example, at healthcare, education, the reconciliation process and freedom of the press. 

Commercial cooperation

Somalia's economy has suffered from the decades of conflicts and it is highly dependent on remittances sent by Somali people residing abroad. However, Somalia has plenty of economic potential in the form of natural resources, geographical location and young population structure. 

Trade between Finland and Somalia has increased in tandem with the improving security situation. Finnish companies’ entry to markets is Somalia has been funded through Finnpartnership, and solutions related to digitalisation and renewable energy may open up commercial opportunities in future, provided that the security situation in Somalia develops in a favourable direction. The Somali diaspora in Finland takes an active part in the commercial cooperation.

Finland’s objective is to double its trade with African countries in 2020–2030. During the same period of time, efforts will be made to significantly increase Finnish companies’ investments in Africa and African companies’ investments in Finland.