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.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) trains midwives in Somalia through Finland’s support. Photo: Joonas Lehtipuu/Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Somalia is one of the world’s most fragile states. The process of statebuilding is in its early stages.  The ongoing long-standing conflict against the terrorist organisation Al Shabaab, violent clashes among clans and extreme weather events have plunged Somalia into humanitarian crisis and a state of instability. Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years has created a serious food crisis in some of the federal states.

A radical Islamist terrorist organisation al-Shabaab has large areas of rural Somalia under its control. Around 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and 90 per cent in extreme poverty. As many as 3.8 million people are internally displaced due to conflicts and drought. This number includes people who have been displaced for a long time. The number of new internally displaced persons exceeded 1.3 million by mid-2023. Violence against women is common, as is genital mutilation.

Somalia’s maternal mortality ratio is still among the highest in the world at 692 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread in Somalia, and internally displaced persons especially are at risk of GBV. In 2022, it was estimated that more than 98 per cent of Somali women and girls aged 15 to 49 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).  

Despite all these challenges, Somalia’s economy is growing. Somalia was admitted to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in spring 2020, after implementing reforms required for entry. Somalia’s entry to the HIPC Initiative means that its larger debts will be cancelled and it can access more affordable financing, such as funds of the International Development Association (IDA). 

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.  The ties  between Finland and Somalia 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 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 be guided by the Country Programme, which focuses  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)

The Country Programme has two impact areas: on one hand, improved confidence in the state and increased social cohesion and, on the other, enhanced position of women and girls in Somalia. 

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

Outcome 1: 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 programmes and projects

  • Support for the education component of the UNICEF country programme for Somalia (2021–2025). The main outcome is to promote access to high-quality early childhood and basic education and improved learning outcomes for children, especially girls from the most disadvantaged communities and children affected by crises and conflict: EUR 7,650,000 in 2021–2024
  • Support for the Training of health and education professionals in Somalia project (MIDA FINNSOM III) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The project support the development of high-quality public services by appointing experts from the Somali diaspora, especially Finnish nationals, to support the capacity of local health and education institutions: EUR 6,400,000 in 2022–3025
  • Support for the MIDEEY project of the Finn Church Aid (FCA) in support of national reconciliation and local governance in Somalia: EUR 4.5 million in 2021–2024 

Finnish development cooperation to improve the position of women and girls, especially by strengthening their sexual and reproductive health and rights 

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
  • Gender-based violence is prevented more effectively and women and girls have access to services protecting them from violence and the threat of violence 
  • Increased commitment to ending gender-based violence and harmful practices related to  genital mutilation

Ongoing programmes and projects

  • Support for the UNFPA Country Programme in Somalia. A long-term goal of the UNFPA Country Programme in Somalia is to improve the health, wellbeing and rights of women, young people and the most vulnerable populations: EUR 25 million in 2021–2025
  • Support for the MIDA FINNSOM V Reproductive Health Project of the International Organization for Migration (IMO) in Somaliland. Finland has supported the capacity-building of Somaliland’s Ministry of Health and public healthcare institutions through phase V of the IMO’s MIDA FINNSOM project since 2008. The project continues the work of the previous phases, drawing on the expertise of Somali diaspora to improve especially sexual and reproductive health and rights: EUR 3,075,000 in 2022–2024. 

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 international donor community, the European Union and the group of Nordic countries . As an EU Member State, Finland participates in the EU’s political 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. Finland is one of the largest sending states to the European Union Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP) and the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Somalia. 

The Finnish Ministry of the Interior and the Finnish Immigration Service are in active contact with Somalia in matters related to migration and return of Somali citizens.

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 in  Somalia has been funded through Finnpartnership, and especially  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. The Finnish FCA Investment invests in small and medium-sized enterprises in Somalia. 

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.

Support for civil society

Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) are actively engaged in various development cooperation projects in Somalia. Health, gender equality, education, freedom of expression and environmental protection are among the fields covered in the projects. Altogether 10 Finnish CSOs are operating in Somalia in cooperation with their local partners: Finn Church Aid, Save the Children, Finnish Red Cross, World Vision Finland, African Care, Deaconess Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility Finland, Martha Association, Finnish Somalia Network and Finland-Somalia Association. In addition, the International Solidarity Foundation operates in Somaliland. Finland’s active Somali diaspora plays an important role in the CSO projects.

In recent years, Finland has supported CSO projects in Somalia by approximately EUR 3.5 million a year.

Read more about support for local civil society organisations: Finland in Somalia (Link to another website.)

Humanitarian aid

Every year, hundreds of millions of people suffer as the result of natural disasters, armed conflicts and other crises. Humanitarian aid saves human lives, relieves human suffering, and maintains human dignity in times of crisis. It is financed from Finland’s development cooperation appropriations.

Finnish aid is allocated to countries that have made a formal request to the UN for assistance, if their humanitarian situation has been subject to a reliable needs assessment and if an UN-coordinated consolidated appeal has been made by aid organisations.

Finland is committed to channelling annually about 10 per cent of its development aid appropriations for humanitarian aid directed to official development assistance (ODA) recipient countries.

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs channels its funds for humanitarian aid through three routes: UN bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Finnish aid organisations. 

The humanitarian situation in Somalia is dire. Extreme weather events, drought and conflicts are testing the whole country. About half of the Somali population, 8.3 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid, among them more than 3 million children and young people. The country is facing the worst drought in forty years. Somalia needs long-term solutions, the humanitarian, development and peace nexus, and collaboration among different kinds of actors.

Ongoing conflict and unrest and limited financing for humanitarian aid pose significant challenges to addressing the effects of drought and other crises.

In 2022, Finland granted a total of EUR 15.5 million in humanitarian aid to Somalia. Of this sum, EUR 13 million was allocated from humanitarian aid funds and EUR 2.5 million was channelled to humanitarian action within the Country Programme. Aid was granted through Save the Children Finland, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In addition, Finland helped the WFP fund the Black Sea Grain Initiative to support food security in the Horn of Africa.

Read more about humanitarian aid: Finland in Somalia(Link to another website.)