UK aid in a conflict-affected country: Reducing conflict and fragility in Somalia

In extremely challenging circumstances, UK aid is making a positive contribution to state-building and stability in Somalia.

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23 Jun 2017
Green - Amber
Lead commissioner
Richard Gledhill
Fragile states
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Approach paper

UK aid is making a positive contribution to state-building and stability in Somalia, despite facing extremely challenging circumstances.

The aid, which amounted to £185m in 2016/17, delivered significant achievements in Somalia. However, the UK could improve its performance in several important areas.

Government departments working in Somalia have successfully integrated their work under a single UK strategy. However they need to do more to ensure their work is underpinned by an agreed view on the causes of the conflict, to help target aid programmes and ensure that they ‘do no harm’.

The UK has helped develop a political settlement in the world’s most fragile state, but more should be done to include ordinary Somalis in the political processes – to help ensure the settlement will last.

The UK government has adapted to the difficult operating environment in Somalia, including through its use of private sector contractors who have been able to work in areas recovered from the terrorist group Al-Shabaab.


ICAI made the following recommendations to improve UK aid spending in conflict-affected environments:

  • Government departments delivering aid in Somalia should develop a more systematic and shared understanding of the drivers of conflict and fragility there, to help target aid programmes and ensure that they ‘do no harm’.
  • More needs to be done to promote inclusion and human rights across the portfolio of UK aid to Somalia.
  • Where economic development and humanitarian programmes are also intended to contribute to peace- and stability-related outcomes, this should be specified as part of their objectives and built into their associated delivery plans and monitoring and reporting arrangements.
  • DFID and the CSSF should ensure that they provide sufficient oversight and political support to their private contractors, and agree with their counterpart government authorities memoranda of understanding to provide a clear framework of accountability.
  • The CSSF should strengthen its operational management focus on monitoring, evaluation and learning, with realistic results frameworks which recognise indirect benefits such as diplomatic access and influence as well as more tangible programme outputs. It should be clearer whether projects are pilots or intended to deliver results at a significant scale.
  • All CSSF activities funded as ODA should have clear developmental objectives. Work on rule of law institutions should be well coordinated and aim at sustainability and national ownership.
  • Departments operating in Somalia should adopt a more systematic approach to the collection and dissemination of learning on what works in addressing conflict and fragility, particularly for programmes that are intended to be experimental or adaptive in nature.
  • DFID and the FCO should explore opportunities for greater integration of working space, systems and processes to make ‘One HMG’ even more of a reality for UK aid in Somalia.

Government response

The government publishes a response to all ICAI reviews. You can read the government’s response to our Somalia review online.

International Development Committee

Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), or its ICAI sub-committee, holds hearings on all ICAI reviews. You can watch the IDC hearing on our Somalia review online.

ICAI’s follow-up

ICAI follows up on all of its reviews to check what progress has been made since publication. ICAI’s Somalia follow-up is now available to read online.