Turkey in Somalia: Shifting Paradigms of Aid
©South African Institute of International Affairs
As the global development landscape continues to evolve, new and emerging actors – countries transitioning from being aid recipients to aid providers – are becoming increasingly visible on the global scene. Although the approaches, interests and resources of emerging donors are far from uniform, their increasing presence in global development – particularly in fragile and conflict-affected settings – could create new ways of thinking about foreign aid and contribute to more horizontal, equitable and efficient practices. The rise of these donors also poses challenges: their compliance with international standards in development assistance, the effectiveness of their aid and the inclusivity of their efforts have often been questioned.
Turkey’s presence in Somalia is an important example of emerging donor engagement in a conflict setting. Its involvement in Somalia intensified in response to the devastating 2010–2012 famine, but has since gone well beyond delivering aid and assistance to famine survivors. It has hosted international and regional conferences, mediated among various parties, engaged in capacity-building efforts, encouraged bilateral trade and delivered development assistance. Turkey’s engagement in Somalia has been remarkably multifaceted; it has included the Turkish government, religious institutions, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and local municipalities. It is too early to accurately assess the impact of Turkey’s involvement on Somali institutions or to understand whether it has attenuated the conflict. Instead, this report draws on dozens of interviews in Turkey and Somalia to examine trends and challenges.
Turkey’s engagement in Somalia has distinguished itself by a readiness to deploy staff in the field despite the security risks, deference to the Somali government and a push for national ownership, as well as its involvement in the security and private sectors. However, its experience has also brought to the fore critical tensions: Will its respect for sovereignty and support to security institutions clash with norms of human rights and the inclusion of other parts of society in peacebuilding? Can this multi-pronged approach to aid be channelled toward a coherent and comprehensive peacebuilding strategy? And will these nascent aid institutions be able to weather domestic pressures in Turkey?