2023: Somali Public Agenda’s Year in Review

Reflections From Our Team

2023 was another productive year for the Somali Public Agenda (SPA). We published a record 19 papers, held a new record of 24 forums, produced 24 podcast episodes, trained 39 bloggers, trained 18 humanitarian actors in fostering resilience in line with core humanitarian standards, started intensive 3-monthslong research training to young researchers, engaged and talked to local and international media, attended conferences and workshops, trained 4 interns, and started working with like-minded institutions.

In 2023, SPA conducted and published various extensive studies. We published a total of 19 papers including 4 research reports, 1 policy paper, 7 governance briefs, and 7 commentaries. This was by far the year with the most publications over the past six years. We undertook research and analysis on key governance and public service issues in Somalia including security, fiscal and service decentralization, durable solutions, public participation in political processes, the National Consultative Council (NCC) agreements on contentious political issues, education, and urban mobility.

SPA produced joint research reports with other research institutions in 2023. We published a study with the Rift Valley Institute (RVI)’s Somali Dialogue Platform on expanding public participation in politics. SPA published a joint study with the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) & Tana Copenhagen on safety and security in Mogadishu. We also co-published a study on durable solutions capacities in Kismayo and Afgoye with the Research and Evidence Facility (REF) led by SOAS University of London.

Moreover, SPA published a policy paper on the NCC election agreement. SPA published seven governance briefs on the NCC agreement on power allocation and judiciary, Hirshabelle political settlement, review of the national budget, the role of 4.5 in democratization and governance, the university foundation year, formation and functioning of local councils, and fiscal decentralization in Somalia. SPA also published seven commentaries on several governance and public service issues including the new bajaj rotation system, urban mobility complexities in Mogadishu, increasing rent prices in Mogadishu, and youth employability.

Our Public Agenda Forum organized a record 24 forums in 2023. We introduced bimonthly Off-the-record Discussions with policymakers. We convened forums online via X Spaces and in person. Over 700 participants attended our in-person forums while around 4000 turned in our X Spaces Discussions. Different governance and public service issues were discussed in these various forums including elections, public participation in Somalia’s political process, peace, local councils, education, security, accountability, and transparency in Somalia’s public sector, service decentralization, debt relief, Mogadishu status, and climate change and natural disasters.

In 2023, we produced and released 24 podcast episodes. We introduced a video version of our podcasts. The Maamul Wanaag Podcast produced 12 episodes. The Maamul Wanaag Podcast delves deep into various governance matters in Somalia. The guests of the Maamul Wanaag Podcast broadly discussed and analyzed governance topics including local council elections in Puntland, Hirshabelle, and Jubaland political settlement, the federal government budget, the National Security Architecture (SNArch), vision 2060, reconciliation and developments in lasAnod.

SPA also published 12 Adeeg Wanaag Podcast episodes. Adeeg Wanaag intensely discusses public service matters in Somalia. The 12 episodes released in 2023 discussed youth employability, rent prices in Mogadishu, service decentralization, the university foundation year, local council formation, and the issuance of national IDs. In 2023, over 8340 times were downloaded and listened to our two podcasts. That is almost a triple of the 3,100 times that our podcasts were downloaded and listened to in 2022.

The SPA Policy Lab partnered with the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) on designing human-centered, evidence-based programmes for the displaced communities in Somalia. The SPA Policy Lab and ReDSS co-designed interventions that amplify the voices of minority IDPs in Mogadishu, Baidoa, and Kismayo that would allow them to have a greater impact on the decisions made about resources and aid that affect them. Moreover, in 2023, the SPA Policy Lab & The Policy Lab®, based in Boston, USA, signed an MoU to collaborate on action research as well as designing & testing policies, programs & services. 

The SPA Center for Learning and Development (CLD) conducted two successful blog writing training in January-February and July-August 2023 for 39 talented young bloggers. During the two training, trainees wrote over 160 blog posts and shared them with their social media networks. Throughout the eight weeks of the 4-week long training, eight renowned Somali bloggers mentored the trainees, shared their blogging journeys, and gave invaluable advice. Moreover, in partnership with RedR UK, the SPA Center for Learning and Development has successfully concluded a three-day Training of Trainers (ToT) course offered to humanitarian actors operating in Mogadishu and 4 Federal Member States namely Jubaland, Southwest, Galmudug & Hirshabelle. The training was conducted by certified RedR UK trainers. Further, after months of preparation, the SPA Center for Learning and Development has started a 3-months-long practical research training course for young researchers in mid-October 2023.

Four interns (one male and three female) completed three-month internships in 2023. The interns contributed to the work of the different SPA departments and research productions. The internship provides much-needed experience for recent university graduates. Four interns who took the three-month-long internship wrote reflections (published on the SPA website) about their internship experiences.

SPA maintained a collaborative relationship with our partners and donors and started new relationships. We are currently working with the Rift Valley Institute’s Somali Dialogue Platform on research and engagement related to contentious political issues in Somalia. In 2023, we continued our working relationship with the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) & the Life and Peace Institute (LPI), and the Oversees Development Institute (ODI). We started working with the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR). We also strengthened our engagement and relationship with civil society organizations in Somalia.

We maintained a good relationship with the media. We were regularly interviewed by international and local media outlets. Somali Cable TV, Goobjoog TV, and Dalsan TV were some of the media houses that regularly interviewed or invited our team members to participate in debates. Le Monde quoted our researcher in an article on Türkiye in Somalia. Radio Centre-Ville in Canada interviewed one of our researchers. Local radios also started airing our podcasts in 2023.

Our researchers and analysts were invited to forums, workshops, and conferences including the Build Peace Conference held in Nairobi; a digital democracy workshop in Nairobi; the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) grand meeting, in Dar es Salaam, where we presented the Mogadishu Safety & Security Domain study findings & joined plenary & working group discussions on lessons from city studies, cross-city & cross-domain findings, authorship & research uptake; seminar on ‘Enhancing the Role of CSOs in Policy Advocacy for Financial Transparency & Accountability’ organized by The Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI) in Addis Ababa; a workshop on strengthening the role of CSOs in IGAD member countries in mediation and peacebuilding processes organized by IGAD Mediation Support Unit in Rajaf, South Sudan; a workshop on the development of a national mediation strategy for Somalia organized by IGAD Mediation Support Unit in Garowe.

Our work also shaped policy-making in Somalia in 2023. SPA analysis and recommendations on the NCC election agreement led to high-level dialogue among current and former Somalia leaders. The Somali Public Agenda Policy Paper critically examined the 5 core points of the NCC election agreement, evaluating their strengths, and weaknesses. Our core recommendation for increased political dialogue was subsequently taken up by the federal government. That the SPA Policy Paper’s recommendations led to such important high-level dialogue among current and former Somalia leaders is evidence of the value of balanced analysis and constructive recommendations on key political decisions and policy matters in Somalia.

Contributing to our significant achievements in 2023, six competent and committed core team members joined the organization over the last year. Each has contributed conscientiously to the work SPA performs.

Our work in 2024 will focus on national elections, accountability and transparency, local council formation, reconciliation, durable solutions, transitional justice, and education. Studies, briefs, policy papers, commentaries, forums, and podcasts on these issues will be our priorities in 2024.

It has been an honor for me to lead our talented, youthful, and competent SPA team. Despite the limited human capital and financial resources, security concerns, and other challenges of 2023, SPA has been able to consistently produce high-quality papers and create a space for important discussions both online and in person.

Finally, we are grateful for the unwavering support of our distinguished Board members and our fellows. Special gratitude goes to Peter Chonka who spends many hours reading and editing our work every year. Many thanks are also owed to our supporters and readers whose confidence and encouragement inspire us to do more work for the common good. As we enter our seventh year, we are looking forward to producing quality research outputs, creating space for discussion on key national issues, offering training, and helping public and civic institutions design human-centered public services.

Mahad Wasuge is the Executive Director of the Somali Public Agenda.

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