Request for Proposals - Consultant Services for Risks, challenges and opportunities of sub-national democratisation in Somalia. (SSFMR-039-C01)

  • Added Date: Friday, 26 February 2021
  • Deadline Date: Thursday, 18 March 2021


The Somalia Stability Fund (SSF) is a multi-donor fund working towards a peaceful, secure, and stable Somalia. It offers Somali stakeholders a source of multi-year funding that can respond to local needs and opportunities.

The Stability Fund aims to contribute to enhancing stability in Somalia through the following programmatic outputs:

  1. Fault-lines for political conflict (FGS-FMS, inter & intra state) are identified and appropriately addressed

  2. Enhanced popular participation in governance, particularly for women and excluded communities

  3. Increased government visibility and community engagement

  4. Reduced community vulnerability to conflict

  5. Throughout 2021, SSF will prioritise three broad areas; sub-national democratisation, district council formation, and reconciliation

SSF invites eligible and qualified entities (โ€œBiddersโ€) to submit proposals in response to this RFP for the Provision of Consultant Services for Risks, challenges and opportunities of sub-national democratisation in Somalia. (SSFMR-039-C01) **


In recent years, Somalia has made a number of faltering efforts to make progress on wider democratisation. Attempts to hold One Person One Vote (OPOV) elections in Somalia in 2016 and in 20/21 were unsuccessful and replaced instead by clan selection processes. A central challenge has been the difficulty of reaching a consensus across the political elite and between the centre and the periphery of how best to move away from a political settlement based on 4.5. This model has been viewed by many as more predictable and influenceable and one which also preserves the balance of power between major clans. The inability to shift away from this model has been further compounded by issues of insecurity, incomplete legislative frameworks, a lack of population census figures amongst other technical factors. These tensions have resulted in disagreements over the design of a new legislative framework for an electoral model and stalled progress on the establishment of OPOV mechanisms to appoint political representatives.

For the large part, at the sub-national level, political transitions have been based on selection processes, also using 4.5. These processes, which have attracted significantly less resource and oversight from the international community, have been marred by political violence, interference from the Federal Government and corruption. State-level assemblies have extremely poor levels of women and minority representation. These selection processes are also staggered across the term of the federal government (reflecting the different dates when states were formed) meaning that those occurring later have the tendency to become inextricably connected to the calculations regarding the political transition at the national level.

Sub-national democratisation: Democratisation and the introduction of OPOV electoral processes, however, has not been wholly absent from contemporary Somalia. Somaliland has managed to implement OPOV for local council elections and Presidential elections. Despite challenges, there has nonetheless been progress in establishing voter registration systems and undertaking actual elections. Puntland State furthermore has made some progress in establishing an electoral architecture and legislative framework that could allow for Local Council elections to take place in 2021. Preparations are underway to hold pilots in three districts and will include the testing of a new voter registration system. If successful, such initiatives may be important in driving popular demand for local democracy in other federal states.

Prospective risks and challenges: Should, however OPOV be introduced FMS and district levels, Somalia may face a risk that repeated progress at state level, may create the emergence of a fragmented electoral system, in which different states use different electoral systems for different electoral events. This may induce political, technical and financial challenges into an already complicated and challenging space. For example, different states may claim varying degrees of legitimacy due to their democratically elected status which could alter the balance of power inter-FMS and between the FMS and the federal government. Finally, it may also result in a system which creates confusion for an electorate which has little to no experience of democratic practices. Furthermore, where sub-national election mechanisms developed in Somaliland and Puntland have been contingent upon initial local elections, district border demarcation disputes have arisen with attendant inter-communal tensions.

Opportunities: Despite the potential for risks and challenges, at the same time, Somaliland and Puntland are demonstrating that the sub-national level may have greater feasibility for advancing models of OPOV elections which could contribute towards establishing democratic norms and electoral infrastructure that could be supportive of FMS and national elections. District Council formation, while slow, is being undertaken across the country with a view to deepening governance of communities and are increasingly the foremost nexus of the social contract. If feasible mechanisms can be identified, sub-national democratisation may build upon local governance establishment and strengthen local accountability. No process in Somalia is likely to be perfect, however relying alone upon nationally focussed models may be prohibitive of progress, however imperfect, elsewhere.

Whilst SSF remains committed to supporting democratic processes at the sub-national level, it is keen to ensure that any support is cognisant of these risks and where possible, is able to mitigate them and shape policy discussions with stakeholders at all levels across Somalia in order to support the emergence of a cohesive, viable and sustainable electoral framework

Research Objective

To identify the risks, opportunities and challenges of sub-national democratisation

While efforts to advance OPOV elections at the national stage may continue, it would be valuable to explore and understand what the risks, opportunities and challenges may be from an approach that focuses on sub-national democratisation either in the first instance or in parallel to OPOV at the federal level. Only through a comprehensive assessment of the potential political implications, likely feasibility, cost considerations, conflict risks and reflections on technical approach can informed decision making be made on this issue.

The research should reflect more specifically on the following aspects:

ยท Drawing from evidence and analysis from electoral contests in Somalia/Somaliland and elsewhere, assess the impact of bottom up/local electoral processes (particularly in contexts where there is significant national-level contestation) on stability? If/where evidence does exist, have there been concerns around the sustainability and integration of these systems into the national election architecture? Is there any evidence that support to local democratisation in other contexts has increased or decreased centre-periphery fragmentation/successionist sentiments?

ยท Identify the potential risks, opportunities and challenges of sub-national democratisation in the Somali context. This should be cognisant on issues of resources and their distribution, potential jerrymandering and the prospect of new districts demanding to be formed. This should reflect on the prospect of introducing new power differentials between political levels and stakeholders either in positive or negative ways and the potential impact of widely varying timeframes for democratisation depending on geographic locale. It should also consider if there may be any impact on the Somali constitution through the creation of disjuncture between what is stipulated and what could be practically implemented and potential impacts on political party formation and their framing of interests and objectives at the national stage if they have been formed with more localised interests in mind. It should further consider the implications of multiple electoral cycles and the impact on political stability โ€“ can this be overcome or the impact diminished?

ยท Interrogate what the risks may be of relying upon a primarily national focussed approach to OPOV elections; how do the risks, challenges and opportunities compare to the risks posed by advancing with one-person-one-vote at the federal level and/or presidential level? Furthermore, what may be the issues that may emerge from the two developing in parallel?

ยท Assess the likely sources of support or opposition for a shift towards sub-national democratisation given the potential impact it may have at both local, FMS and federal levels? How may this impact the emergence of sub-national democratisation. Would political elites at the local levels be more amenable to democratisation? Would issues of corruption and manipulation be as pervasive as existing models of appointing political representatives. Similarly, would efforts to advance local democratisation face similar resistance to the experience of national election?

ยท Compare how other post-conflict federal countries have supported the establishment of an electoral system, architecture and legislative framework at Federal, State and District levels? Are there any examples of countries that have seen piecemeal democratisation with different locations introducing one-person-one-vote at different rates? Are there examples of best practice that can be applied to the Somali context? Have concerns regarding cost and sustainability been successfully managed?

ยท Identify the implications of research findings on sub-national democratisation approaches and programming. What approaches could or should be adopted, what considerations should be at the forefront of programmatic design, what risks will need to be navigated and how?

ยท Identify the kinds of opportunities and pathways for harmonisation of Somaliaโ€™s electoral systems (e.g. voter registration), legislation (e.g. electoral model design and regulation), political party systems and architecture (federal & state level election management bodies; dispute resolution mechanisms), should a number of different mechanisms emerge in different FMS?

Throughout the research, analysis, findings and recommendations, a gender and social inclusion lens should be applied. In this way, the research should integrate awareness of how sub-national democratisation may have an impact on the inclusion or exclusion of women and marginal groups. Due consideration should be made to whether women and marginal groups may face greater barriers, or conversely opportunities, as a result of sub-national democratisation. If greater barriers are anticipated, this should be highlighted with recommendations reflecting on how these could be overcome.

The research should recognise that the issue of sub-national democratisation is less about establishing technical mechanisms, but should focus more on the implications on conflict, political stability and the political settlement more broadly.

Key Deliverables

i. Assessment framework, research plan and research tools.

ii. Final Report โ€“ Analysis of the risks, opportunities and challenges of sub-national democratisation. This should include discussion of the implications of sub-national democratisation and any lessons learning from other countries and how these relate to the Somali context.

iii. Recommendations for if, whether and how sub-national democratisation can or should take place in Somalia and the key considerations for enabling sub-national democratisation to emerge with due consideration of principles of Do No Harm and avoiding escalating new forms of tension and conflict.

Key Personnel

The following personnel and associated skill sets are required for the task. Additional personnel can be proposed (e.g., a Somali advisor or additional field personnel). What is most important is that the team combination adequately covers all necessary knowledge, skills and experience requirements.

Democratisation and state formation lead:

ยท Higher level academic qualifications (Masters level of equivalent) in the area of political science, peacebuilding and conflict transformation, international development, security studies or similar discipline.

ยท Five years post qualification experience in a lead technical role on democratisation, sub-national governance and state formation in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS), preferably in Somalia.

ยท Demonstrable understanding of different democratisation processes in a wide array of FCAS.

ยท Strong understanding of Somali political and conflict dynamics and how these intersect with democratisation processes and vice versa.

ยท Demonstrable understanding of the political interests in Somalia and how state formation processes impact these.

ยท Demonstrable experience of designing and implementing social, political and conflict related research.

ยท Demonstrable experience and understanding of gender and social inclusion in peacebuilding, state-building, democratisation and conflict resolution programmes.

Duration of Assignment

The assignment is expected to be performed using a combination of desk-based research together with research interviews with relevant target individuals and groups. If deploying remote tools, the supplier should be able to demonstrate their ability to ensure and maintain quality of data collection and be clear on when and why such tools are to be deployed.

The research is envisaged to take approximately 12 weeks. The research should be completed within six months of contract signature. As the final research materials will be SSF branded (with full citation/recognition of the authors/research supplier), this timeline should include sufficient time for review, copy-editing, design, typesetting and printing. SSF will reserve the right to request the authors to undertake any necessary revisions.

This vacancy is archived.

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