Request for Proposals - Consultant Services for Strengthening regional approaches to state-building and peacebuilding in Somalia. (SSFMR-040-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 Strengthening regional approaches to state-building and peacebuilding in Somalia. (SSFMR-040-C01)


Somalia has long been the subject of regional interest as neighbouring states seek to respond, contain and influence its internal political and security dynamics. In recent years, Somaliaโ€™s regional significance has increased, with Somalia becoming both a proxy theatre for wider Gulf tensions and a more influential regional player in its own right. These developments have resulted in conflicting forces which have exacerbated existing fault-lines and contributed to wider instability. While it is important to recognise that all foreign states involved in Somalia have an impact on peace and stability to varying degrees, there are two principle inter-connected axes around which (in)stability currently rests; non-aligned Kenyan-Ethiopian interests in Somalia and Somalia acting as a proxy theatre for wider Gulf tensions.

Horn of Africa Geopolitics: For many years, Kenya and Ethiopian interests in Somalia were broadly aligned, with both states seeking to influence the dynamics in the Somali borderlands whilst also seeking opportunities to increase their own mutual economic cooperation with little to no consultation with the Federal Government in Somalia. Kenya actively supported the establishment of Jubaland state and the current leadership in order to provide a buffer zone for its own security interests along its border and also in response to the elite interests of some of its own significant Somali population. For many years, Ethiopia also supported neighbouring states, including Somaliland, which meant that their joint participation in AMISOM had largely complimentary objectives. However, the election of Prime Minister Abiy in Ethiopia changed these dynamics. Abiy, who shared President Farmajoโ€™s unionist and centrist politics over the pursuit of ethnic federalist models, abruptly switched Ethiopiaโ€™s allegiance to supporting the FGS. This move has at times placed Ethiopian and Kenyan foreign policy at loggerheads and led to tense stand-offs particularly in Jubaland during the re-election of President Madobe and Ethiopian support for military operations in Gedo.

The election of Abiy has also seen the establishment of a new regional rapprochement between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, underpinned by a peace agreement between former foes, Eritrea and Ethiopia. New Eritrean and Somali cooperation, particularly in the security sphere (with Eritrea now training SNA forces) represents a significant reversal.

More widely, recent military operations in Tigray by the Ethiopian government, have already resulted in the withdrawal of small numbers of Ethiopian forces (largely of Tigrayan heritage) from Somalia. Should redeployments accelerate as a result of a protracted conflict in Ethiopia, this could potentially shift existing security dynamics, giving more space for Al - Shabaab to gain territorial control although there have been no signs of this to date. Successful internal Ethiopian adventurism may also embolden the FGS to pursue similar muscular approaches to responding to Somaliaโ€™s own centre-periphery challenges.

Nairobi-Mogadishu relations have weakened as a result of disputes relating to the maritime boundary dispute and the potential access to significant oil and gas reserves with a decision expected by the International Court of Justice in the Hague in March 2021. Tensions over this case has seen relations sour. Both states have sought to express their frustration by escalating issues on airspace, visas, khat trade and the role of Kenya in Somaliaโ€™s election.

Somalia as a proxy theatre for Gulf tensions: Despite a historically strong trade partnership between Somalia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), diplomatic ties were never significant. However, Mogadishu-Abu Dhabi relations have weakened since Somalia announced it would remain neutral on the Gulf crisis. The Gulf rivalries, which emerged a few months after Farmajo (a Qatari ally) came to power, have increasingly threatened Somalia's stability. Contestation between the UAE and Qatar have exacerbated existing challenges to Somaliaโ€™s state-building project as Mogadishu's resistance to UAEโ€™s demands for them to cut ties with Qatar has given the Federal Member States, opposition groups in Mogadishu and also the Somaliland administration, a committed ally in Abu Dhabi. Gulf and wider Arab states political competition together with individual statesโ€™ strategic objectives around Iran, the Red Sea corridor and international political standing all contribute towards their behaviour within Somalia, with the positioning of political rivals as influential as their own national objectives. The current political transition in Somalia and the extent to which it can proceed peacefully is now heavily influenced by these wider dynamics.

Impact of global geopolitics on Somalia: In addition to complex regional geopolitics, wider global shifts have also added an additional level of complexity. China and Somalia have recently developed stronger diplomatic and economic ties via their joint participation in the Belt and Road initiative. Tensions have subsequently risen between Mogadishu and Hargeisa regarding Somalilandโ€™s new diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which has been driven by their mutual claims for independence. The strengthening relationship between Egypt and Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland as well as some of the Presidential candidates has become a source of concern for Ethiopia, and it is likely to encourage Addis Ababa to increase its support for Mogadishu. While Somalia remains high on the agenda for Western partners, peace and stability in this country is only one of many competing geopolitical and economic concerns which pivot around international trade, hydrocarbons, the Middle East and China.

Somaliaโ€™s susceptibility to external interference: Decades of civil unrest, protracted conflict, the decimation of state capabilities and national security apparatus has meant that Somalia is highly dependent upon foreign aid to tackles some of its most pressing challenges. The continued presence of the armed insurgent al Shabaab, remains a significant threat to peace and security which is exacerbated by still-nascent institutional state structures, limited governance and service provision alongside a Somali National Army that still requires extensive capacitation. Consequently, the provision of financial resources, equipment and humanitarian aid by foreign states creates a space in which foreign powers can leverage their interests under a guise of humanitarian, developmental or peace support. Such opportunism by foreign states is complemented by the transactional nature of Somali politics giving external stakeholders scope to influence willing Somali elites who have more personal or domestic concerns in mind. Furthermore, the potential for high value natural resources, such as off-shore oil and fisheries, create bargaining tools for Somali politicians who may otherwise be compromised by heavily asymmetrical relationships. The absence of democratic accountability, rule of law and a sufficient tax base help sustain a context in which the individual interests of Somali elites may be enthusiastically met by foreign agents with their own agenda.**

Regional approaches to peacebuilding, security and state-building: Regional security has largely been achieved through a number of fora including IGAD and mutual interests as troop-contributing countries to AMISOM and the presence of the African Union in Addis Ababa. More recent initiatives such as the Red Sea Forum instigated by Saudi Arabia are serving as new forums for cooperation and discussion of common interests. A number of NGO-led initiatives have also been supported to improve the security of cross-border communities on the Somalia-Ethiopian and Kenyan-Ethiopian border.

Globally, the peacebuilding sector has developed a range of more innovative approaches to strengthen regional collaboration and de-escalate violent conflict: Central to these approaches has been the application of a โ€˜systemsโ€™ analysis and to consider ways in which non-state actors can catalyse the development of spaces to support โ€˜track 1.5/2โ€™ approaches to peacebuilding. Examples of this include the development of neutral and discreet spaces for quiet diplomacy efforts; engagement with national, international actors and so-called bilateral engagement with โ€˜rising powersโ€™ on the conflict sensitivity of their foreign policy in conflict-affected contexts and support to developing economic corridors (so called โ€˜*peacenomics*โ€™ programming) across state-boundaries to increase the resilience of people-to-people linkages in the face of macro-level political tensions (see Accord, Issue 22 โ€“ Building Peace Across Borders, 2011, Conciliation Resources). **

Research Objective

To analyse the ways in which foreign state interests and geopolitical dynamics impact and influence Somaliaโ€™s political stability and/or manifest in violent conflict with a view to identifying practical tools and entry points to mitigate adverse outcomes.

The research will map and analyse the array of regional and Gulf states that have interests in Somalia with a view to understanding how their engagement with Somalia, and with each other, contributes towards political instability and conflict in Somalia. It will analyse and assess what it is about the Somali context that makes it susceptible to foreign influence. Through an assessment of mediation best practice and case study analysis of approaches deployed elsewhere, identify possible approaches, tools and entry points for mitigating political instability and preventing violent conflict.

Approach and Methodology

The research should interrogate the following aspects and deliver the proposed lines of analysis.

ยท A comprehensive mapping of the current regional dynamics affecting Somalia, the key actors and overriding interests and objectives of regional/Gulf states, themes, trends and trajectories. The research should explore how these regional dynamics manifest in Somalia by way of exacerbating conflict and instability, or conversely, promoting peace. It should highlight whether there are any likely trends that could be identified or specific issues that motivate foreign involvement in Somalia, for example, oil, trade or shipping.

ยท An assessment of the capabilities and mechanisms by which foreign states are able to support or exacerbate conflict, peacebuilding and/or political stability in Somalia. For example, the extent to which a foreign state is able to leverage military capabilities, influence particular political groups or business interests to act according to their influence.

ยท An assessment of the factors that make Somalia a) susceptible to adverse foreign influence, and b) help to mitigate or resist adverse foreign influence, alongside analysis on the capabilities and sources of leverage that Somalia has vis-a-vis regional states and powers.

ยท A comprehensive mapping of current approaches to support regional engagement and cooperation in Somalia.

ยท Drawing on global examples, a comparative assessment of Theories of Change and evidence base of peacebuilding approaches which have been applied to support regional/cross border cooperation and programming that has sought to influence positively the conflict sensitivity of bilateral engagement in fragile states (with particular reference to the work led by USAID in 2013 exploring theory of change โ€˜familiesโ€™ - )

ยท Recommendations for how SSF might seek to contribute to future regional cooperation efforts on Somalia and/or influence the conflict sensitivity of bilateral engagement in Somalia by regional powers.**

It is envisaged that 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.

Key Deliverables

i. A literature review that reflects on the track 1.5/2 mediation and diplomacy approaches that can or have been applied either in Somalia or to other inter-state conflicts or settings to de-escalate violence or strengthen the ways in which external interests engage in a fragile and conflict affected state.

ii. Assessment framework, research plan and research tools.

iii. Final Report โ€“ Analysis of the ways in which regional and gulf states involvement in Somalia manifest in political instability and options for mediation of this and/or mitigation mechanisms.

iv. Recommendations for if, whether and how foreign engagement in Somalia can be encouraged to be more conflict sensitive, mindful of political instability and escalations in violent conflict or can be mediated in ways that have reduced impact on political instability.

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.

East Africa & Gulf States International Relations/Political Analysis Expert

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

ยท Five years post qualification experience specialising in conflict and international relations analysis with a specific focus on Gulf States, the Horn of Africa and preferably Somalia.

ยท Demonstrable understanding of the interests, objectives and concerns of Horn of Africa and Gulf states, their political, economic and security capabilities and how these are applied externally to advance their interests.

ยท Demonstrable analysis of how international relations intersects with political (in)stability overseas and conflict escalation/de-escalation.

ยท Strong understanding of Somali political and conflict dynamics and how these intersect with foreign interests, specifically Gulf and East African states.

ยท Demonstrable experience of designing and implementing social, political and conflict related research that reflects on power, leverage and interest.

Diplomacy, Mediation and Peacebuilding Expert

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

ยท Five years post qualification experience in a technical and/or practitioner role on inter-state mediation processes, track 1.5/2 diplomacy, senior level engagement with African/Arab states on issues of foreign policy.

ยท Demonstrable understanding of an array of tools, options and approaches for engaging states on their foreign policy instruments, approaches and strengthening their understanding and value of diminishing adverse outcomes.

ยท Preferably experience in the Somali context working on diplomacy, mediation and advocacy on issues of conflict, peacebuilding and stability.

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 12-16 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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