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Somalia is situated on the eastern coast of the Horn of Africa [1], covering around 637,657 km² and a terrain consisting mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, stretching over 3,330 km along the Gulf of Aden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east and south [2]. The country is bordered by Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti to the west [3]. Somalia has a hot, arid and semi-arid climate [2], with bi-modal rainfall. The rainfall is influenced by the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the north-south movement, which results in two rainy seasons and two dry seasons in a year [3].

Following 23 years of civil strife and state collapse that devastated the economy, infrastructure, and public institutions, in 2012, the Somali people agreed to a Provisional Constitution, formed its parliament, and constituted the Federal Republic of Somalia (FRS), comprising of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States (FMS). On May 15, 2022, the third FGS election since 2012 was held, resulting in another successful peaceful transfer of power. The new administration’s priorities include securing the entire country, completing the constitution, enabling direct elections, and spearheading youth employment [2].

Important National Context

Somalia has a total population of 16 million as of September 2020, of which 50.14% of the population are female and the rest are male. Somalia is a young and rapidly expanding nation with an annual population growth rate of 3%; the country also has the fourth-highest fertility rate in the world [1]. By 2050, the country’s population is projected to reach 34.92 million [4].

Somalia is also rapidly urbanising [1], with an estimated 46% of the population living in urban areas, as of 2020. Somalia's rate of urbanization is extremely high at around 4.3% per annum [5]. Within the next four years, Somalia is projected to reach a population that is 50% urbanised, largely due to climate-related shocks [2], which are pushing rural Somalis to seek refuge in cities en masse. By 2050, projections show that Somalia’s urban population could triple [5]. This rapid urbanisation is likely to increase inequality in the country and cause serious constraints on Somalia’s weak institutions, arising mainly from increased infrastructural needs [2].

The Federal Government of Somalia has made commendable progress towards establishing institutions, which are key to sustaining and improving macroeconomic stability and managing fiscal dynamics. Despite the country’s conflict past which destroyed infrastructure and collapsed the economy, Somalia’s macroeconomic indicators recorded between 2013 and 2021 are promising. Positive trends have been seen in remittance, capacity to produce credible statistics on economic performance, the country’s fast-developing financial sector, a growing commitment by the diaspora to invest locally, and a predictable environment in which to do business. The revival from the 2017 drought and a slow recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are a further cause for optimism [2].

However, amid repeated shocks, Somalia’s growth in GDP averaged only 2% from 2013 to 2020 [6]. In 2020, real GDP decreased by 0.3% (compared to a 3.3% increase in 2019), which was the lowest growth recorded over the last economically unstable decade [2]. This was due to multiple crises [6], including the persistent effects of 2019 flooding, locust invasion, and the COVID-19 crisis [2]. GDP growth recovered to 2.9% in 2021 [6], driven by the relaxation of COVID-19-related lockdowns, which boosted consumption by releasing pent-up demand. Investment spending grew as well, supported by higher inward remittances and private sector credit. GDP is expected to grow by 2.7% in 2022, amid a global environment characterized by multiple shocks, high volatility, and uncertainty. But the medium-term growth outlook remains highly uncertain for Somalia, given the recurrent climate shocks that the country faces [7].

The economic growth of Somalia is often hindered by devastating climate induced shocks, particularly droughts, famine, and floods, since agriculture (livestock and crop production) still remains the backbone of the national economy [1]. The economy is dominated by the livestock sector, which constitutes 50% of Somalia’s exports and generates trade worth an estimated 30% of Somalia’s gross domestic product (GDP). It is also the largest contributor to Somali livelihoods with 65% of the population engaged in the industry in some way. Unfortunately, the sector has been intermittently interrupted by droughts, which have limited pasture and grazing land for animals, as well as by international bans. As a result, the country’s macro-economy has been volatile [2].

Somalia is considered among the poorest countries in the world [8], with an estimated 68% of the population living below the poverty line, according to data from 2017. Poverty has increased in the country from 43% in 2002 to 68% in 2017, which can be attributed to recurrent external shocks and natural disasters, which have created widespread displacement and considerable demographical shifts. The group most impacted by poverty are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and as of 2019, 17% of the population were displaced, though this figure has likely grown since recent droughts. Poverty in Somalia is driven by political fragility, conflict, and insecurity and is exacerbated by climate emergencies [2].

The Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector in Somalia has flourished under a self-regulated private sector system. Known as a key contributor to the economy, ICT is one of the fastest growing sectors in Somalia and is the third largest industry by employment in the country. The sector generates substantial profit which has enabled a mobile penetration rate of about 10 subscriptions per 100 people. The most readily available ICT media are radio and mobile phones. Somalia has made significant progress in access to data, with 38.7% of the population having 3G mobile data access in 2016 compared to 65.2% of the population in 2017. However, despite great progress, Somalia, just like many other African countries, has very limited digital infrastructure such as Internet backbone, broadband services, and other critical digital infrastructure [2].

The humanitarian crisis in Somalia is one of the most longstanding emergencies in the world. Conflict, insecurity, drought, floods, and famine have defined Somalia for more than two decades now [9]. As Somalia enters 2023, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate [10]. Somalia is facing the worst drought it has seen in 40 years [11], following an unprecedented 5th consecutive failed rainy season [12]. An estimated 8.25 million people require humanitarian assistance and significant segments of the population are on the brink of famine [10]. In 2022, already the majority of Somalia’s adult population (79%) was experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity, according to the country’s Voluntary National Review [2]. In the first half of 2023, acute food insecurity in the country is expected to worsen. Some 6.5 million people across Somalia are projected to face a food crisis [12]. Without an urgent injection of additional funds, partners will not be able to continue with critical programmes, including food assistance, nutritional activities, healthcare and WASH support, and more Somalis will suffer as the last 10 years of progress in the country are wiped out [11].

Environmental Governance

The environmental legislative framework of Somalia remains weak and outdated. Pre-1991 environmental laws in the country date back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s [2], and since the collapse of the state in 1991 [3], an environmental law has not been passed. Somalia also lacked any central body responsible for environmental matters until the establishment of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in 2017. More recently, the Government has made considerable efforts to advance environmental issues, including through the establishment of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change at the Office of the Prime Minister. This Directorate is the agency tasked with leading the national agenda on the environment and climate change [2].

In Somalia, there are currently several institutions both at the Federal and State levels that should play key roles in the management of the environment. However, the only existing environmental legislative frameworks are at State levels, in Somaliland and Puntland, though enforcement remains weak. Therefore, in order to address the environmental challenges that Somalia faces, there is a need for Somalia to enact updated legislation in line with the National Environmental Policy [2].

In 2019, the Federal Government of Somalia developed the National Environmental Policy, which is expected to improve health and quality of life by promoting sustainable development through the sound management of the country’s natural resources [2]. Other policies relevant to the environment in Somalia include the National Climate Change Policy (2020), the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (2021) under UNFCCC, the National Voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality Targets (2020), and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015), among others [1].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Somalia has developed its Ninth National Development Plan 2020 - 2024 (NDP-9), which acts as the country’s Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (IPRSP). NDP-9 is strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, 80 out of 103 indicators from the NDP-9 are directly aligned with the SDGs [2].

The NDP-9 aims to reduce poverty and inequality through four pillars: 1) inclusive and accountable politics, which sets out to achieve national stability and peace through inclusive political processes and effective decentralization; 2) security and rule of law, which sets out to establish unified, capable, accountable and rights based federal security institutions that provide basic safety and security for citizens, secure and improve access to affordable justice, and increase public confidence in the judiciary; 3) economic growth, which was created to help sustain economic growth and provide greater employment opportunities by transforming traditional industries, such as livestock and crop production, while inducing growth in the private sector; and 4) social development, which aims to improve education and training, increase access to healthcare, strengthen social protection, improve disaster risk management, and ameliorate public service delivery. Leave No One Behind is also an important principle central to Somalia’s development objectives, as stated in NDP-9 [2], which is consistent with the EU Green Deal which aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, ensuring that no person and no place is left behind [13].

In alignment with the pillars of NDP-9, as well as overall EU priorities and the SDGs, the EU and Member States (MS) have defined their political and policy objectives in Somalia in the country assessment (2019) as the following: i) Building state legitimacy and responsiveness, democratic governance and rule of law; ii) Building effective and sustainable responses to security challenges; and iii) Responding to vulnerabilities and creating economic opportunities to foster inclusive and sustainable growth. Education is at the heart of these political and policy objectives in Somalia, both as a building block for human development and fundamental right, as well as a catalyst to achieving the EU’s priorities [14].

For the period 2021-2027, the proposed priority areas under EU cooperation, designed to address key challenges facing Somalia, as outlined in the Multi-annual Indicative Programme (2021-2027) are: 1). Governance and Peacebuilding (Inclusive Governance; Reconciliation and justice; Security); 2). Inclusive and green economic growth (Economic and financial governance; Education and TVET; Economic Development); and 3). Resilience building and social inclusion (Climate change adaptation and mitigation; Migration, displacement and basic services). Additionally, cutting across all 3 priority areas, gender equality and women’s empowerment will remain a top priority for the EU. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index [14], with 99% of Somali women aged 15-49 having undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) [2] and many susceptible to Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and gender-based violence (GBV) [2], [14].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate Change

Somalia is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change [2], [15]. Since 2011, Somalia has suffered from more frequent and prolonged climate-related disasters such as droughts, floods with the addition of cyclones and even locust infestations in the last two years. These disasters continue to destroy Somalia’s ecosystems, threaten food security, and increase conflict over resource scarcity. This has put a massive strain on the humanitarian situation in Somalia, impoverishing and displacing hundreds of thousands of people of the nomadic and rural populations [2].

Additionally, climate change severely threatens Somalia’s economy, which is heavily dependent on natural resources and climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, livestock, water, and forestry [2]. According to the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), much of the brunt has been felt in the agriculture and livestock sector [8], which together account for more than 60% of GDP and directly and indirectly employ millions [2]. In recent times, unpredictable rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures and natural disasters (mainly droughts and flash floods) have resulted in declining production and productivity in these sectors [15], negatively impacting livelihoods, the economy and food security [16]. For instance, it is estimated that the 2016–2017 drought resulted in losses and damages of approximately US$ 3.25 billion, with the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors feeling these losses most acutely (59%) [17]. Unfortunately, this compounds an already difficult context [15]: Somalia is one of the poorest nations in Africa, with an estimated 68% of the population living below the poverty line, according to data from 2017 [2], [8].


[1] Government of Somalia. (2022). Somalia’s First Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC), Mogadishu, Somalia.

[2] The Federal Government of Somalia, Somalia National Bureau of Statistics (2022). Voluntary National Review Report 2022.


[4] The World Bank Group (2022). Population estimates and projections. [Online]. Available:

[5] World Bank. 2020. Somalia Urbanization Review : Fostering Cities as Anchors of Development. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.

[6] The World Bank Group (2023). The World Bank in Somalia: Overview. [Online]. Available:

[7] World Bank. 2022. Somalia Economic Update, Seventh Edition: Investing in Social Protection to Boost Resilience for Economic Growth. © World Bank.

[8] The Federal Republic of Somalia (2021). UPDATED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTION (NDC).

[9] UNICEF (2022). Somalia: Emergencies. [Online]. Available:


[11] OCHA (2022). Somalia: The Cost of Inaction.

[12] Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), European Commission (2023). Somalia Factsheet. [Online]. Available:

[13] Directorate-General for Communication, European Commission (2023). A European Green Deal. [Online]. Available:

[14] European Commission (2022). Multi-annual Indicative Programme (2021-2027) Federal Republic of Somalia.

[15] Federal Government of Somalia (2022). Somalia’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Framework.

[16] Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), SIPRI (2021). Climate, Peace and Security Fact Sheet Somalia.

[17] United Nations Somalia (2020). COMMON COUNTRY ANALYSIS 2020.

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