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Strengthening Somali Civil Society Organisations (SCS)
History and Background


Oxfam Novib is a key member of the Oxfam International family. Oxfam Novib''s involvement in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Zone initially started with support for the development programmes of sister NGOS (Non-Governmental Organizations) including Oxfam Great Britain and ACORD. Since 1995, Oxfam Novib has been more directly engaged with Somali civil society organisations (CSOs) and has funded several CSO networks comprising approximately over 250 local NGO members all over Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Zone.

Overall Oxfam Novib''s engagement with Somali civil society aims at contributing to the achievement of the following:

• The strengthening of all partners in moving from an activity driven agenda towards  becoming strong, proactive organisations
• Building of the capacity of partners, particularly network members, in the education sector in terms of vision, activity development and access to other donors
• Building of the capacity of partners in the sector of food security, especially pastoralist oriented groups (National Resource Management network)
• Increasing of the lobbying capacity of partners, particularly around the issue of illegal trade and human rights violations.
• The linking of efforts to work towards a sustainable peace in the country in order to counteract the divided history, which perpetuates the conflict. This entails building a coalition that shares a joint vision of the future, inside the country, as well as presenting a harmonised reaction to outside actors
• The strengthening of women ''s political inclusion 

In 2000, the current project, ‘Strengthening Somali Civil Society Organisations'' (SCS) was established and is funded by the European Commission. This project provides support to civil society as a sector, which makes it different from other Oxfam Novib support that is direct funding to organisations. The overall SCS project objective is to support the achievement of justice, lasting peace and sustainable development.

The specific project purpose is to strengthen Somali civil society in addressing their concerns through inclusive strategies so that they are enabled to provide services and are able to defend the interests of their members and constituencies. Additionally, civil society is being empowered to promote the improvement and maintenance of good governance as well as peace in the country and establish working relations with both state structures and the private sector.

The SCS project was formulated as a response to the protracted Somali conflict and the lack of conviction on the part of the international community that Somali civil society has the potential to play a role in re-building the country. Novib is one of the very few actors working closely with local organisations on a non-operational basis. A re-division of access to and control over wealth and power is necessary, and in turn requires that all sectors be addressed. As a strategic actor, Novib, with EC funding support, is not only able to establish direct linkages with a larger number of local organisations but also opts to do so on the basis of the principle of inclusion.


Since the large-scale interventions of the early 1990s, Somalia/land has largely disappeared from the agenda of the international community. Following the failure of UNOSOM, Somalia/land has received much reduced aid and attention from the outside world. Yet during this time Somalia/land has not stood still, despite decades of dictatorship followed by the collapse of the state and civil war, the Somali people have learnt to rehabilitate their country themselves and not to rely on external development assistance.

Despite the enormous challenges of poverty and instability, the Somali people have ensured the survival of the economy, the existence of a school system and rudimentary medical facilities.

In the absence of a central state or meaningful international intervention, the Somali people have represented and organised themselves and individuals and organisations have taken on many of the traditional roles of the state, filling the vacuum in service provision and opening channels of debate. It is in this context that Somali civil society has flourished and is now more vibrant than ever.

Somali Civil society has strong traditional roots. Somali culture is based upon negotiation and consensus building and allows space for diversity, in particular through the use of poetry and theatre, which are mediums frequently used to express challenging positions and opinions. The Islamic Sufi traditions and ‘Tarikas'' dominant in the Somali context have also promoted diversity, tolerance and respect for local governance arrangements.

Somali civil society can be loosely divided into three categories. Firstly, elders continue to be relevant representatives of communities and in the absence of central authority have in fact played a strengthened decision-making role in the past few years. Secondly, there has been a proliferation of ‘modern'' civil society actors in Somalia/land, particularly NGOs and media organisations. The third category includes non-traditional civil society actors who in Somalia/land certainly contribute to the spectrum of public life; these include community associations, professional associations, the business community, artists and performers.

For the purposes of this project civil society can be defined as comprising all individuals or groups who do not posses legislative or executive powers, are unarmed and that actively pursue the well being of the society at large through peaceful means.

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