Skip to content

State building in Somaliland

Somaliland – the northernmost region in Somalia – is now taking its first steps away from the anarchy and suffering inflicted by decades of civil war. With support from several countries, including Denmark, Somaliland is in the process of building up a regional government administration, a well-functioning electoral process and an educational institution that aims to promote livestock exports.

Statsopbygning i Somaliland

One of the priorities in Somaliland is to improve the registration of voters.

Photo: Danida

A brutal civil war in the 1990s led to great suffering and anarchy in Somalia and Somaliland, but now there is a hope of peace, particularly in the northern region, Somaliland. The situation in the region has stabilised to such an extent that it is now possible to start building up civil society, regional institutions, local decision-making bodies and a fair and democratic electoral process. In step with the creation of more peaceful conditions, Somaliland has begun exporting livestock, primarily to Saudi Arabia, thanks to a new veterinary school and the establishment of quarantine centres, which contribute to ensuring that the livestock exported, are free of disease.

Together with other development partners, Denmark supports the region’s development goals on several fronts, particularly the Somaliland Development Fund, the National Electoral Commission and the NGO, Terra Nuova, which has played an important role in the establishment of the veterinary school. Transitioning Somaliland from lawless, clan-controlled anarchy to building institutions reflective of a well-functioning, modern society is a process characterised by many obstacles and setbacks. But each of these three initiatives has specifically contributed to strengthening and further developing the peaceful and positive development in Somaliland and thus contributed to laying a foundation for a future Somalia where the population can live in greater safety and enjoy greater prosperity.

Building a state – laying the roads

At the end of the civil war, the state in reality no longer existed, and large parts of the infrastructure – roads, water supply, etc. – did not function at all. Since the middle of the 1990s, Denmark has provided support towards developing Somaliland. In 2012, Denmark, together with a number of development partners and in cooperation with leaders in Somaliland, decided to set up the Somaliland Development Fund. The fund supports Somaliland’s National Development Plan for 2012-2016 and aims to strengthen the capacity of the state institutions as well as support the development of an urgently needed infrastructure. The fund also aims to contribute to improving the relationship between governance and citizens by establishing a credible and open political leadership – and by giving the population better insight into the government’s decisions, actions and budget activities.

In the beginning, the fund primarily provided support towards the essential repair of roads and restoration of the water supply. Inhabitants in Somaliland are, for good reasons, sceptical of public authorities, and in order to build up and increase trust between the citizens and the new state institutions, it is important that citizens experience practical improvements in their daily life, such as new roads and wells. In the future, the intention is for the fund to enhance its support for initiatives designed to promote transparency in governance and strengthen the government’s position.

Through the UN, Denmark and a number of other partners also support capacity building at municipal level, in which democratic municipal boards have been a reality for more than a decade.

Electoral Commission at the heart of democratic development

Somaliland and the rest of Somalia have been dominated by clans, and it was the rivalry between these clans that triggered the civil war. To avoid this happening again, several countries have supported a democratisation process, and in Somaliland the centre of this process has been the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission has been a key vector for Somaliland, as it has launched and controlled four - by Somali standards – peaceful election processes over the past decade. There have been irregularities, clashes between population groups and delays, but in general the elections have been fair and free of fraud. The Electoral Commission therefore enjoys greater credibility than many other public institutions in Somaliland. This has laid the foundation for a future with free, democratic elections and democracy.

Electoral Commission members are appointed by the political parties, and the Commission sits for five-year terms. The electoral process in Somaliland begins with local elections (municipal elections), and the victorious parties have an opportunity to put up candidates for the parliamentary elections and the presidential elections. For both presidential elections in 2003 and 2010, three parties ran for office. The parties arose out of their respective clan, but the power of these clans appears to be on the wane. In addition, the small number of parties ensures that no one party is able to win solely on the basis of a single clan’s participation. The parties do not yet resemble Denmark’s political landscape, but the specific politics are gradually weighing heavier than clan relations.

Vets promote growth in exports

In the middle of the Somali chaos, Somaliland has experienced a small miracle in the form of a new veterinary school, which today is a leading educational institution in this area for the whole of East Africa, offering internationally recognised diploma, bachelor and Masters programmes.

The school was established in 2002 at a former English boarding school. The initiative originated from an Italian NGO, Terra Nuova, and the institution from the beginning was supported by the EU, Italy and Denmark. Within relatively few years, the school went from having a few rooms in a rented building to being a fully developed educational institution with students from throughout East Africa.

By 2013, the school had almost 100 graduate students, technicians and vets, and notably, 25 per cent of them are women and 95 per cent are in employment.

The university’s high academic level has meant that Somaliland has been able to begin establishing a system of veterinary controls which will soon meet international standards. Quarantine stations have been set up to carry out checks on live animals; a step which together with the general professionalization of livestock production has contributed to a strong growth in exports. The quarantine stations played a crucial role in Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift an import ban on live animals from Somaliland in 2009, with livestock exports increasing from 2.5 million in 2010 to 3.5 million in 2013.


  • The Somaliland Development Fund is in the process of restoring the country’s infrastructure, including the road network and water supply. Similarly, the fund contributes to strengthening the role of the public authorities and local ownership of the development work.
  • The Electoral Commission has provided the framework and conducted a number of electoral processes in recent years, including local elections in November 2012. Plans are being made to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in the middle of 2015.
  • The IGAD Sheikh Technical Veterinary School has within a few years built up a reputation as one of East Africa’s best, and has trained almost 100 technicians and vets, 25 per cent of whom are women.
  • The veterinary school has created the basis for establishing quarantine stations that can carry out checks on livestock that are to be sold as food products. This has multiplied Somaliland’s livestock exports to Saudi Arabia.

  • Danida project, PS-Programme, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
    1000% increase in Tanzania's tax revenues
  • Health clinic in the village of Kpasenkpe in the Northern Ghana.
    More than 8 million Ghanians gets access to medical care
  • Vietnamese women sorting fish for production of fish flour in Ben Tre, the southern province close to Ho Chi Minh City.

    Growth and fisheries in Vietnam

  • Goal fulfilment and evaluations

    Results and evaluations

  • Development coorperation works

    Infographic: Results of the Danish development cooperation