Political affairs

Political Affairs

The United Nations envoy to Somalia, James Swan speaks during a dialogue organised by the world body for youth in Mogadishu, aimed to empower them to participate in politics.

Political Affairs and Mediation Group

Since its establishment on 3 June 2013, UNSOM has engaged the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), the Federal Parliament, the existing and emerging federal member states, as well as traditional leaders, civil society organizations, and women’s groups on the relevant processes related to Somalia’s peacebuilding and state-building enterprise. 

Under the Somali New Deal Compact, the Federal Government of Somalia identified five peace-building and state-building goals (PSGs). The focus of the UNSOM Political Affairs and Mediation Group (PAMG) is on PSG 1 (inclusive politics). The strategic objective of PSG 1 is to achieve a peaceful and stable federal Somalia through inclusive political processes.

The priorities of PSG 1 are:

  • Advance inclusive political dialogue to clarify and settle relations between the federal government and existing and emerging administrations and initiate processes of social reconciliation to restore trust between communities;

  • Finalize and adopt a federal constitution by December 2015;

  • Prepare for and hold credible elections by 2016.

 In this context, PAMG areas of activity include:

  • the provision of good offices, facilitation and mediation;

  • the promotion of national outreach, dialogue and reconciliation;

  • supporting progress towards full democracy, including facilitation of a political transition in 2016 and movement towards universal elections by 2020;

  • advancing the review of the Provisional Federal Constitution.

During the first two years of UNSOM’s mandate, Somalia made significant progress on both security and the political process, with the formation and initial consolidation of a number of emerging federal member states, even if much institution-building remains to be done and the formal process of federalisation is far from complete.  Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia for the first two years of UNSOM’s existence (2013-2015), undertook wide-ranging consultations with local, regional and international stakeholders to build the necessary relationships and solidify the long-standing partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, reflected on the ground in the working relationship between UNSOM and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  External stakeholders, including the UN Security Council and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, visited Somalia during the period and reviewed the progress the country was making. 

Since January 2016, the current Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Michael Keating, has been leading UNSOM during a critical period. This includes the political transition at the end of the constitutionally mandated terms of the legislature and the executive and the finalisation of outstanding foundational elements for Somalia’s state-building undertaking, including the completion of the constitutional review and of the federalisation process.

Since UNSOM was first established in 2013, its mandate and presence throughout Somalia has grown. PAMG oversees regional offices in Puntland (Garowe), South-West (Baidoa), Jubbaland (Kismayo), Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle (Beletweyne). It is in the process of expanding these operations as well as establishing a presence in Galmudug (Dhusamareb).  UNSOM also maintains a presence in Somaliland (Hargeisa). 

A major challenge remains the lack of institutional capacity at the federal and sub-federal levels and the need to support the emergence of a coherent federal system and political process across the entire range of engagement.  Long-standing grievances and an extensive need for continued reconciliation also need to be addressed to ensure that state-building is rooted in a bottom-up exercise of societal reconciliation, convergence and inclusion, ultimately reflected in a country-wide social contract that finds expression in a revised constitution.

In all these endeavours, PAMG works closely with local, regional and international partners, fulfilling its mandated role of providing strategic policy advice and coordination. 

Reconciliation and State Formation

Since 2013, and working in close conjunction with other partners, including UN agencies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), PAMG has provided technical and policy guidance to the Federal Government on national reconciliation, dialogue and outreach.  It witnessed the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement between the Federal Government and a delegation from Jubba that laid the basis for the foundation of Jubbaland, an emerging federal member state that encompasses the three southern regions of Gedo, Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba and has since engaged in institution-building and reconciliation.  UNSOM, along with other partners, recognised the formation of a regional administration in South-West, comprising Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions. South-West has since turned into another emerging federal member state with the relevant institutions and is engaged in the state-building process at the federal and sub-federal levels.  In 2015, the formal creation of the Galmudug Interim Administration capped a process leading to the formation of an emerging federal member state comprising the central regions of Galguduug and Mudug.  Somalia is currently engaged in the process of forming the final remaining administration at sub-federal level in the regions of Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle.  UNSOM is supporting this effort with technical advice and through the provision of logistical and coordination assistance, with a view to creating an inclusive regional administration. 

Reconciliation, dialogue and inclusivity remain key ingredients to ensure the sustainability and legitimacy of the emerging governance structures. 

  • PAMG has been engaged in facilitation and mediation processes in many areas, including the prevention or containment of violent conflict when it erupts.

  • PAMG also engages in close relations with Puntland, Somalia’s longest-standing and most mature federal member state and a key player in the dynamics underpinning the overall federalisation process in Somalia.


Meanwhile, an important area of focus also remains the relationship between Somalia and Somaliland.  The latter continues to maintain that it is sovereign and rejects the emerging federation.  Against this background, UNSOM is engaged in contacts with all relevant sides to foster dialogue and a spirit of continued engagement and reconciliation.

Elections and Political Transition

As a result of delays in the political and policy process and amidst continued concerns over the security situation prevailing in the country, in July 2015, the Federal Government and the Federal Parliament jointly declared that one-person, one-vote elections would not yet be possible in Somalia in 2016.  In consequence, UNSOM began to advocate a “dual-track” approach that encompassed: 

  • the promotion of an electoral process to facilitate a political transition at the end of the constitutionally mandated term limits of the legislature and the executive in 2016;

  • continued preparations for the conduct of universal (one-person, one-vote) elections by 2020, including continued efforts to build the capacity of the legally mandated institutions, such as the National Independent Electoral Commission.

PAMG works closely with the Integrated Electoral Support Group (IESG) of UNSOM and UNDP in this respect. Collectively, the United Nations played an important role in politically and technically supporting Somalia’s national consultative process, the most significant exercise in participatory politics in Somalia in recent decades, which helped clarify the modalities of the most appropriate, most feasible electoral process in 2016. The Federal Government has since announced an electoral model, and stakeholders are, with support from the United Nations, preparing both for the implementation of the electoral process in 2016 and the continued promotion of universal elections by 2020.

Constitutional Reform

UNSOM works in close collaboration with UNDP in engaging the Federal Parliament of Somalia, the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs (MOCA), and the  Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission (ICRIC) in the area of constitutional reform. This involves daily contact with these institutions as well as support of specific events. For instance, at the request of the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Federal Parliament, UNSOM and UNDP have organized visits of leading international constitutional experts to Mogadishu in October 2015 and January 2016. The experts also shared with the Government and the Parliament a set of papers that provided an overview of the current contentious issues in the Provisional Constitution and suggested several options on how to resolve it. The UNSOM Constitutional team will continue to work closely with Somali stakeholders in advancing the Constitution review process in the years to come.

Federal Parliament

PAMG maintains close contact with the Federal Parliament and has a dedicated Parliament Liaison Officer, whose responsibility includes supporting the legislative processes pertaining to inclusive politics, mainly on State formation and state building, constitutional review and elections as well as liaising between members of the Parliament and UNSOM on parliamentary related matters.

Civil Society

Civil society organizations in Somalia have been playing a crucial role during and since the civil war. That role has encompassed:  

  • assisting in outreach programmes at the grass-root level;

  • fostering confidence in the current peace process;

  • promoting good governance and greater accountability to facilitate the task of building peace as well as democratic institutions.

UNSOM PAMG engages with Somali civil society organizations to ensure their participation in the ongoing peacebuilding and state-building processes.  In this regard, PAMG has maintained a “Somali Opinion Leadership Forum” since October 2014 as a platform for Somali intellectuals, academia, religious leaders, clan elders, business leaders, unions, students, women, youth and others to meet on a regular basis, discuss, exchange ideas on political, reconciliation, economic and other issues that could disturb the peace in the country and make recommendations on the way forward.

PAMG commitment at this point aims at mobilizing local civil society organizations as partners whose voices and views on issues affecting the country should be heard by Somali and international policy-makers. PAMG works with and/or supports civil society organizations through the provision of advice, regular consultations and collaboration on outreach programmes, civic education, reconciliation, mediation efforts, information-sharing, and capacity-building.

What do you know about Somalia's Constitutional review process?