Our guest blogger is John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress.
How much has the world spent on Somalia since 1991? A new report released today by the Center for American Progress — Twenty Years of Collapse: The Cost of Failure in Somalia — tried to figure out just that. Using both official statistics and some educated guess work, we estimate that the world spent more than $55 billion on Somalia since 1991. Yet, for all that spending, consider some of the truly appalling statistics that we also compiled:
– Odds that a child in Somalia will die before his or her fifth birthday: 1 in 7.4
– Difference in life expectancy between a citizen of Japan and Somalia: 32.2 years
– Number of refugees fleeing Somalia daily in July 2011: 3,500
– Number of Somalis who needed humanitarian assistance in 2010: 3.2 million
There is also a 25 percent chance that a Somali will either be a refugee or an internally placed person. See the report’s chart on Somali refugees in the region:
Indeed, Somalia is currently suffering the worst famine the world has seen in more than two decades and its civil war rages on unabated. So why has so much spending yielded so little? In large part because many of the international interventions in Somalia were so badly planned and implemented that they actually made the overall situation worse in the long run.
The world has been willing to spend billions on arms transfers, counter-terrorism efforts and military approaches, but sensible diplomacy and working at the local level to build durable peace agreements have usually been an afterthought. The United States and the international community needs to be much more principled and effective in delivering aid in order to help shape a functioning central government in Somalia that enjoys the faith and support of its own people.