I have only recently stumbled across the work of Maplecroft, which I find infinitely fascinating. While most of their work product requires a subscription to access (understandably), last week The Guardian republished their Global Political Risk Atlas which provides an excellent at-a-glance view of risks based on conflict, terrorism, enforced regime change and resource nationalism in the different countries of the world. Safest bet? Luxembourg. Riskiest place on earth? Somalia.
For those curious to learn more about why Somalia has the unfortunate dishonor of ranking dead last, I offer another piece of my academic writing, A Genealogy of UN Intervention in Somalia, which aims to explore the relationship between failed UN actions in Somalia in the 1990s and the perceived reluctance on the part of the international community to intervene today.
My interest in Somalia stems from my upbringing in Minnesota, which is home to the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. Last winter I finally read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s autobiography Infidel, which I thought a captivating read and which further galvanized my interest in this country.
Despite my interest, I have no solutions to offer on the complex situation there and in the rest of the Horn of Africa. The UN Human Rights Council has had a working group mandated to examine Somalia since 1993, and the Security Council has issued resolutions year-on-year for at least as long, yet meaningful solutions remain evasive. US drone strikes and French diplomatic efforts have failed to have the desired impact on Al-Shabaab, who just this week published this defiant press release following a botched hostage rescue attempt by French troops. Meanwhile, the Somali people remain ensnared in a nightmarish saga of drought, famine, armed conflict, and terrorism, with no end in sight.
In the face of this apparent stalemate, I find myself thinking speculatively about what role commercial enterprises might be able to play to help lift Somalia out of the longstanding cycle of violence and poverty. Despite the residual risk, general stability has been increasing, particularly following the alleged renunciation of piracy by one of its long-standing kingpins. Fibre-optic cables lie just off the coast, waiting for the necessary investment to be connected, which could catalyze a tech boom similar to that taking place in Kenya. By undertaking comprehensive human rights due diligence prior to launching operations, corporations wishing to invest in Somalia could have a meaningful impact of quality of life there. I can’t help but think that the international community ignores at its peril the potential role a well-regulated private sector could play in bringing increased stability to Somalia.