Security on the Move: Everyday security of IDPs in rapidly growing Somali Cities

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Government and International Affairs


This research project addresses the nexus of poverty, environmental sustainability and conflict in Somalia from the perspective of the most vulnerable in-migrants to cities, people who were internally displaced (IDPs). The interplay between violent conflict and droughts is described as one of the main drivers of internal displacement in Somalia, but rapid in-migration to cities further increases pressures on the urban and rural environment. The research focus is on the capacities of IDPs to cope with the effects of violence and displacement and to mitigate vulnerability. The study is conducted in four cities in Southern Somalia (Mogadishu, Baidoa), Puntland (Bosasso) and Somaliland (Hargeisa), which have quite different histories pertaining to in-migration and violence. While IDPs in Hargeysa and Mogadishu have started to gain attention from international organisations, very little is known about IDPs living in secondary or smaller cities such as Bosasso or Baidoa. This project will conduct interviews and compare IDPs perceptions and practices of security on the move and when settling into the city. The concern with IDPs and cities links the project to the emerging global urban agenda and the need to develop new approaches to urban sustainability, democratic governance and livelihood in cities. With the choice to study this from the viewpoints and experiences of IDPs, people who are most vulnerable are placed at the core of the knowledge production. This informs the choice of research methods, which, in addition to narrative interviews, also includes a photo-voice methodology. Photo-voice is a highly innovative research tool that gives 'voice' to people who are usually not heard or silenced. It does not merely rely on verbal capacities, but uses images to communicate peoples' perceptions of securities and insecurities in Somali cities. Selected IDPs will receive cameras and produce photographs illustrating (in-)security and (in-)secure places and experiences

Planned Impact

Main impact beneficiaries of the research project "Security on the Move" are identified within three broad areas: First, beneficiaries that need updated and differentiated insights on the vulnerabilities of urban populations in Somalia, with a particular emphasis on forcefully displaced populations. These include governance institutions in Somalia and their international partners. In this project UN-Habitat is a partner and main beneficiary who will ensure the communication of results through its networks. Second, 'representatives' of urban IDPs in the four cities will benefit directly from the research, as they will be enabled to communicate their concerns and these will be made visible in the planned exhibition. The third, more indirect beneficiaries, are organisations, researchers, and interest groups focusing on the promotion of urban sustainability and city development in fragile contexts and on wider questions of forced mobility.

The organisation of the photo-voice exhibition is a cornerstone in the impact strategy. The exhibition is a tool to communicate research findings to a broader public, to empower vulnerable populations to express their views and to provide a platform for these populations to interact with city authorities and international organisations. The innovative research design ensures that the project is grounded in the local context in an unusual way. Since this approach transforms informants into researchers, local participants have a strong voice and become co-producers of knowledge. To achieve this result, the research process is organised in close collaboration with a local network organisation that has access and already established trust with mobile and vulnerable populations.

The stakeholder workshop in the initiation phase of the project will bring the main researchers, research partners and key international stakeholders in sustainable city development, state-building and conflict prevention in dialogue with each other.
Title Travelling Exhibition 
Description Internally displaced people in four Somalia city (10 in each city) were provided with cameras and have used them to document their everyday lives. Selected photos and testimonies pertaining to the photos were used to produce an exhibition which was travelling through the cities in Somalia, to Oslo and will continue to travel to London and Nairobi. This is an impact related activity as it is accompanied by presentations of research findings and panel discussion (see engagement with non-academic audiences section). 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact no impact yet achieved as the process is ongoing 
Description 1) We generated in-depth knowledge on the experiences of war-induced displacement and patterns of in-migration to Somali cities, and have fulfilled the three research-related objectives of the grant. We outlined differentiated experiences of displacement in Somali regions. We further identified how informal, and informal property markets emerged in the settlements for displaced in the four cities, and have shown how layered relations of property develop, how they shape the lives and opportunities of the displaced and the way they contribute to city growth (labelled as camp urbanisation by us). This finding also pertains to global-local links as investors are often from outside Somalia. Another string of findings is pertaining to precarity in camps and newly evolving urban settlements, the forms of casual labour and petty entrepreneurship developed to mitigate the challenges and the support networks internally displaced people rely upon (or not) when they move to and settle in the city. And fourth we have assessed the social and physical infrastructures and services that shape the experiences of displaced people. The government and management of camps and settlements for displaced and effects of re-settlement initiatives was a further finding.
2) The Somali research partner in the project has developed significant research capacity as evidenced by his 'employment' as a consultant in a Worldbank study on Urbanisation in Somalia.
Exploitation Route We have fulfilled the research related three objectives, but are still in the process to develop impact (fourth objective of the grant).
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

Description Engagement Africa Council Norway 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Kirsti Stuvoy (Co-I) invited to present the research project and finding to the Norwegian Africa Council's Working Group on Migration. The presentation and findings were discussed also with respect to further research questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Travelling Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In January and February 2019 4 exhibitions which displaced photos and testimonies of displaced people in urban settlements were organised in four Somali cities (the project cities) and in Oslo. Two exhibitions in London and Nairobi will follow in March and April.
The exhibitions were used to present the approach and findings of the research to policymakers (members of the municipalities in the four cities) and international organisations working on urbanisation and urban planning in the four cities. The introduction was followed by a guided tour through the exhibition organised by displaced people and the research team. A panel composed of experts finalised the exhibition workshop. The panel commented on photos and research findings and provided recommendations for policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019