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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Somalia

Article 45 of the constitution of Somalia contains provisions for the protection of the environment. It reads:

1. The Federal Government shall give priority to the protection, conservation, and preservation of the environment against anything that may cause harm to natural biodiversity and the ecosystem. 2. All people in the Federal Republic of Somalia have a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment and participate in the development, execution, management, conservation and protection of the natural resources and environment. 3. The Federal Government and the governments of the Federal Member States affected by environmental damage shall:

  • Take urgent measures to clean up hazardous waste dumped on the land or in the waters of the Federal Republic of Somalia
  • Enact legislation and adopt urgent necessary measures to prevent the future dumping of waste in breach of international law and the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Somalia
  • Take necessary measures to obtain compensation from those responsible for any dumping of waste, whether they are in the Federal Republic of Somalia or elsewhere
  • Take necessary measures to reverse desertification, deforestation and environmental degradation, and to conserve the environment and prevent activities that damage the natural resources and the environment of the nation.
  • 4. In consultation with the Federal Member States, the Federal Government shall adopt general environmental policies for the Federal Republic of Somalia.

    Featured Legislation

    1995: The Somaliland Fishery Law was signed. This Law provides with respect to management and conservation of fisheries resources in Somaliland. The Somaliland 1995 Law is based largely on the Somalia Fishery Law 1985. The 14 articles of this Law carry the following titles: Management (1); Limits of the territorial waters (2); Fishing data (3); Fishery Development (4); Prohibitions (5); Seasonal Closing Period (6); Fishing Licence General Provisions (7); Obligations of holders of fishing licences (8); Exploration (9); Control and Inspection (10); Penalties (11); Enforcement (12); Confiscation of Property (13); Regulations (14).

    2005: The Ministry of Environment and Disaster Management came into existence, Somalia lacked a central body responsible for environmental matters. Instead, a National Environmental Committee, with representatives from 13 Ministries/Agencies, served as the coordination body for environmental governance. A key concern for the ministry was the adoption and effective enforcement of a suite of international, regional and national agreements which define the country’s own responsibilities as well as those of the international community.

    2011: The National Water Act was introduced. This Act makes provision for the conservation and development of water resources in Somalia. Water is defined in article 1. The Act consists of 81 sections (divided into 16 Chapters), which define the objectives and general principles of the Act and provide with respect to, among other things: improvement of access to water resources; water distribution services; promotion of public and private partnership; duties and responsibilities of the Ministry responsible for water; duties and rights of water users; ownership of water; registration of water rights; settlement of disputes related to water rights; water user associations; water production licenses; urban water supply; rural water supply; water need priorities; livestock watering; waterworks; environmental protection and water resources; water conservation zones; water quality standards and quality of drinking water; agricultural water rights; highlands water conservation; groundwater protection; water pollution.

    2015: The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2020) was approved. The NBSAP is thus the first effort in the history of Somalia to holistically and systematically look at the overall spectrum of biodiversity – ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. The formulation process comprise of situation analysis on one hand and formulating the strategic & action planning both however with keen follow-up of the CBD Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets. Vision for 2050: Somalia’s biological diversity is appreciated, restored, conserved and its components are utilized in sustainable manner that contributes to the socio-economic development of the nation. The goal of this NBSAP is to restore Somalia’s ecosystems and its biodiversity by 2020. The objective of developing this first NBSAP is to provide a strategic and action framework that systematically rehabilitate and conserve Somalia’s biodiversity, enhance the sustainable use of its services and products, and ensure that the benefits and obligations are equitably distributed among various segments of the Somali society. In conformity with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, five main priority areas were agreed that consist of: 1. Creating understanding of the drivers of biodiversity degradation together with response measures; 2. Reduce the direct pressures on Somali biodiversity; 3. Safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity; 4. Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity with emphasis on sharing it with marginalized groups; and 5. Enhanced participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

    2015: The National Dairy Act was ratified. The main purpose of this Act is to regulate hygienic practices in primary production, handling, processing and distributing of milk and milk products. It seeks to protect the consumer from potential health hazards caused by transmission of pathogenic agents from animals, through contaminated milk and pathogens through dilution of milk and addition of other substances. The Law code also requires that all those involved in, their agents and/or premises for production or handling of milk for sale be registered to facilitate traceability of the product, vehicle, agent, for ease of enforcement of the relevant milk and milk products standards.

    2016: The Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Law  was passed. The Law is the first comprehensive law on this subject that has been passed in Somaliland since 1991 and replaces the dated 1969 Law in so far as the provisions of the that Law are inconsistent with the new Law – an imprecise repealing wording which is commonly used in Somaliland legislation (as well as in most of the pre 1991 Somali Republic laws).The Forest and Wildlife Conservation Law is the primary law governing wildlife and wildlife trade in Somaliland. Somaliland imposes an almost complete ban on hunting, trading and exporting wildlife, including predators, birds, and turtles inhabiting Somaliland.

    2018: the Puntland Water Resources Act was promulgated. This Act makes provision for the conservation and development of water resources in Puntland. The Act consists of 95 articles divided into 16 sections. The purpose of this Act is to “increase access to water in an equitable and sustainable manner in different forms of utilization, while following the most appropriate environmental protection measures". it, among other things, defines the rights and obligations of individuals concerned socially and economically with the proper use of water, and in line with the development and well-being of the community. It also defines the duties of the Puntland State Authority of Water, Energy and Natural Resources (PSAWEN) in respect of water supply, infrastructure and the control and conservation of water resources. PSAWEN shall manage in a responsible manner and develop the public water infrastructure and other properties entrusted to it by the government Puntland.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • In its fourth decade of civil war, Somalia is considered a ‘failed state’. Corruption is widespread and is intensifying environmental crime: fishing licenses and other permissions issued by one local Somali authority are often not recognized by another, perpetuating the prevalence of foreign IUU fishing vessels. Somali pirates have instrumentalized this perception, casting themselves as defenders of Somali waters against foreign exploiters. There is, however, a more nuanced explanation at hand: foreign IUU fishing operations are frequently facilitated by local Somali agents, often in cooperation with government or quasi-governmental actors, who for a fee provide fishing licences, flag registrations, and falsify export documentation. In fact, decisions and decrees issued by one state body are often ignored and countermanded by other agents of the state who are under the influence of a different set of private interests. IUU fishing in Somalia is in effect a public-private partnership in transnational crime. Environmentally destructive impacts of the hundreds of Iranian gillnetters operating in the waters off Puntland have been recorded, calling upon international law to prevent the mobility of foreign vessels and long-haul fishing trawlers that once formed part of a notorious fleet of fishing vessels dubbed ‘The Somali 7’ by investigative journalists. Beginning in late 2019, fraudulent fishing permits have quadrupled, undermining the integrity of the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    References and Further Reading


    Directorate of Environment & Climate Change: