Security on the move

  • Refugee camp
    © Durham University

After decades of violent conflict, large numbers of Somalis have been displaced and the subsequent migration has contributed to the growth of cities across the country. This NMBU project, led by Durham University in the UK, will investigate links between urbanization and displacement in Somalia. Read more in the project’s first report.

Security on the move

Violent conflict and drought are the main drivers of internal displacement in Somalia, with the majority of internal refugees fleeing to cities. This rapid migration to cities greatly increases pressure on already-strained urban and rural environments in the country. In this project, war-induced, rapid urbanisation in Somalia will be analysed from the viewpoint of the most vulnerable sector – the internally displaced people (IDPs).

Coping strategies of displaced people

The project, running for 18 months from September 2017 to March 2019, will focus on migration, urbanisation and security from the perspective of IDPs in Somalia. It will look at the reasons for their flight, as well as the risks and threats they face in their everyday lives. The project will collate the experiences of these people as they settle in selected Somali cities and explore the agency and capacity they build to mitigate their vulnerability and improve their conditions. The four primary objectives of the research are to:  

  • Produce insights on the process of urbanisation and how these processes impact the security of IDPs.
  • Explore the factors that shape (in)security: Social, political, economic and environmental (access to resources, infrastructure, services).
  • Assess the strategies people develop to cope with, and improve their situation.
  • Share knowledge with organisations that aim at addressing urban vulnerabilities to promote sustainable city development.

Communicating with images

The displaced people will be interviewed to determine their perceptions of their security situation, both when ‘on the move’ and when settled into the destination city. Information will also be collected using the ‘photovoice’ method, an innovative research tool that allows people who are not usually heard or who are silenced to communicate using images. Selected subjects receive cameras and produce photographs to universally illustrate their impressions of security and insecurity in Somali cities, in terms of poverty, environmental sustainability and conflict. 

Questions posed by the project include: 

  • What does security mean to IDPs in Somali cities? 
  • Which factors shape dynamics of everyday 

    security, and how? 

  • Which security arrangements do urban IDPs 

    rely on every day? 

  • How do everyday security arrangements change 

    in the course of migration to the city? 

  • How do newcomers learn to navigate city 

    spaces to increase their security (city learning)?

Sustainable city development

The project aims to contribute to sustainable city development, with the involvement of UN Habitat, a United Nations programme that is working on displacement issues and peace-building in Somalia. It is hoped that the project’s collaboration with UN Habitat will help to ensure that the project’s findings will be able to inform policy and reach the wider public. The progress and outcomes of the project will also be communicated to the wider public via policy briefs, social media, webinars, podcasts and blogs, including the Noragric Blog.

In each of the four subject cites, a final workshop will be held in which the findings will be presented to the local public and discussed by an assembly of representatives of displaced populations and local authorities, such as local government persons, elders and religious authorities amongst others.


Durham Global Security Institute (DGSi), Durham University, UK 

Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway

UN Habitat

South West Livestock Professional Association (SOWELPA), Somalia


UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

UK Department for International Development (DFID)

Read the report (PDF): Security on the move

Published 6. March 2018 - 11:24 - Updated 8. March 2018 - 15:08

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

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