Realistic Plan to Save Somalia
By Abdulrahman Idow: Congratulations on the recent approval of your new cabinet by the parliament. I am sure that with your impeccable credentials you and your cabinet team stand in a good position to lead the country on the road towards Somali to come back as nation. We Somali diaspora are proud of you.
There are no quick fixes to address the numerous and complex problems which drive the crisis in Somalia. Growing insecurity, deep and chronic poverty, and impunity and corruption at all levels require comprehensive and coordinated action by the Somali Government.
The purpose of this statement is to highlight priorities in three areas—security, governance, and economic and social development—that need to be addressed by the government and contributing nations in the coming years for the sustainable reconstruction of Somalia.
The Government of Somalia and the international community should recognize the crucial role of the civil society in the reconstruction process, particularly in understanding and addressing the needs of the Somali people as well as improving their level of participation in the decision-making process.
Improvement of the security situation in Somalia implies that mutual trust exists between Somalis, civil society, the government and the international community.
Corruption and ineffective aid strategies and implementation contribute significantly to the persistence of widespread poverty in Somalia. In addition, high rates of civilian casualties, and the lack of respect for Somali culture and traditions directly fuels the conflict.
Emphasis should be placed on adequately equipping and training legitimate, mandated governmental forces. Accountability of all armed forces is critical to address the distrust in society. Continued attention should be paid towards minimizing civilian casualties.
* Ensure all Somali security forces are properly trained in human rights and international humanitarian law.
* Institute rigorous, culturally-appropriate protocols for all security forces.
* Establish an independent complaints and investigation unit to hold Somali National Security Forces accountable for their actions.
* Provide incentives for peace by allocating aid according to need rather than the degree of insecurity and poppy cultivation, with the objective of handing over management to the local government.
2. Governance/Justice/Human Rights
Increasing the access to justice and particularly enhancing awareness and understanding of existing laws at district and provincial level remains instrumental for creating a sense of inclusiveness. This is particularly important in a society with high levels of illiteracy, where ignorance is often used to deny people their rights. Peace, Reconciliation and Justice needs to be more effectively implemented, particularly in the case of transitional justice and war crimes. It is of vital importance that mechanisms to promote compliance of transitional justice with the Somali constitution should be urgently attended to.
Laws and legislation that respond to the demands of both government officials and the people through rehabilitation of infrastructure and training of justice providers is essential. Awareness rising of legal rights and laws should start at school and continue at university level, and should ideally be included in the curriculum.
Action should be taken against violators of human rights and international humanitarian laws. Instead of appointing former war criminals to governmental positions, the international community should rather support all initiatives aimed at bringing them to face justice. Legislative reform based on international human rights values should be looked into.
The lack of credible mechanisms to enforce professional standards, codes of ethics, and disciplinary rules also contributes to a culture of impunity. The prevalent high level of corruption, which leads to extreme dissatisfaction, needs to be tackled—without this, little progress can be made. Commitment of the government is essential and it is also the responsibility of the international community to ensure that resources channeled through the government are wisely spent. Abuses should be severely sanctioned.
For the building of trust, merit-based systems of recruitment, transparent appointment processes, and career progression, as well as accountability together with strengthening of the capacity, need to be prioritized. Key to this is the fight against corruption, which should be an all-encompassing initiative involving various stakeholders. In light of this, formal cooperation should be established with the government so that the civil society can fulfill its mission of “watch dog” and contribute to strengthen check and balances mechanisms.
Despite significant resources allocated in this sector, a more strategic effort towards mainstreaming the rights and role of women, who continue to exist on the periphery in Somali society, should be made. Respect towards the rights of women and also other groups, such as children and youth, and their participation in decision-making and implementation, should be a main concern. However, this cannot be addressed without adequate awareness-raising and capacity building of both society and authorities in both rural and urban areas. It should be noted that access to justice for women remains scarce both in the formal and the traditional system, in contradiction with the constitution which guarantee equal access to justice to all citizens, including women. Discrimination remains a norm.
* Rigorously enforce the existing legislation by structuring and developing the formal justice system, ensuring the compliance of the justice system with the constitution, improving the quality of police and raising awareness of the population regarding their rights and obligations as well as clarifying and strengthening the respective role of the police and the judicial system.
* Bring war criminals to justice and ban any suspected war criminal from official positions within the government.
* Enforce professional standards, codes of ethics and disciplinary measures not only in the administration but also in the private sector to increase transparency. Corruption and abuses should be investigated by an independent commission and sanctioned according to the law.
* Take concrete measures to enforce rights of women and strengthen their role within the Somali society by increasing access to justice and economic opportunities.
3. Social and Economical Development
The development model for Somalia must be led by Somalis (national and local government and civil society) and be accountable to Somali citizens.
Apt utilization and equal access to available resources and services including rehabilitation of current economic infrastructure is deemed essential for economic and social development. To assist a predominantly agriculturally dependent society in Somalia (80% of the population is dependent on this sector), land and water management strategy including distribution law should be revised in accordance with traditional systems and community requirements.
Rural development plays a vital role. Giving priority to agriculture, livestock and rural development will be the key factor to poverty reduction and improving women livelihood. Increased agriculture production and distribution through well organized and watchful planning is required. Policies developed should ensure that the strategies and decisions made keep in mind the needs of rural Somalis and the advancement of the private sector. Reduction of poverty cannot be a reality without improved infrastructure, availability of credit and a vibrant private sector.
Lack of education is handicap and insecurity to many people in Somalia. Particularly women and young girls suffer the most as they are less able to go to school due to the increased pressure to nurse, look after and nurture their family.
Continuous support to education is essential. Special attention should be paid to secondary and higher education systems, where capacity to address Somalis’ thirst for education must be increased. Major efforts should be made to offer professional training opportunities and facilitate access to the work market. Health and sanitation conditions in Somalia are dire.
* More support to the agriculture sector, particularly programs targeting small and poor farmers are underfunded compared to those living in poppy cultivating areas.
* Expand secondary and higher education opportunities, as well as vocational and literacy programs for adults.
* Improve the access to health services not only in building infrastructures but also in training more health staff from rural areas, particularly women, and adequately equipping medical facilities.
The government of Somalia and the nations contributing troops must respect the right of people in need to receive assistance in full respect of humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and independence.
In that respect, the government and the international community should also respect the moral obligation of civil society and the NGO community to access the population in need, regardless of any other factors, such as whether it is a government-controlled area or not. One should not forget the critical role played by the civil society and NGO community in providing assistance, improving access to basic services to the population of Somalia, in capacity building human resources. Abdulrahman Idow