SHOC & SRDF Issues a Position paper about Istanbul gathering of Somali civil society
We are writing to you regarding the second Istanbul conference on Somalia, taking place between 31st May and 1st June, under the theme “Preparing Somalia’s Future:
Goals for 2015”. The Turkish Foreign Minister Davotoglu highlighted at the London Conference that there is a need for short term humanitarian assistance and long term economic reconstruction and development in Somalia. We welcome the initiative offered by the second Istanbul conference to recognise the role played by Somali Civil Society, both local and from the Diaspora, in the process of reconstruction.
We appreciate the Turkish government and the UN’s commitment to Somalia. There are however several issues that we feel need to be addressed appropriately at this conference.
All stakeholders should move away from a culture of response towards one of prevention. This shift can only be achieved through economic investment in communities affected by disasters so that their resilience to withstand shocks is
Peace-building and reconciliation efforts must be rooted in local ownership and reflect the features of reconciliation Somalis consider to be vital such as broad based and locally driven peace consultations.
The longstanding impunity for human rights and international humanitarian law violations in Somalia cannot continue and in our view, failing to invest in the appropriate human rights structures today will contribute to the unforgivable culture
of impunity and injustice.
Pro-poor and fair trade policies should form the basis of innovative and collaborative investment. There is a desperate need to efficiently utilise natural resources and this can be achieved through the provision of adequate skills, tools, specialist education, access to contemporary techniques and the introduction of modern technology.
A systematic approach to actively include the beneficiary community, Somali Civil Society Organisations (SCSO’s) and NGOs in planning the of humanitarian/development activities by ensuring that there is Somali representation from planning stages to the highest level of decision making, can be achieved by strengthening the capacity of SCSO organisations through training, technical assistance.
Rebuilding educational infrastructure is an urgent priority that should be tailored after local needs and new innovative ways to deliver education must be explored.
Mobile schools for a population on the move can put Somalia on track in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and new partnerships with private institutions that offer tertiary education can enhance the quality of life and ensure opportunity for all by supporting scholarships for marginalised youths from poor backgrounds.
The attached recommendations are the thoughts and ideas of 98 Diaspora and locally based Somali-led NGOs. We look forward to hear that the Somali voice has been heard and wish you the very best at the conference in Istanbul.
A monumental opportunity has arisen for the Somali people to recapture the peace, stability, development and dignity they have lost in two decades of violent conflict.
As the international community prepares to deepen its support to the Somalia at the Istanbul Conference, we 98 diaspora and locally based Somali-led NGOs publish this position paper summarising our key recommendations.
We have served our people during the most testing times and hope to share our rich experiences with a view to encouraging shared efforts to rebuilding Somalia.
Somali Humanitarian and Operational Consortium (SHOC) hosted a conference for 63 NGOs in Mogadishu on the 20th May 2012 to discuss the future of Somalia where they collectively agreed to have one voice before all stakeholders in articulating the needs of the Somali people. SHOC was set up with the support of Somali Relief and Development Forum, Muslim Charities Forum and The Humanitarian Forum. SHOC is a network of over 35 NGOs across South and Central Somalia. It is the only network of national NGOs (there are some thematic groups, but these have a different function) that has access on ground within Central and Southern Somalia, and voices their community.
Somali Relief and Development Forum (SRDF) hosted 22 UK based Somali led NGOs on the 15th of May 2012 with similar intentions. The outcome of much conversation is a renewed commitment to our serving the Somali people. SRDF is an umbrella organization consisting of Somali led humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in the UK. The group focuses on delivering relief and
development to communities in the Horn of Africa.
Resilience & Economic Development
The disastrous famine and humanitarian crisis which engulfed Somalia in 2011, as a result of man-made and natural disaster, has illustrated the enormous strain on the Somali people and their environment. We have witnessed a once strong and resilient
community pushed to breaking point and in the aftermath of the crisis we are concerned that the enduring shocks have reduced their ability to withstand more. We believe that there is an urgent need for all stakeholders to move away from a culture of responding to crises in Somalia to one of prevention. This shift can only realistically be achieved if there is conscious strengthening of resilience through economic investment in communities affected by shocks. Normality can be re-established by improving the income of families and the risk associated with future famines and other disasters can be mitigated or eliminated through in investment in agriculture, fishing, and creation of various skills e.g. carpentry, small business etc.
Economic development, through the revival of the production sector in Somalia, must be maximised and utilised with targeted investment in the agro-pastoral and fisheries sector. It is staggering that Somalia is rich in fishery, livestock and agriculture and yet the majority of the population is depended on food aid from humanitarian agencies or imported food. The fisheries sector is the least untapped natural resource, hugely underdeveloped and has remarkable commercial potential. There is also a need for greater access to contemporary production techniques, processing facilities and the
introduction of modern technology to support this sector. We believe that the local private sector and the diaspora community can play a significant role in these reconstruction efforts. As already illustrated by the presence of a vibrant Somali business community internationally, there is the potential to attract the economic and human capital of the diaspora towards in-country investment in production projects.
We however caution against inappropriate and unapplied planning and policy making and encourage good management practices and principles which can reduce misuse of resources through better awareness and access to international expertise.
In this respect we recommend that the participants at the conference to:
- . Integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption into any development agenda proposed for Somalia and to build the capacity of local NGOs – through technical assistance, resources and skills development – so that they can identify, assess and monitor disaster risk and respond to early warnings while international structures are taking time to mobilise;-
- . Work towards reducing the underlying risk factors which contribute to the recurring natural disasters by increasing the protection of all ecological systems and initiating better management of natural resources and the environment;
- . Support community resilience by economic investment in susceptible communities through interventions which include or promote community based micro-finance, income generation for small and medium businesses, cash for work so as to ensure greater self-reliance. We call for more dignified support and the ending of wet feeding programs for able communities;-
- . Assist in the establishment of transparent and accountable taxation systems to ensure Somalia grows capital to reinvest in the development of its own economic landscape through systematic sector development leading the country to produce
- for consumption and export;
- . Make better use of information technology as a means to enhance economic development through the availability of market information for potential investors and support the creation of a union for businessmen/women that can better form networks and partnerships with international business unions;
- · Invest in improved management of natural resources including through affordable alternative energy sources to address the large scale use of charcoal. Reverse the increasing aridity of the Somali climate coupled with excessive timber cutting and overgrazing leading to deforestation, desertification and to reinstate rangeland controls such as grazing reserves and empower local communities to monitor their use;
- . Increase irrigation and water use efficiency through renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy;-
- . Introducing sustainable water harvesting techniques, water and land conservation techniques by promoting community efforts to invest in irrigation through supporting the formation of irrigation cooperatives and irrigation water user associations;-
Peace, Reconciliation and Justice
Having experienced over two decades of violent conflict, the people of Somalia are today hopeful that peace and stability can take root. As organisations with a wealth of experience in Somalia, we strongly believe that this promising window of opportunity
is best utilised by investing in effective peace-building and reconciliation process which will form the bedrock for long lasting peace. We believe that peace-building and reconciliation efforts must be rooted in local ownership and reflect the features of reconciliation which Somalis consider to be essential such as broad-based and locally driven peace initiatives and consultations. Secondly we are concerned about the proliferation of small arms in these two decades of violent conflict and unless this reality is addressed, it risks undermining any peace dividends achieved. In order to achieve peace and reconcile communities, we consider it essential that serious and workable programs are implemented so that individuals are encouraged to disarm and demobilise. Lastly, the longstanding impunity for the violation of human rights law and international humanitarian law can no longer continue and in our view, a failure to invest in the appropriate protection structures will enable this unforgivable culture of impunity and injustice being perpetuated. The establishment of a rule of law is fundamental to sustainable peace and reconciliation efforts. We recommend the
international community to:
. Actively supports the strong indigenous dispute resolution mechanisms Somalis have experience and knowledge of, but have failed to receive adequate space in South Central Somalia. This has already provided commendable peace dividends in Somaliland and Puntland and we encourage lessons to be learned from previous successful applications;
. Remember that peace and reconciliation must be linked in with indigenous sensibilities such as customary laws, the expertise of elders in settling disputes and the promotion of good will between communities. It is crucial to encourage traditional elders to take a prominent lead in institutionalizing reconciliation structures, but also to support and empower non-traditional actors such as women and the youth to contribute to reconciliation and have a voice;
. Invest in serious and workable programs to address the large number of groups or individuals who carry arms and ensure that all disarmament and demobilization efforts are conducted in a transparent manner with engagement of local communities;
. Ensure that there is improved availability of alternative livelihood opportunities and training programs for former combatants including tailored programs focusing on the needs and protection of child combatants. Psycho-social support for former combatants must be put in place so that their transition to civilian life is successful;
. Strive towards economic justice by taking a principled position against the devastating effects of the large scale illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping off the Somali shores and assist Somali actors to bring to account those implicated in these criminal activities;
. Expand the physical presence of independent human rights organizations and to scale up the UN human rights architecture inside Somalia, including the presence of the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights;
. Commit to the creation of an independent and impartial Commission of Inquiry, or similar mechanism, to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against Somalis and recommend measures to ensure all parties are brought to account for any violations;
. To increase the resources provided to Somali NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists so that their capacity to monitor human rights abuses, advocate for the promotion of rights and raise awareness is strengthened. All actors can and should utilize the availability of telecommunications networks in order to raise awareness, distribute messages and create a consciousness of Human Rights;
. Press national authorities to undertake prompt, impartial, effective and independent investigations into all cases of serious human rights violations. In order to achieve this, there must be an increase of resources available for peace-building organizations so that they have the capacity to facilitate, negotiate and monitor agreement on cessation of hostilities and peace;
Somali Voice/Mutual accountability
Somali civil society organisations & NGOs have over the last two decades served their communities on the frontline and illustrated their profound commitment to contribute to the betterment of the Somali people. Despite both public and private donors generously donating to the Somali cause, we are concerned that there is growing scepticism of the impact of aid to Somalia. There has been a long standing fight against a deep rooted culture of corruption that has proven difficult to address and has hampered progress. The impact of significant sums of money made available to assist the Somali people are insufficiently visible and only a trickle of money reaches beneficiaries on the ground. Recognising the importance of collective responsibility and the need to strengthen mutual accountability to both donors and beneficiaries through a bottom up approach should be a priority for all donors. A systematic approach to actively include the beneficiary community and Somali civil society organisations (SCSOs) and NGOs in the planning of humanitarian/development activities by ensuring that there is Somali representation from planning stages to the highest level of decision making, can be achieved by strengthen the capacity of SCSOs through training, technical assistance. Developing regulatory frameworks that recognise transparent NGOs and reward effective spending will improve accountability and minimise the opportunity for abuse. We recommend the following measures to be put in place:
. Encourage better communication between local and international Humanitarian actors to improve cooperation and agree joint strategies in addressing immediate humanitarian needs. Ensuring priorities are agreed will ensure effective spending and improve likelihoods for greater impact in services delivered to local communities;
. Adjust or overhaul existing coordination mechanism to be tailored to suit the needs of the Somali NGOs for increased engagement and ownership (location of meetings/language);
. Actively include the beneficiary community in planning of humanitarian and development activities;
. Invest in the development of a national CSOs/NGOs regulatory framework to minimise the opportunity for abuse and improve accountability. Robust auditing mechanisms that can go beyond following paper trail of monetary spending and examining level of visible spending on ground;
. Invest in capacity of NGOs by providing capacity building of financialmanagement, effective governance and capable technical work force for improved delivery. Regular access to all stakeholders through the supporting of regional/national forums should be encouraged to improve a collaborative effort in serving the people of Somalia;
Education & Expertise
As a country with a young population, on average aged between 17-18 years, the link between the future of Somalia and educational attainment can no longer be underestimated. We believe that it is essential to empower the Somali youth and believe this can be achieved by providing equal access to vocational training programs, skills development schemes and higher education opportunities. In order to realise opportunities for young people there has to be an urgent effort in reconstructing educational infrastructure which is tailored to local needs and explores new innovative ways to deliver education by utilising the availability of strong telecommunications systems in the country. Mobile schools for a population on the move can put Somalia on track to meeting the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and new partnerships with private institutions that offer tertiary education can enhance the quality of life and ensure opportunity for all by supporting scholarships for marginalized youths from poor backgrounds. A capable private sector has already committed to investing in the higher education sector. We see it as important that the
development of practical skills (through vocational training programs) is not overshadowed by the need to develop an educated work force for Somalia. The Somali Diaspora rests on a wealth of expertise that can be unlocked through strategic initiatives that encourage the return of the intellectuals from all walks of life to boost the public and private sector in order to reverse the brain drain. In this respect, we recommend the international community:
- . To invest in the establishment of Somalia’s educational infrastructure, this includes building or repairing schools, institutions, training of teachers, developing a national curriculum and ensuring that teaching materials are readily available;
- . We welcome a renewed commitment meeting the MDGs for all Somali children including the growing IDP community. We call on all parties to make a commitment to eradicate illiteracy in Somalia and encourage the value of learning across all communities through public awareness programs;
- . We urge that there not be limited opportunity to learning and/or access to educational opportunities to skills development schemes and higher education opportunities for the Somali Youth;
- . To encourage formal and non-formal education to Somali youths who are ex- combatants and to make use of these skills in various sectors such as fishing, farming and agriculture;