UK conference on Somalia can make peacebuilding a priority

This week government officals and other key figures from across East Africa have the chance to renew the focus on peace and security in Somalia – and help the country continue its path towards overcoming long-term instability.

They are joining leaders of international organisations for a conference in London convened by the UK government, which provides a much-needed opportunity to bolster international support for the Federal Government of Somalia.

This year the country elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who along with a new parliament has instilled fresh hope and enthusiasm for addressing national challenges and bringing both peace and development to Somalia.

Together with other peacebuilding organisations, International Alert is urging the conference to address the pressing concerns that threaten security and stability in the country.

The following is a summary of recommendations that can be read in full in our joint statement:

  • Conflict sensitive democratisation is essential. Expanding voting rights is important for Somalia’s political development, but how this effects the political representation of the Somali population must be fully understood, as this could create conflict if it isn’t carefully managed.
  • Citizens must have their say in finalising the new constitution. This must be relevant to communities and not simply a political pact among elites if it is to set the foundations for long-term stability and democracy.
  • Meaningful reconciliation requires truth and justice. The federal government must be ready to support reconciliation across the country, as without it political reform won’t be possible.
  • Emerging federal member states need support to become legitimate and accountable governance units. This is vital to ensuring national stability.
  • Think broadly about how to resolve the conflict with al Shabaab. Hard security approaches have been more popular in the past, but dialogue and negotiated settlements can play an important role in resolving the conflict.
  • International support is essential, but Somalis should set the agenda. Somali civil society should fully participate in the conference if its results are to be supported in Somalia. The strategic objectives of the international community should be secondary to the hopes and needs of Somalis themselves.
  • Women must be included as decision-makers on governance, peace and security at all levels. Although the Federal Government of Somalia have made great improvements in increasing women’s representation to 24% of total seats in the Somalia parliament, this still falls short of the constitutionally-mandated 30% quota for women. Efforts to promote more women engagement should be supported and reinforced.
  • Efforts to improve security must include the security of women. Sexual assault and domestic violence remain serious threats in the everyday lives of Somali women. More awareness and protection of women’s rights is needed to overcome this.
  • Security of the state is dependent on security and justice for the people.
  • More accountability is needed for how international aid is spent. There have been big flows of international aid in Somalia but it’s important to ensure accountability around this – including sanctions for misuse or misappropriation of funds.

Photo: Somali women wait to be seen at a medical clinic (AMISOM Public Information, Creative Commons 0 1.0)