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11 June, 2012

By Anita Amendra, Project Manager, Sustainable Communities, IofC UK

Four senior members of the Somali diaspora in London, associated with Initiatives of Change, joined world leaders at the Istanbul Conference and Consultations on Somalia, which were held from 26 May to 1st June, under the theme: 'Preparing Somalia’s Future: Goals for 2015'.

Discussion on links between Turkey and Somalia: (l to r): Mohamed Al-Hadi, Dr Kani Torun, the Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud and Mudane Osman Jama Ali
Discussion on links between Turkey and Somalia: (l to r): Mohamed Al-Hadi, Dr Kani Torun, the Turkish Ambassador to Somalia, Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud and Mudane Osman Jama Ali
Osman Jama Ali, former Deputy Prime Minister in the Transitional National Government of Somalia, and currently Chair of the Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy (SIDD), Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud, former Director General of the Somali Foreign Ministry and Vice Chair of SIDD, Zahra Hassan, Director of Women of the Horn and Project Co-ordinator of SIDD and Mohamed Al-Hadi, Director of Alshahid Centre, were specially invited by the Turkish Government to attend the event proceedings.

Turkey is one of few nations to establish an embassy in Mogadishu. Diplomatic, economic and humanitarian initiatives were commenced during Somalia's drought in 2011.

High level representatives from 57 countries, international and regional organisations, and representatives from Somali society, including youth, women, business community, elders, religious leaders and the diaspora were among the Conference attendees.

Following a London meeting last February, the conference raised issues of water, energy, roads and sustainability. The main strategy was to target key areas of social development, economic reconstruction, reconciliation, transitional justice, rebuilding and peace and security.

The conference recognised that Somali leaders, with international community support, face a huge challenge in ensuring a stable and secure environment in the recovered areas affirming that: 'Respect for human rights must be at the heart of the peace process'. Somali authorities were called upon to 'follow through with their commitment to uphold human rights and the rule of law, and put an end to the culture of violence and impunity, and bring about accountability'.

Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud addresses the Somali Civic Society Forum
Ambassador Mohamed Sharif Mohamud addresses the Somali Civic Society Forum
The conference agreed that, 'insecurity in Somalia, including sustained inter clan conflict, persistent violence, illegal charcoal trading, misappropriation of funds, piracy, kidnapping, terrorism and human rights abuses and violations, is exacerbated by the crisis emanating from the deficiency of the state structures and institutions in large parts of the country'. All acts of 'violence against civilians, including journalists, and humanitarian workers in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law' were condemned, as was 'the use of child soldiers and sexual violence by the combatant sides and the recent attacks against journalists'. All Somalis were called upon to 'renounce unlawful acts of violence, to operate within a constitutional framework and to support the on-going political process'.

It was agreed that, 'for genuine peace to take hold in Somalia, Somali people should seek dialogue, reconciliation and political cooperation including in establishing inclusive, accountable and legitimate governance'. Gratitude was expressed for the wide-scale and strong Somali participation, particularly women.

The Conference stated, 'The international community’s role is to support Somalis to provide leadership and ownership in rebuilding a functioning state and local governments that can provide security, ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights, provide basic social services and create an enabling environment that allows for economic opportunity for all its citizens'. On-going public consultations and civic education process in order to allow the Somali people to have their voices heard and participate in the political process were commended.

It was reiterated that 'the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia requires a comprehensive approach on land as well as at sea that addresses the root causes of the phenomenon and combines development, capacity-building, rule of law, deterrence and prosecution'. There is a crucial need for continued political cooperation, through a transparent and inclusive process that facilitates the development of effective governance and stability.

The Istanbul conference gets underway
The Istanbul conference gets underway
The conference underlined 'the importance of finding durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons', stressing that 'protection of civilians in accordance with international humanitarian and refugee law must be maintained at all times by all parties'.

Participants agreed on the need for capacity building in the public and private sectors, and for institutional development to ensure government can establish a socially responsible and business-friendly regulatory environment. They recognized the importance of 'diversification of energy sources, improvements in the quality and scope of the transport infrastructure in a way that supports economic development and investment in urban water supply, rural water supply, water resource management and water governance'.

The conference emphasized that 'August 2012 is the beginning of a new phase of peace-building, in which all Somalis would contribute to peace and have their voices heard' and affirmed that 'Somalia has made considerable progress towards achieving stability, security and reconciliation: an opportunity has arisen which should not be missed.'

Photos by Mohamed Al-Hadi

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