Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) and British Prime Minister David Cameron, shown during a February meeting at No. 10 Downing Street, will co-chair an international conference on Somalia scheduled for May 7th in London. [Leon Neal/AFP]
Set for May 7th, the London conference on Somalia will be the second one in the British capital in as many years, presenting an opportunity to follow-up on issues raised at the first conference in February 2012. The meeting will focus on security, transparency in financial management, justice and human rights.
Somalis had no role in chairing previous international conferences, but this time around, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will co-chair the conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said Deputy Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications Abdishakur Ali Mire.
The representatives of more than 40 countries and international organisations that attended the 2012 London conference will be at next month's meeting, Mire said. The Somali government is pinning its hopes on the conference leading to political victories, stability and economic growth for Somalia, he told Sabahi.
Civil society looks to influence decisions
Civil society groups have put forth a number of recommendations through which they are looking to influence decisions coming out of the conference.
"The role of civil society groups is advisory, so our recommendation is for the conference to provide solutions that will positively impact the country and that are innovative. This can only come from strengthening the government and giving it strong diplomatic support," said Abdirahman Moalim Ablal, head of the School Association for Formal Education (SAFE), an umbrella organisation for non-profits working in education.
"As the education community, we hope the conference will do a lot for education," he told Sabahi. "We do not have adequate security or transparent politics. Therefore, if the security and politics are improved, I expect education will be improved. This can result in providing educational opportunities for many children who are currently unable to get an education."
Shueyb Abdullahi, head of Somalia Youth, a Mogadishu-based organisation that aims to advance the interest of youths in the country, said ultimately the fate of Somalia is in the hands of Somalis who must play an active role in rebuilding the country and take ownership of their future.
"We plan to participate in the conference and believe our contribution will be invaluable," he told Sabahi. "Statehood must come from within, we can only expect assistance from the outside world, but the Somali government must rely on its own people and listen to them."
"We hope the international community will continue supporting the Somali government until it can stand with its own two feet," he added.
The Somalia South-Central Non-State Actors (SOSCENSA) organisation, whose members plan to attend the London conference, is busy in the run-up to it with a public awareness campaign on how the conference could shape the question of Somali statehood.
SOSCENSA, which deals with a range of issues including poverty reduction, development, good governance, democracy, peace and security, convened a meeting April 9th-10th in Mogadishu on how the London conference agenda could advance Somalia's future.
Thirty people representing civil society groups attended the meeting, including religious scholars, traditional elders, women, police officers and intellectuals.
"We are urging the international community to directly deal with the Somali federal government regarding the needs of the Somali people and to extend diplomatic, political, economic and technical support to the government," SOSCENSA said in statement directed at London conference organisers.
The group also recommended the Somali government facilitate talks between leaders of different regions in order to resolve disputes if they decide to form their own regional administrations.
Responsibilities of citizens
SOSCENSA urged the public to join the government in stabilising the country and improving security through participating in decision-making, facilitating talks, extending services, research and awareness campaigns.
"We also urge the government to give women important roles in the leadership of government agencies as general directors, general managers, provincial governors, district commissioners and employment office directors," SOSCENSA said.
Asli Duale, a member of SOSCENSA, said they are looking for solutions to the challenges ahead.
"We are deeply aware of the problems facing the country and we can contribute good ideas to finding solutions, and that is why we issued preliminary recommendations," Duale told Sabahi. "We are asking the world to help our government in public service infrastructure to improve the lives of vulnerable people."
"We do not want to pressure anyone," Abdullahi Mohamed, the chairman of SOSCENSA, told Sabahi. "Our goal is to support the points that will be discussed in the London conference and we are happy with how things are being managed."