Finnish Somalia Network together with a Research Project “Security, Governance and Identities in Flux”; Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki; Finn Church Aid; and Finnish Peace Research Association organized a seminar “Peace and Youth in the Horn of Africa: Livelihood and Political Mobilization” at the University of Helsinki on October 11, 2011. About 90 people took part in the seminar consisting of key note lectures, workshop presentations and a panel discussion.
The seminar was organized by financial support provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The aim of the seminar was to explore the topical issues of peace, livelihood and generations in the times of political mobilizations in Africa. The seminar focused on the Horn of Africa, in particular Somalia, which has suffered from prolonged conflicts and insecurity leading to immense challenges in everyday subsistence and income. Unpredictable environmental problems, fragile political and economic opportunities, lack of education and prevailing unemployment affect all segments of population, in particular the youth. What are the opportunities to maintain or create peace in these conditions? The seminar also addressed the transnational activities – such as the role of diaspora, international development initiatives and foreign political influences – that intersect everyday realities in the Horn of Africa and may have an impact on peace as well as on conflict.
Opening remarks were presented by Abdirizak Hassan Mohamed, Chairperson of the Finnish Somalia Network and Heli Sirve, Horn of Africa Ambassador at the Department for Africa and the Middle East, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (read Sirve’s presentation below). Thereafter, three keynote presentations were given by invited international guests: Ms. Wangari Mwangi who works as Programme Manager at the Life & Peace Institute in Nairobi, gave a talk titled “At the crossroads: Youth, livelihoods and political mobilization”. Dr. Christian Webersik who works as Associate Professor at the University of Agder, Norway, presented on the topic of “Resources, war economies and conflict in Somalia: Prospects for peace”. Finally, Dr. Laura Hammond who is Senior Lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, gave a presentation titled “Defying conventional wisdom? Diaspora youth and participation in Somalia” (read Hammond’s article in this journal).
The lunch was followed by three working groups on the themes of peace mediation; income and livelihoods; and political mobilization. In total 10 presentations based either on research or practical work were given (read the working group summaries below).
The seminar was ended by a panel discussion, chaired by Professor, Dean Liisa Laakso from the University of Helsinki on the theme of “Peace and youth – a way forward?” The panellists included MP, Special Envoy for Horn of Africa and Sudan Pekka Haavisto; PhD Candidate Mahdi Abdile, University of Helsinki; Dr. Mulki Al-Sharmani, University of Helsinki; Senior Researcher Tommi Koivula, National Defence University; Mr. Abdirahim Hussein, Kanava Youth Organization; and Dr. Petri Hautaniemi, University of Helsinki.
In the evening, participants of the seminar were invited to have Somali food and enjoy programme organized by Somali youth at the Kanava Youth Organization.
In conclusion it can be said that during prolonged conflicts in the Horn of Africa, the youth have paid the highest price. As Wangari Mwangi mentioned the youth have been mobilized selectively: they have been mobilized to fighting, not to peace mediation. Moreover, human insecurity has overridden other issues such as opportunities for youth to grants etc. Nordic countries, including Finland, are connected with the Horn of Africa. One of the bonding factors is the Diaspora which has significant resources and actively contributes to the development of the Horn in many ways. Compared to their parents, youth have different tools such as social media at their disposal. On one hand, Diaspora youth such as Somali young people, are actively involved in their countries and communities “at home”, but on the other hand, they face extreme challenges in front of huge expectations and responsibilities stemming from both here and there. Finally, Islam should be looked at in more nuanced ways: for example, a positive role of transnational Islamic organizations should be recognized.
Opening Remarks by Heli Sirve
Horn of Africa Ambassador, Department for Africa and fhe Middle East, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Helsinki
Distinguished seminar organizers, dear participants, ladies and gentlemen,
Little did I know when I met Professor Liisa Laakso on a working visit in Nairobi some weeks ago in late August informing me about this seminar, that I will have the honor and pleasure to make a few opening remarks here. At the end of August I completed my four years assignment as the Ambassador of Finland to Kenya. And all of you certainly know that the Embassy in Nairobi is also heavily involved in working with Somalia.
First of all I wish to congratulate and thank the seminar organizers, Finnish Somalia Network, Research Project “Security, Governance and Identities in Flux” and the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Helsinki, Finn Church Aid and the Finnish Peace Research Association for selecting such an important and timely topic – peace and youth with focus on livelihood and political mobilization - for today. The current situation in Somalia is difficult and worrying. The severe famine and drought put hundreds of thousands of Somali people’s lives at risk and call for 1) immediate discussions with al-Shabaab in order to secure urgent and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to the starving and needy people. The international community has responded well to the current humanitarian needs but 2) assistance has to be maintained and increased still into the early months of 2012.
In order to save lives in Somalia focus on humanitarian assistance now is of course crucial. However, to work for improved possibilities for normalcy, peace and development in Somalia, focus and investments in peace and creating livelihoods for especially youth is necessary. The longer- term work has to take place at the same time with shorter-term assistance. In both areas financial support from development partners as well as from diaspora is called for.
Youth unemployment is one of the root causes for conflicts in societies and in Somalia it has also contributed to that piracy has become a lucrative source of livelihood for many. Furthermore, in particular young unemployed men are easy to be recruited to become eg. al-Shabaab fighters and for many other both legal and illegal tasks. Thus, creation of jobs and possibilities to earn a decent living for both young men and women in Somalia is the key for moving towards normal everyday life. It is worth noting that Somalis are involved in a variety of economic activities such as telecommunications and trade that provide significant sources of income to segments in the local population. Such activities - and also increased involvement of the diaspora in them - should be further encouraged. Young people have fresh and untried ideas worth implementing. What these upcoming entrepreneurs often need is starting capital for establishing their business. The other area where “something can be done” is complementary training about how to establish and do business.
In the longer term the real solution for curbing piracy has also to be sought from creating alternative jobs primarily on land and from the diversification of the economic structures. This is easy to say but most difficult to do under the current unsafe, unpredictable and most challenging security situation in Somalia. With improved security and better job opportunities I am convinced that many Somalis would also prefer to live and work at home rather than being forced to either seek refuge in neighboring countries or immigrate abroad.
To involve as many Somalis as possible in working for peace and reconciliation, i.e. increased inclusiveness, in order to end the several years of transition is the prerequisite for any future development in Somalia. In addition to Somaliland and Puntland we understand that there are some areas where local governance structures are able to deliver basic security and services for the local populations. For international partners it would be beneficial to better understand how these local arrangements work. The grassroots work involving local traditional leaders, religious and others, is most valuable and necessary. We congratulate organizations such as the Finn Church Aid for this constructive work.
A first consultative meeting on ending the transition before 20 August 2012 was held in Mogadishu in early September 2011 facilitated by Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative for Somalia of the United Nations Secretary-General. Representatives of the Transitional Federal Institutions participated in the meeting: President of the Transitional Federal Government, TFG, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, TFP, Prime Minister of the TFG, President of the Puntland State of Somalia and President of the Galmudug State of Somalia. African Union, AU as well as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a were also represented.
The meeting agreed on a Road Map to end the transition, to adopt a new constitution and to effect parliamentary and security reforms. Even if the Road Map could not be elaborated and adopted with the involvement of a majority of Somalis, in my view it should be given a real change to be implemented. If the tasks of the Road Map will be completed, it would open possibilities for more organized work to promote democracy and development and thus calls for intensified political mobilization.
Chair: Dr. Petri Hautaniemi, Reporter: Ms. Mariko Sato
The topic for the working group was peace and youth in the Horn of Africa. This is a highly topical issue as a large and growing portion of the population in the Horn of Africa is under the age of 30. These young people are facing many serious challenges today, ranging from unemployment, malnutrition, and a lack of basic social services to the low rate of girls’ school enrollment. As traditional livelihood options are declining due to severe environmental challenges such as drought and famine, pessimistic prospects for subsistence are overwhelming. In combination of prolonged violent conflict, political insecurity and mass displacement it is estimated that as much as 4 million people are in urgent need for humanitarian aid. The aim for the working group was to address these challenges presented to the income and livelihoods of the youth in the Horn of Africa by searching for possible scenarios for sustainable change. How to approach potential enabling conditions for young lives and decent human development?
The first presentation from Juan Daniel Reyes, from IOM Helsinki, was on the topic of “Diaspora Communities and Income Generation in the Horn of Africa”. In his abstract Reyes argued that from the perspective and concept of human security, a clear and usually solid relation exists between a community’s capacity to survive and the security environment that frames it. Tensions, conflict, and violence arise from the human struggle to access basic resources; particularly in societies that don’t enjoy wider welfare and security structures – a state. In the Horn of Africa, livelihood struggles will continue to fuel conflict as the vulnerability of communities increases due to a depleting ecosystem and a failing political environment.
Reyes noted that a vital resource which communities access to survive is their network of social support, entrenched in a cultural sense of mutual responsibility. In the case of the Horn of Africa, social support networks depend on the active role of the diaspora. Family members living abroad are the source of income for those remaining in their communities of origin: remittances more often than not are a lifeline for survival. The diaspora can also be a source of knowledge, skills, and entrepreneurship. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that over 80% of funding for new businesses in Somalia comes from the diaspora.
According to Reyes, mobilizing the resources of the diaspora as a means to support income and livelihoods of communities in the Horn of Africa has been and will continue to be of interest to the international community. He however noted that apart from programs related to the return of qualified diaspora professionals, little is known of how to maximize the potential of other resources of the diaspora. Reyes argued that many questions remain unanswered. How can, for example, the financial resources of the diaspora be supported and multiplied? Can private remittances be transformed into sustainable investments? How can the capacity of the diaspora and the receiving communities be built to make better use of remittances?
In his presentation Reyes introduced the current IOM program MIDA FINNSOM Health as an example of a diaspora professionals program, taking place over a period of three years in Somaliland and Puntland. IOM has had good experiences with diaspora participation in professional health care projects, and plans to explore possibilities of expanding the scope to other sectors as well.
Despite positive experiences overall, Reyes noted that there have been some challenges in engaging the diaspora youth and the second generation in MIDA activities. On one hand some might not have developed as strong a sense of belonging and common responsibility as their parents. But on the other hand Reyes identified the youth as a source of innovative approaches to engagement and possessing transformative abilities. They can have fresh and new knowledge as well as enthusiasm. IOM hopes to strengthen cooperation with the diaspora youth organizations (such as Kanava ry) in order to encourage youth involvement. In the long run the project aims to promote long-term diaspora interest and commitment, and to be assimilated in Somali diaspora organizations as well as Somalian institutions.
The second presentation by Abdalla Duh, from the University of Helsinki, was titled “Islamic NGOs in North-eastern Kenya: Islamizing Livelihood Strategies”. In his abstract Duh stated that the North Eastern province (NEP) is one of the seven provinces in Kenya mainly inhabited by ethnic Somalis with a population of about 2,310,757 (2010). The province hosts three refugee camps in Dadaab. Islamic NGOs in NEP are operating in a wide range of development activities ranging from educational projects to health and nutrition, orphans and child welfare, water, sanitation, and income generating projects for poor families.
Duh made a distinction between secular or western NGOs and Islamic NGOs by noting that, the main sources of funding for Islamic charities are closely related to religion. Sources for funding are qardan hasanan (‘beautiful loan to God’); all types of Sadaqat (voluntary charity giving); sadaqat al-fitri (compulsory charity giving after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan); sadaqat al udhiya (animal sacrifice after the completion of the Hajj); waqf (charitable endowments); sadaqat al-jariya (donations whose reward continues even after a person’s death); and tabarru (donations and gifts from rich individual Muslims).
In his presentation Duh brought up the fact that in some of the literature Islamic NGOs are seen as a negative force in regards to for example human rights, and their possible contacts to conflict have been under much attention since 9/11. Duh however stated, that some also view Islamic NGOs as a positive resource for development.
According to Duh, transnational Islamic NGOs can operate on a large scale, in as many as 70−85 countries. The transnational NGOs are often based in Western countries or the Gulf countries. The youth diaspora is also involved in the activities of Islamic transnational NGOs. These NGOs have an ‘Islamized’ funding, and do not receive financial support from the EU or other development aid funds.
Duh noted, that the work Islamic NGOs is based on Islamic concepts such as feeding the poor during Ramadan and cash for work projects labeled ‘making work for Allah’. This work can be far-reaching, by feeding thousands of families or providing income. Their beneficiaries are often required to follow religious conventions, thus in a way ‘Islamizing’ the beneficiaries.
The third and final presentation of the working group was given by Dr. Fobissie Blese Kalame from Viikki Tropical Resources Institute VITRI (University of Helsinki). The topic for his presentation was “Making National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) More Responsive: Tree Planting in Dryland Sudan”. In his abstract Dr. Fobissie remarked that tree planting has recently become popular under NAPA. For decades, many tree planting projects were implemented to reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems and societies. Dr. Fobissie argued that despite this, tree-dependent livelihoods remain vulnerable, which leaves doubt on the ability of the benefit of tree planting to enhance the resilience of livelihoods to shocks. According to Dr. Fobissie, this suggests that much can be learned from the past to improve future tree planting adaptation interventions.
Dr. Fobissie’s presentation drew from research based on the experiences of farmers involved in gum Arabic agroforestry in Sudan, with the aim to understand what tree-related adaptation interventions should be addressing. According to Dr. Fobissie, the surveyed farmers appreciated the different environmental services rendered by trees. Their priority areas for adaptation intervention, however, remain governance issues tied to institutions, policies and marketing affecting the income they generate from tree products.
Moreover, even though Sudan’s Gum Arabic Company (GAC) and Forests National Corporation play key roles in governance, they are not yet considered to be key adaptation actors - this is particularly related to GAC's unsupportive role in the gum exportation monopoly. By focusing the design and implementation on tree-related livelihood obstacles, adaptation interventions are likely to be more responsive to the needs of vulnerable groups.
In his presentation Dr. Fobissie stated that tree-planting projects are a multi-million dollar endeavor. They are assumed to help the vulnerable to adapt to climate change, but less is known how these projects relate to adaptation processes and livelihoods. Despite the projects, small-holder farmers remain vulnerable. The NAPA programme is designed to address the most vulnerable. Adaptation programmes encompass livelihoods, ecosystems and governance systems.
According to Dr. Fobissie, fluctuating gum prices discourage farmers from planting trees, and there is a need to focus on controlling gum producer prices as a market-based approach. Even locally based NGOs and local institutions can obstruct small farmers when there is a need to support export. Forest officials are often focused on externally funded projects and projects which produce immediate benefits, even though there is a clear need to have a wider approach. Dr. Fobissie argued that the needs of the small-holder farmers themselves should be taken into account when devising approaches for adapting to external shocks (e.g. due to dry years). Dr. Fobissie concluded by stating that there should be an effort to move beyond mere adaptation, and planning for more sustainable livelihoods based on the needs of the farmers.
Chair: Dr. Mulki Al-Sharmani, Reporter: Ms. Päivi Pirkkalainen
The first presentation of the working group was given by Dr. Abdirashid A. Ismail, from the University of Helsinki. The presentation was titled ”The international community and post-war state-building: The case of Somalia”. In his presentation Dr. Ismail talked about the state formation and state fragility. He defined state fragility as the situation of state structures lacking political will and/or capacity to provide public goods, i.e. security. In this kind of situation different actors, such as citizens, political leaders and international community intervene and engage in the state-building. He presented a theory by Roger Myerson (2009), which explains how to establish a political system that can stand on its own. According to this theory, in any society, there are recognized structures of local social leadership, but the successful establishment of a political regime depends on the acceptance of local leaders. Thus the real political strength of the regime must be found in the leaders’ ability to mobilize active support. State builders develop networks of trusting supporters that are wide and strong enough to defend the state. Political leaders need to gain the support from local leaders, and the best way to gain that is fair and just distribution. The best group to gain their support is the security forces, the theory claims.
In the case of Somalia, Dr. Ismail asked if the international community had a genuine political will in supporting state-building in Somalia, as there have been so many failures in trying to re-build the state. He presented as an example, through showing cartoons, of Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) who was appointed the new Prime Minister by President Sharif Ahmed of Somalia on October 14, 2010. Soon after taking up the office, Farmaajo instigated a number of bold reforms such as reducing the number of cabinet members, reforming security forces and distributing monthly payments and stipends, as well as some anti-corruption measures. By initiating these kinds of reforms, which Somalia has not witnessed for several decades, Premier Farmaajo succeeded in gaining considerable amount of public support. However, after a long and upsetting power struggle between President Ahmed and Sharif Hassan, the speaker of the parliament, a meeting sponsored by the United Nations Envoy was held in Ugandan capital Kampala in June, 2011 and the two rivals signed the so-called “The Kampala Accord”. One of the resolutions that the accord dictated was the compulsory resignation of the Premier. Soon after the deal of the Premier’s resignation unfolded, outraged protesters took to the streets of Mogadishu and other major cities in Somalia. However, according to a statement by the Security Council’s President “The Security Council welcomes the signing of the Kampala Accord on 9 June, and commends the leadership shown by President Museveni and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Augustine P. Mahiga in facilitating this agreement”.
Dr. Ismail’s presentation sparked a lively discussion about what is actually meant by the international community. Who are considered to be involved in that? Which countries and whose interests are included when we think of Somalia? Does the international community even exist? In the widest sense the international community is regarded as all non-Somali actors who are engaged in the process of peace and state building in Somalia, endorsed by major world powers and/or International/Regional Organizations, according to Dr. Ismail. It was pointed out by the audience that in the Somali case there have been many instances in the history, where the international community has failed to take into account Somalia's interests. This has led to the situation where many do not trust the international community.
The second presentation by MSc Saila Lindroos from the University of Amsterdam was titled “Facebook and peace in Nairobi: A reception study of social media in post-conflict Kenya”. In her presentation Ms. Lindroos first discussed in general social media and politics and framed the discussion around the themes of “Democracy vs Stability.” In the recent years the role of social media in politics has grown worldwide. She concentrated on presenting the results of her study which was conducted in Nairobi. Use of social media such as Facebook and blogging is very popular in Kenya, not only among middle class people but also among people living in informal settlements. However, after the post-election violence of 2007-2008 people have been cautious about what they say and post in social media, such as in Facebook. This backlash is the result of the wide spread hate speech that was present online during the crisis. The polarizing content in social media, as in traditional media, played a significant role in mobilizing people for violence against other tribes.
Ms. Lindroos continued explaining the context in Kenya where the press is relatively free compared to the past. Yet the government is attempting to control the online sphere bythreatening legal action on anyone seen guilty of hate speech. There are also whispers of influential political bloggers disappearing into the night. After that she discussed how the social media has started playing a role in political campaigning in Kenya. In fact, Martha Karua, one of the presidential candidates for the upcoming election in August 2012 launched her presidential campaign on Twitter. Also civil society is online: for example mobilizing for the peace strategy meetings and peaceful demonstrations. In addition, social media has become an important tool in performing the role of the watchdogs of Kenyan society. As a conclusion Ms. Lindroos listed the various roles of social media and discussed whether its overall role is one of increasing democracy or whether there should be more control.
The audience posed a question whether the social media blocks the political engagements. In the Kenyan case, according to Ms. Lindroos, people are tired of politics because of widespread poverty and unemployment. Social media can be used as a channel to give voice to previously marginalized groups and their grievances, but it can also be used to polarize the different ethno-political groups against each other through hate speech. In general it is difficult to determine what extent of control is justifiable to suppress potential violence. Therefore the question of social media is really one of a debate between freedom of speech and democracy, as opposed to control and stability.
The third presentation by PhD Candidate Päivi Pirkkalainen from the University of Jyväskylä was titled “Somali associations’ trajectories in Finland: Acting in and between the country of settlement and the country of origin”. Ms. Pirkkalainen presented some of the preliminary findings of her ongoing PhD study on Somali associations. First she provided an overview of Somali associations in Finland and their activities focusing in particular on contributions they make to the country of origin. There is a wide variety of different Somali associations functioning both in Finland and in the country of origin doing development work. In the Somali case associations’ representatives often emphasize being “humanitarian” actors and “non-political” in nature. In many cases development projects in Somalia/ Somaliland are carried out in the region/area of origin. The choice of the place where development work is carried out in the home country has been explained by informants as having to do with safe access to certain areas in conflict zones. Secondly, Ms. Pirkkalainen presented the context in Finland in which the associations are functioning. Finland in general has a high number of voluntary associations, and from the authorities point of view migrants organizing into associations is favored. Some Somali associations in Finland have accessed funding for their activities in immigrant integration and multicultural activities in Finland for example from the Ministry of Education and Culture and cities, and for their development projects in Somalia/Somaliland from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, from the NGO development co-operation budget line. Access to the external funding, however, is not easy and poses a huge challenge for Somali associations. In order to access it one needs to know bureaucratic procedures well, and have time and energy in looking for funding sources, write project proposals and report, do auditing etc.
As many associations have been set up in Finland by Somalis, but only some of those associations have been able to function in the long run, Ms. Pirkkalainen asked what the factors are contributing to longer-term functionality of associations. Over time certain associations have started opening up towards settlement country institutions instead of leaning exclusively on their respective ethnic communities. This opening has helped them to create a trusted position in the eyes of the public authorities in Finland and has facilitated access to external resources. This represents a key aspect in explaining how some of these associations have been able to become professional and function in a sustainable manner. Role of leaders is essential in this process. They are key actors for motivating people to get on board, creating trust among members and among authorities in the country of settlement. Ms. Pirkkalainen presented some of the characteristics of leaders who have managed in that trust building process: they are well networked in different levels and with different actors and are involved in many different organizations. A number of those leaders and activists have at least BA-level education, and in many, although not all cases, they also have a full-time job in Finland. In most cases leaders are well integrated in terms of knowing the language, culture and bureaucratic procedures of the country of settlement and possess mediating capacities. As a conclusion Ms. Pirkkalainen tied together the participation of Somalis in Finland and in Somalia/Somaliland transnationally and claimed that those who are well-integrated in the countries of settlement have the most resources to engage with the country of origin.
Detailed questions by the audience were posed. For example, a question was posed about what the interest of the state in these associations was and how for example funding schemes affect organizing in a certain way. In the Somali case there is fragmentation and the question of representation remains. An umbrella organization, Somaliliitto, exists, since early 1990s, and it functions as a “guardian” for Somalis in Finland and is considered as an interlocutor with the state on behalf of the Somali communityin Finland. The question of representation still remains. The Finnish state is aware of the issues of fragmentation and representation, but seems to lack the tools to deal with the problem. The diversity of associations can also be seen from a more positive perspective. That is, the large diversity of associations can be viewed as a sign of activity. People in Finland are free to organize and set up associations, and most of these activities are voluntarily run.
Secondly a question was posed about the role of the diaspora in development work carried out by the larger western development NGOs. Do they engage diaspora or do they work alone in the Horn? There are examples of Finnish associations hiring Somalis to carry out development projects in Somalia.
Third, the question of what is political in the case of associational involvement was posed. As Ms. Pirkkalainen presented, associations often do want to distinguish themselves from Somali politics and identify themselves as humanitarian actors. Many describe being fed up with the Somali politics and want to start doing the change from the grassroots level. Thus engagement in the development work is a political act: decisions on where to carry out activities, which activities to undertake, etc. Also, there are lots of linkages between different “forums” of participation: same individuals participate in associations, development work and politics in Finland or in Somalia, and these different forums of participation can facilitate one another.
Lastly, youth engagement in the Somali case was discussed. A Somali youth in the audience explained that he had difficulties knowing which associations to engage with because there were so many of them in Finland. He also wondered what role the Somali youth can have in Somali politics. Who the youth is going to believe in? There is a widespread distrust in Somali politics, the role the UN has taken in Somalia and one can easily get into the attitude that one can only save oneself. An important question in this context is: how, and through which channels youth can participate in activities aiming for the peace in Somalia.