Violent conflict has left Somalia both economically and politically devastated. An extremely fragile state characterised by lawlessness and insecurity, the most basic needs of its citizens are not met. Currently 3.2 million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance. Despite on-going violence and conflict, civil society in Somalia is active and community-level peace initiatives have been successful, where international peace initiatives have so far failed to root.
Saferworld has been working in Somalia since 2004 through an ongoing project to empower Somali communities to engage with decision-makers. We work with platforms composed of community-based organisations, the business sector and other civil society groups, known collectively as non-state actors (NSAs) from three regions in Somalia.
The platforms, established in 2008 with support from the European Commission and the UK Department for International Development are the Somaliland NSA Forum (SONSAF); the Puntland NSA Association (PUNSAA); and the Somali South-Central NSA Association (SOSCENSA). Each platform represents around 50 Somali NSA network groups who in turn engage with a wider constituency of thousands of community representatives and individuals in Somalia.
Saferworld supports community representatives to engage in policy dialogue and advocacy with Somali authorities and with the international community. Operating through a transparent and representative process, the NSA platforms have the legitimacy to engage with decision-makers on behalf of the wider community. They provide a bridge between the Somali public, civil society and government and international policy-makers. Their design is such that community participation in policy-making, where meaningful and effective, provides a means to render policies more relevant and responsive to popular needs and demands.
In March 2010 we supported representatives from the platforms to meet with European Commission officials in Brussels to share and discuss the different regional perspectives on Somalia’s conflicts with members of the EC and other international stakeholders. The meeting brought together 40 participants from EU institutions and 40 civil society activists from Somalia, the Somali Diaspora and experts on Somalia. In May 2010, representatives from the NSAs platforms were invited to participate in the UN Conference on Somalia, hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
These meetings provide a rare opportunity for international officials to meet with Somali community representatives, whose feedback is highly relevant for the international community in order to bring about social, political and economic change in Somalia.