Let the diaspora help bring development and peace to Somalia
A proposal for action
The Joint Statement: all people, all clans, men and women
Members of the UK diaspora community set themselves a challenge to show they could be united in seeking to help Somalia. They drew up and agreed the Joint Statement whichmakes clear proposals on key issues including those which attract international media attention. The Joint Statement commits its signatories and the many who support them to work for peace in Somalia and the development of programmes there in education, health and governance and in all cases, supporting and working with the international community. Importantly, the Joint Statement sets out to encourage close liaison with the United Nations and other international agencies, fully recognising that there remains in Somalia real concern on some UN initiatives.
Some of the signatories are prepared to undertake work projects in Somalia personally, using their links with family and clan members. Of course, this is taking place already in several regions and video records chronicle the visits of diaspora members to their birthplace communities. These circulate widely and successfully encourage fund-raising.
News of this UK initiative spread to the wider European diaspora. The Joint Statement has now been signed by those in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands. Later, members of the diaspora in Australia, Canada and the United States registered their support for the Joint Statement. They come from different clans, different regions and include both men and women.
Taking advantage of the communications revolution
Many ask how ordinary members of the Somali diaspora can help Somalia. The communications revolution offers an important opportunity to prevent conflict through ignorance and this must be embraced. The Somali diaspora uses modern communication a great deal and it is hoped that the Joint Statement will be discussed in phone and text messages, bringing increased support. Previous attempts to bring peace did not have this great opportunity. The UNESCO-led Symposium on the Culture of Peace in Somalia held in Sana'a, Yemen in 1995 involved 67 intellectuals from Somalia and other states. But, upon their return to Somalia, the intellectuals felt isolated and, lacking modern communication systems, UNESCO could not support them or assess outcomes.
The rapid introduction of the mobile phone and the internet has changed that. Bob Geldof, speaking at the launch of the Peace Channel (www.peacechannel.or)in September 2008, quoted the statistic that “when 20% of the population of a country has access to mobile phones, tyranny cannot exist”. Apocryphal or not, the claim challenges us to test it. The wide use of mobile phones in the north of Somalia, termed a ‘failed state’, is remarkable. The Region is comparatively peaceful. Internet activity among Somalis is common and in London, most Internet Cafes appear to be owned by them! What happens in London and Garowe on any day can be discussed in both cities within minutes. It is hard to imagine asituation like that in Rwanda in 1994 when the notorious Mille Collines radio station could mislead and manipulate millions so successfully.
For Somalis and the diaspora, the Joint Statement can offer a new subject of discussion in the everyday conversations wherever they are. It is hoped those who make these telephone calls will be encouraged to become partners in the rebuilding of Somalia.
Support the Joint Statement
The drafters of the Joint Statement encourage members of the Somali diaspora in everycountry to discuss it. Soon, they will be able to sign up in support. Already, Ambassador Mr Ould Abdallah, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, has agreed to meet representatives of the Joint Statement signatories but their case will be strengthened by further international support from the Somali diaspora.