Earlier this spring, I was invited to participate in the launch of Pathways for Peace, an important study jointly developed by the UN and World Bank. Based on extensive research of what has ‘worked’ in different countries, the study sets out recommendations for how development processes can better interact with security, diplomacy, mediation, and other efforts to prevent conflicts from becoming violent. Addressing exclusion, including of women and youth, is central to these efforts.
The study features many useful insights and points to valuable initiatives for a wide range of contexts. From the perspective of Somalia and my experience as Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, three key messages and three next steps are particularly important:
Three key messages from the perspective of Somalia
First, Pathways for Peace aims to shift our focus towards preventing conflict - rather than responding once lives have been destroyed. Representing a people who experience the enormous costs of conflict every day, my government knows that this is not only the smart thing but also the right thing to do. The increased momentum this report can generate for all actors to work together to prevent such suffering in the future gives me real hope for Somalia and for our globe.
Second, the study calls for deeper partnerships between all international actors to advance national pathways to peace. This will make an important difference in Somalia. We have been able to work with a wide range of international partners. However, a lack of coordination has often meant that this support is less than the sum of its parts.
Finally, the report establishes that preventing conflict means investing in inclusion and participation of women and youth. This link is paramount in Somalia: more than two thirds of our population are young men and women. During recent droughts, the disastrous October 2017 terrorist attack in our capital and many other occasions, they have demonstrated their immense capacities to forge our country’s pathway to peace with great energy and innovation.
Somali women have similarly played important roles in building peace, using their positions in communities to foster dialogue and reconciliation between conflicting groups. Women’s organisations also make critical contributions to the delivery of essential services, including healthcare, education and trade. During conflict, women provided the backbone of our economy. In view of these capacities, it is clear that “Peace, stability and development can only be efficiently achieved by addressing the obstacles women face to fully contribute to their country’s development,” as our National Development Plan highlights.
Somalia’s recent history also shows that real progress on inclusion is possible even in the most challenging situations. Under the leadership of my Ministry, an Independent Human Rights Commission has been established through an inclusive and transparent process. Our 2016 elections in turn enabled women to take up 24 % of seats in parliament, up from 14 % in previous elections. As Deputy Chair of the 2016 Federal Indirect Electoral Team (FIET) I was able to directly support this achievement, and my Ministry is eager to do the same looking ahead.
Three next steps in Somalia
Going forward, we must ensure that preventing conflict does not become a new ‘project’ but a shift in our entire approach to fragile situations. An approach that is inclusive, sustained and focused on the potential of states and societies to develop their own pathways to peace.
Second, we need to address women and youth like we address other issues that are key to peace: with consistent and dedicated attention and resources. One important implication is the need to invest in the capacity of government actors charged with leading and co-ordinating relevant activities, such as my own Ministry. As highlighted in a recent OECD study on donor support to gender equality, this is an important gap across fragile and conflict-affected countries.
Finally, this important report and discussions in Washington D.C. must lead to discussion and real action in our countries. We know what to do. Now let’s do it.
In Somalia there are key windows of opportunity to translate the prevention agenda into action. In particular, the preparations for our elections in 2020-21 and the on-going constitutional review provide unique openings to ensure an inclusive society for generations to come. My Ministry aims to help seize these, including by enabling diverse groups of women to develop joint demands and strategies to make their voices heard.
We also have significant opportunities to strengthen co-ordination between all national and international actors: Working groups established for each pillar of the National Development Plan, including Pillar 9 on Human Rights and Gender Equality, provide a forum where government, civil society and the international community can coordinate their work, develop joint strategies and serve as champions for more coherent, transformative and far-sighted support.
It is important that we act now to seize these opportunities. My Ministry looks forward to working together to make the important principles set out in the World Bank/UN study a reality.