Concluding Report

The Chicago Conference on Somalia held on April 14, 2012 called for a comprehensive strategic planning process for long term social & economic security for Somalia. Led by Somalia Strategy Forum (SSF), supported by The National Strategy Forum (NSF), the World Engagement Institute (WEI) and the Sustainable Capacity International Institute (SCII), the conference laid the foundation for the Somali Diaspora to make a positive and constructive engagement for the rebuilding of Somalia.

Mr. Yusuf Maalin, Somalia Strategy Forum Executive Director, Mr. Richard Friedman, NSF President, and Gen. Charles Tucker, WEI Executive Director introduced the purpose and methods of the forum. Mr. Arnold Romeo, Director of African Affairs for the City of Chicago, presented a letter of greetings and support from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who expressed his firm commitment to the purpose of the conference.

Dr. Marco Tavanti, representing SCII, spoke of the international community (re)engagement and ongoing concerns for Somalia. He said: "We are here because, we want to enhance the commitment expressed last February at the London Conference on Somalia. We are here because we can no longer remain indifferent to famine, bloodshed and some of the worst poverty on earth. We are here because we believe that the negative effects of brain drain can become brain gain with the engagement of the Somali Diaspora.

We are conscious that Somalia is a challenging context, but it also holds some fundamental lessons in humanitarian aid, international development and human security. We are committed to accompany this process; we are engaged to make the world a better place with our Somali brothers and sisters. We know there are no single magic solution and that a long-term strategic plan is necessary to help the Somali people rebuild their country from the bottom up. And most importantly, we recognize that ultimately it will be only Somalis that will find solutions to Somalia. The international community is here with you, to accompany these collective efforts for building human and institutional capacity for the generations to come."

The speakers introduced the current constitutional reforms and the Somalia challenges in relation to Economic Development, Human security, Governance Capacity, Education, Health, Poverty Eradication and food Security.

Mr. Sumit Bisarya, Lead Legal Officer for the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) explained how the constitutional process does not end with its promulgation and invited the Somali Diaspora to actively contribute to the successful implementation of the constitution, including providing input into policy, legislation and strategic planning. Drawing upon lessons from other constitutional processes in the region, Mr. Bisarya made concrete recommendations to make the process more transparent and participatory.

Prof. Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, made focused remarks on the strengths and weaknesses of the current constitution-making efforts in Somalia.

In her intervention regarding economic development in Somalia, Dr. Hodan Said Isse challenged the international community to rethink the engagement in Somalia as a positive, constructive and long-term engagement. She mentioned how youth and women, who bear the brunt of war, are at the heart of nation building. The 21 years of war have destroyed Somalia's institutions. Somalia needs rehabilitation, healing and support to go from problems to promise. The blunt reality of Somalia is that its productive capacity of limited resources is many times less than Somalia's needs and wants. The incentives made available to the Somali people by the international community play an important role in either promoting clan division and hatred or clan harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Ms. Fowsia Abdulkadir offered some provocative remarks regarding human security and the current constitutional process. "We know the process, but we need to focus on the context"... "People identity has been politicized"... "Religion cannot be discriminatory" ... We risk "constitutionalizing apartheid." Security is essential for governance capacity development and critical for building the justice sector but the concept needs to be broadened into ‘human security’, which encompasses economic, health, physical, political and social security for any member of the population. Somalia represents a complex and instructive case study for the area of human security as freedom from fear and want.

Mr. Ibrahim Ayeh discussed literacy and education in Somalia. He offered some analyses and solutions on the education crises in Somalia. Strong commitment of international community to stabilize Somalia, creating strong advocacy group from the Diaspora to promote the Peace Settlement in & Somalia Empowering the Somali leaders on good and fair governance. Equitable access to basic education for all children & rising parent and community awareness to the importance of education for all their children.

Dr. Fozia Abrar presented a view on the limited health services in Somalia. She observed how the Somali women and children have a very limited access to basic health care/primary care and basic secondary health services and made some practical suggestions for community maternal, child health centers and training community health care workers in every village.

Dr. Mohamed Ali Abukar, Founder and President of Somali American United Council of Arizona, concluded the Somalia panel by re-centering our efforts on agricultural development and poverty reduction. Poverty, he said, is a fuel for terror and is a threat to human rights, democracy and peace. Peace, stability and democracy cannot be achieved when there is a hunger and poverty. Our focus, then, must be to fight hunger and eradicate poverty, and if we succeed, this will certainly lead to the creation of peace, democracy and good will among all people and nations.

The breakout sessions included groups of participants reflecting on strategic plans on 22 topics. Some of these topics included the constitution, democracy, government capacity, finance, parliament, independent judiciary and the rule of law, law enforcement, the role of military and Somali Diaspora. They also discussed and reported back to the group about plans for infrastructure, agriculture, health and education including the role of women, youth, seniors and began conceptualizing an effective social welfare system for the vulnerable Somali population. Attendees also discussed the role of religion in relation to education, the country welfare and counter-terrorism. They presented some suggestions regarding communication and the media, along with economic development by attracting foreign investment, improving international relations, increasing local government capacity and overcoming the culture of corruption.

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Mr. Yusuf Maalin, said Clearly, Somali security is an issue that must be addressed. However, there is more to Somalia than violence. Thus, kinetic solutions – standing alone – will not resolve Somalia’s security issues nor alleviate the suffering of the Somali people. Instead, the SSF maintains that Somalia’s future is largely dependent on the state of its infrastructure - including its governance infrastructure – and this infrastructure has been substantially diminished due decades of conflict, instability and neglect. Because of this, the SSF advocates for a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, and inclusive human security approach; an approach that respects the culture of the Somali people, protects the rights of all Somali citizens, offers greater opportunity for social and economic development, and sets the foundation for societal self-actualization. By undertaking our work in a transparent, inclusive, and non-discriminatory manner, the SSF also strives to increase the International Community's understanding of Somalia's rich culture, history and regional significance.

Yusuf Maalin, during his concluding remarks of the conference observed how crucial it will be to work cooperatively in solving the issues the country has before it - constitutional reform, economic development, women empowerment, security. "These are issues vital to Somalia and the international community. The international community has too often approached Somalia with a state-centric top-down model. But what has been missing is a concerted bottom-up outreach effort to utilize a grass-root Somali-led civil society to help foster long-term social and economic development for Somalia. The conference and the SSF mission offer an alternative process for substantially improving internal Somali governance capacity. With the assistance and support of WEI, NSF, SCII and the Somali Diaspora, we have reached an important milestone towards rebuilding our nation."

April 14, 2012 - Chicago Illinois
The Somalia Strategy Forum
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