Over thirty experts, researchers and academicians converged on the Somali capital today for the start of a three-day conference on fostering peace and national reconciliation in Somalia.
The first of its kind in the country, the Colloquium on Peace and Reconciliation in Somalia seeks to generate a body of research that will enhance efforts at conflict prevention and reconciliation, which are widely considered to be a prerequisite for lasting stability in Somalia. The event is co-hosted by the Federal Government of Somalia, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Norwegian government.
“(The experts) have been assembled to share their knowledge and their expertise and to figure out how collectively that experience can be geared to the extraordinary challenge Somalia faces,” explained the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Michael Keating, during the official opening of the colloquium.
A portfolio of expert briefing papers that was prepared by organizations from within and outside Somalia will be discussed to critically examine the dynamics of conflict in the country and explore options for curbing violence. Plans are underway to publish the portfolio of papers in book form later this year.
Colloquium participants will also identify practical steps for promoting peace and reconciliation initiatives at the national and regional levels.
The federal Minister of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation, Abdi Mohamed Sabriye, expressed his government’s commitment to achieve a lasting peace and welcomed the contributions of the assembled Somali and international experts to that endeavour.
“We intend to make good use of your efforts and implement the recommendations that will come out of your deliberations over the next two days,” said Minister Sabriye. “Your years of experience and knowledge of conflict resolution and management will be beneficial to Somalia in the effort to reduce and eventually eliminate violence.”
The Head of the Somalia Team at the Embassy of Norway, Vebjørn Heines, noted that the Scandinavian country’s efforts to resolve conflict and promote reconciliation in Somalia date back to 1995 when the Norwegian government hosted a peace conference on the Horn of Africa country.
“All these years after, I think we still have a way to go, in order to ensure that our choices and actions are well informed,” Mr. Heines noted.
“This initiative in our view is exactly what has been said by the Minister and by SRSG (Keating) — to give the Government, the national partners and the international partners, including the UN, a body of research and recommendations that will improve the ability to prevent conflicts,” said the Norwegian diplomat.
The Somali and international experts and researchers have been divided into working groups that will focus on topics such as al-Shabaab, national reconciliation, and business and development.
Their recommendations will be presented on the third and final day of the colloquium.