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COMMUNIQUE: The Istanbul Gathering of the Somali Civil Society
Thursday, May 31, 2012

We, the participants of the Istanbul Civil Society gathering, consisting of Somali traditional elders, religious scholars, academics, organized polities, activists, women, youth, business and diaspora representatives, came together to discuss and evaluate the difficult conditions and existential threats facing our nation. The main objective of this gathering is to bridge the divisions within our society and focus our efforts and energies in building a sovereign, united, just, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Somalia.

Somali participants have been able to gather in an environment free of political pressures, interventions, candidate interests, and manipulation by foreign special interest operatives.

During the four day conference, the participants have identified and discussed many important issues through an interactive process designed to facilitate the expression  of thoughts and ideas. The conference examined issues such as security, the constitution, economic reconstruction, social development, transitional justice and reconciliation. Eight groups  representing  varieties of perspectives   discussed and debated each of these topics. Each group  presented their recommendations to the plenary sessions where their suggestions and ideas were further scrutinized,  discussed and agreed upon .

The conference resolved that:

·         We are immeasurably grateful to the Turkish government and its people and we encourage the Republic of Turkey to continue its support and solidarity with the Somali people, to realize a Somalia that holds itself up to international standards and reclaims its position as a respected  member of the family of nations.

·         We are appreciative of the role of Turkey   in convening this gathering in an environment that was  constructive and  fully supportive of the resurrection of the Somali state and the dignity of its people.

·         We unequivocally support the conclusion of the transition period  by August 20, 2012.

·         Security: Establish an inclusive and effective national security forces under a civilian command; create  a National Defense Commission to ensure continuity regardless of any changes within the government; implement  effective training programs and space within the country to train Somali forces; inaugurate  an allowance and salary commission to make sure that members of the security forces’ welfare is budgeted and protected; request the lifting of the UN Arms Embargo as soon as an inclusive and disciplined army is established; create an independent judicial system  to examine the injustices that have occurred in Somalia; improve correctional institutions to meet the international human rights standards ; and request that AMISOM be converted into hybrid UN peacekeeping force and that includes additional forces from Muslim countries to counter Al-Shabab propaganda that Somalia has been invaded by non-Muslim forces.

·        Economic Reconstruction: Developing effective, transparent, mutually accountable, and coordinated foreign aid policy to reduce dependency; build an effective taxation policy and administration; establish effective business regulation and enforcement system; convene  a comprehensive conference on recovery and development that should be held as soon as feasible; adopt an effective accountability and transparency in all financial resources management; encourage private and public partnerships (PPP); institute  effective poverty alleviation programs for the most vulnerable groups to reduce poverty; establish skill-building projects and focus on equal opportunities in order to reverse the massive brain drain of the past two decades; and  create rural development programs that are essential in ensuring sustainable means of livelihood.

·        Social Development: Institute a national education policy that standardizes the curriculum of the current multiple educational systems; provide free primary and secondary education for all; identify youth development programs as national priority area for sustainable peace; provide social development programs including adult and vocational training for the youth;  health care and health education programs; clean water; establish national policies to address the continued marginalization of women in all sectors of society; and provide  incentives for highly skilled Somalis to return and contribute to the reconstruction of the country, create an independent National Somali Diaspora Association.

·         Reconciliation: The participants identified several causes that have perpetuated the violence in Somalia such as injustice, repression, land-grabbing, tribalism, corruption, and poverty. Therefore, the participants recommend the following solutions; give the Traditional Elders a vital role in the reconciliation process; end the culture of impunity and pressuring those who committed crimes to accept their responsibility; offer confidence-building measures in order to attain peace and reconciliation; engage all opposition groups; abolish the 4.5 formula and replacing it with 5 formula until a one person one vote system is achieved; form a second chamber for the traditional leaders; establish multi party-based politics and electoral system in which each party must have supporters in all regions; establish a truth and reconciliation commission to resolve the outstanding grievances.

·         Constitution:  A social contract of this magnitude could not and should not be endorsed in haste, while blind-folded or in contention or under a cloud of suspicion. Therefore, sufficient time must be given to the Constituent Assembly and the Somali people to scrutinize and digest any and all additions and omissions within the new constitution. The Conference participantswelcome the efforts to establish a constitution for Somalia and view it as a necessary national imperative; express grave concern about the prolonged and the unnecessary secrecy surrounding the progress of the new Draft Constitution; urge the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to release the latest version of the Draft-Constitution to the Somali public as soon as possible in order to ensure inclusiveness, and broad based participation and consensus; underline their firm resolve that the Somali Constitution must be based on the basic sources of Islam, namely the Quran and Sunna; call upon the TFG to make the constitution-making process transparent and a Somali owned process; call for the creation of permanent and institutional role for Somali traditional leaders in the governance system. Moreover, there is a controversy on the issue of “u-dhashay-ku-dhashay” and the conference recommends further discussion and consensus on the issue. The conference supports that women should get 30% representation in the parliament and all select committees; Participants did not reach a consensus on the “Federalism” principle  and there was a recommendation for a broad national debate and discussion. 

·         Transition: The transition must end on August 20, 2012 and be replaced with a durable and democratic state that is based on Islam; there is a need for functioning,  strong, national and just government.; all government institutions must be led by competent people; traditional leaders must be the reference point (second chamber); the participants call for the establishment of multi-party-based politics and electoral system and each party must have supporters in all regions; Somalis are equal and therefore favoritism, tribalism and nepotism should end;  the Somali language consists of two - May and Maxaa Tiri. National media outlets should broadcast in both; the government must fight against corruption; the committee proposed increasing the number of the parliamentarians from 225 to 275; the terms of reference for the technical committee must be revised.



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