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My impression of the Word Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey 23-24 May 2016

Saturday June 4, 2016

By  Abdulkadir M. Ga'al

Dear reader,


I know that you are fed up with the calls of international NGOs appealing to International community for urgent humanitarian assistances to Somalia countless times.  These appeals have become a repetitive and endless cycle. But the reality on the ground is that there is a dire need of emergency humanitarian assistances in forms of nutrition and food security, shelter and protection as well as health care and water and sanitation in Somalia. Therefore, it is crucial that necessary steps should be taken to save the lives of the people in need.

Whenever humanitarian crises erupt in Somalia, conventional agencies involved in humanitarian-aids used to and still make huge impacts by providing assistances to the effected people in Somalia. We, the Somali Diaspora appreciate and owe unlimited gratitude to them for their tireless efforts and interventions.

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But having lived in Denmark for the last 18 years and being one of the active members of the Somali Diaspora in Denmark, I had learned and realized that we can do a lot and sometimes qualify and compliment when it comes to extending humanitarian assistances to our fellow country men and women back home.

I can take a concrete example - The drought exacerbated by El-Nino condition in March this year that hit Somalia. The Somali Diaspora all over the world has been engaged themselves in mobilizing and directing their focus to organize fundraising events and sending money to the effected people in the areas where the drought hit severely. These fundraising activities have been conducted regardless the areas that one originates geographically, but just for the spirit of Somalism and humanity.

When it comes to humanitarian assistances Diasporas are first-line responders and passionate to make differences by quickly sending relief aid, money and volunteers directly to affected communities and support local structures. Due to their ties and networks in their country of origin, diasporas have access to knowledge of when a crisis is about to occur, are able to assist during the crisis in areas with limited access to conventional actors, and continue providing support as the crisis stage moves to rehabilitation and recovery.

After the above introduction, let me come to the point of my article regarding the first –ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul, Turkey 23-24 May 2016.

I would also like to share with you my experiences, impressions and opinions from the summit and then give you some room to reflect on the roles we, as Somali Diaspora can play and how we can coordinate our efforts in terms of humanitarian assistances to our people back home.

Global Consultation of World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva 14-16 of May 2015

Prior to the summit in Istanbul 23-24 of May 2016, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global consultation of WHS held in Geneva 14-16 October 2015 as Diaspora representative. In the consultation forum together with a group of Diaspora from (Sierra Leone / UK), (Syria / Germany) and (Somalia / Denmark), we got the opportunity to present our engagement in humanitarian activities to the humanitarian world.

This possibility was facilitated by the ECHO-funded DEMAC project (Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination), that advocated for Diaspora representation in the WHS consultation processes and facilitated the development and submission of a Diaspora position paper.

DEMAC is a Consortium that has three implementing partners: the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) in the UK, the Berghof Foundation in Germany, and the Danish Refugee Council in Denmark. The implementing partners work with three Diaspora groups in their countries: Somali Diaspora in Denmark, Sierra Leonean Diaspora in the UK and Syrian Diaspora in Germany.

More about DEMAC please read: www.demac.org and https://drc.ngo/relief-work/diaspora-programme/diaspora-emergency-action-coordination-demac.

After the Global Consultations, through the facilitation of DEMAC the Diasporas met in a workshop specifically planned towards participation in the WHS (in addition to other workshops conducted within the framework of DEMAC on different topics to be discussed between Diaspora and conventional humanitarian actors). In the Workshop we discussed and formulated recommendations and commitments we as Diaspora would like to share with the world leaders, conventional humanitarian actors, local NGOs, affected people, private sectors and actors from civil society. Recommendations and commitments were submitted to WHS's secretariat.

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey 23-24 May 2016

The WHS was a two -day summit and had two programs with separate schedules: Side events which didn't require pre-registration and the main event with High level leader's roundtables and Special Sessions, which required registration and tickets for attending.

The summit has put many challenging issues on its agenda and commitments that needed to be fulfilled by decision makers, the UN and its world partners. The ultimate goal of the summit was transforming the commitments in the summit into concrete actions.

The Diaspora team's communication and coordination during the summit were well planned. We met after the end of each session to brief and update each other, while having our refreshments.

The Somali Diaspora from Denmark had the honor to interact with and ask questions to the Secretary General H.E. Ban Ki Moon on the pre-summit day, Sunday 22 May 2016.

Questions we asked included our concerns about the Kenyan government's plan to close the Dadaab refugee camp and the need for international humanitarian actors to recognize the Diaspora engagements in humanitarian aids not as competitors but complimentary actors.

Furthermore, we got an opportunity to intermingle and talk with participants from different parts of the world including some of the world leaders, representatives of conventional humanitarian actors, private sectors, representatives of the effected people as well as local NGOs and civil society representatives.

The DEMAC diaspora delegation had a good exposure at the Summit with 5 delegates giving speeches at the Plenary Sessions, to have our voices heard and our massages delivered.

Back from the summit, I have very positive impressions and some remarks regarding my opinions and the way forward for the Diaspora and conventional actors.

Diaspora engagements in humanitarian activities and the way forward with conventional agencies

From this summit I have learned that it is extremely important to have a common voice in order our voices to be heard and our massages to be delivered.

To realize our voices go through and reach to the decision making level of the humanitarian entities, we need to ensure a unity and shared values as well as setting and striving for common goals.

I know that there is a long way to go and some challenges ahead, but the vision can be realized in the years to come, if the Diasporas work hard.

Nevertheless, I am optimistic and can see a light at the end of the tunnel that there is a growing need for establishing a strong organ or platform of Diaspora organizations representing Diaspora communities involved in humanitarian and development activities living in different parts of the world with different nationalities.

We can consider for instance to start with by linking up ourselves with other Diaspora groups from post conflict countries or the Diasporas from the war ravaged countries due to the fact that we share more or less similar problems. Afterwards we can after a series of discussions and contemplations hopefully come up with a model to work together.

Before doing this I have to underline that Diasporas have to organize themselves to make sure that they have some formalities and frameworks in place before going into partnership with each other.

I believe that once this powerful organ is set up and led by people with leadership capacity, Diaspora organizations will soon be recognized as key and official partners in the humanitarian and development areas. Not only be recognized as partners but they will also have influences on decision making issues when it comes to humanitarian and development related matters.

By - Abdulkadir M. Ga'al, Copenhagen – Denmark

Employment Advisor at the Municipality of Copenhagen

Advisory Board Member of Diaspora Program.

He can be reached at [email protected] 



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