As most of you already know, we attended to the Clinton Global Initiative University a little over a month ago to represent The Dadaab Project, while of course learning about other inspiring initiatives. The three-day conference was jam-packed with panel discussions, smaller meetings, workshops, and networking events. Not only did we leave the conference truly inspired, but we also learned that we wanted to make some changes to our project to make more of a long-term impact on the refugees living Dadaab.
Upon viewing the agenda for our weekend in DC, we were very pleased to find that one of the workshops we were going to attend would be focused on poverty alleviation in the Horn of Africa. After the workshop, we spoke with experts about our project and they kindly offered us advice on how to improve our mission. The word that kept coming back was “sustainability” — aside from being one of those “du jour” words (especially in light of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this upcoming June, also called “Rio+20”), sustainability, we learned, was going to have to be a major pillar of our project.
Currently, we are working on forming a partnership with an organization that focuses on sustainability and food relief. We understand the need for emergency food relief - but we also embrace the idea of improving livelihoods on a long-term basis.
This week, international media has given us two very different realities of Somalia. First, on 3 April, the New York Times published an article detailing the positive progress taking place in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. In a nearly eerie instance of foreshadowing, they noted that “Somali singers just held their first concert in more than two decades at the National Theater, which used to be a weapons depot and then a national toilet.” Yesterday, it was reported by a number of media outlets including BBC that this same theatre was bombed. A number of dignitaries were present at the theatre, to mark the first anniversary of the launch of Somalia’s national television station. Casualties included the head of Somalia’s Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish, and the Somali Football Federation chief, Said Mohamed Nur. This turn events is particularly unfortunate in light of the article published by the New York Times. However, their message of hope and encouragement is an important positive reinforcement. Hopefully yesterday’s bombing is only a hiccup on an otherwise favourable trajectory.
Yesterday, the Washington Times published an article regarding the nature of education in Somalia (or perhaps, lack thereof). It was noted that due to long-standing violence in the country, many young people are more interested in learning to use a gun and fight than receive an education. According to UNICEF, only 1/3 of primary school aged children are enrolled in school. The article appropriately notes that increasing investment in education is an essential means to decreasing the propensity for violence and forging peace in the region.
The Guardian reported on Saturday that the British government is entering in talks with their Somali counterparts to exploit oil reserves that have been discovered in Somalia. This could potentially prove positive for two reasons. First, the British government has allegedly promised additional humanitarian aid and security assistance for a guaranteed stake in these reserves. Due to the continued presence of al-Shabaab and generally poor conditions in Somalia, an augmentation of aid could prove beneficial. Second, there have been speculations that oil deposits beneath the Indian Ocean could exceed 100bn barrels of reserves, which would make Somalia the seventh largest oil-rich nation. However, when one considers the weak nature of the Somali government, particularly vis-à-vis the governments of potential investor nations such as Britain, there is a great potential for abuse of this opportunity. While the prospects for harm may be greater than the prospects for growth, it is nevertheless important and encouraging that Somalia is being included in the agenda of several critical developed nations.