Members of Global Somali Diaspora, Istanbul, Turkey
Thursday, June 26, 2014 – Moment Research & Consultancy – The Global Somali Diaspora conference in Istanbul was a moment Somalis across the world could be proud of. Perhaps a moment of normality in our often stressful politics both at home and abroad. Having written on the Somali Diaspora with a focus on their own cultural challenges and even questioned their intentions and contributions in the past, I left the Istanbul Global Diaspora conference feeling hopeful, excited and moved by what I had seen, people I had met and spoken to and the process of choosing the future leaders of the new Diaspora organisation.
The economic contribution of the Somali Diaspora to their home nation was never in doubt. There seems to be a Remittance company in every corner of every city any Somalis live in today across the world. There are those from the Diaspora who have contributed massively to the development of the infant policy and political processes in Somalia and some of these people were even present in Istanbul. There were and still are Somalis living in the far corners of the world directly assisting their home nation and Somali people back home through education, investment, advocacy and research. The overall message was that the Somali Diaspora has talent, vision and influence in their respective adopted homes and in Somalia. The question that I have always asked is, despite these incredible advantages, could they be united and utilise these golden opportunities to have a lasting impact on their peoples future?
The Istanbul conference with its grand overarching title could easily have been written off as another donor state funded 5 star holiday get away for a few select friends handpicked by the Somali state. But far from been a legitimising exercise, it was a process which asked the Diaspora delegates to assess their own abilities and contributions to Somalia both in the Diaspora and at home. The process demanded all delegates to interact, to educate themselves and to find a solution independently of any state or organiser meddling on the issue of creating a Diaspora umbrella body which all agreed was needed for reasons of coordination and harmonisation of Diaspora activities across the world. The simple fact is that the Somali Diaspora may not all have the same vision, opinions or views but they all care about Somalia and their fellow Somalis in their new localities and back home. Among the delegates were organisations and individuals that had inspired their communities, hosts governments and led reform in our current post conflict state of Somalia. Somalis that were not bickering or simply disagreeing along clan lines but brothers of different tribes and professional backgrounds agreeing to work together for a better future. This commitment is the electric like inspiration that is required of every Somali Diaspora member to contribute both to their communities and their home nation.
The Global Somali Diaspora conference in Istanbul was one of the most organised and issue led Diaspora meeting that was ever organised. It was professionally managed and all the delegates knew exactly what they came to do and achieve. The process of electing the Board of Directors, advisers and the new leader of the Diaspora organisation, Abdi Barud, was transparent, democratic and one that was chosen or atleast contributed to, by Diaspora delegates in attendance from all the continents of the world. Even the name of the new organisation, Global Somali Diaspora, was selected through a democratic process and in consultation with delegates.
The outcome of the Istanbul meeting was the creation of a new legitimate Diaspora organisation established by the Somali Diaspora and organisations that are most crucial to the development of the Somali people in their respective adopted states and back home in Somalia. The new leader Abdi Barud is one of the most professional people with the skills and mind set to lead this organisation. He is one of the first people to establish a mental health hospital in Burco at a time when the only treatment available for patients were regular beatings and been chained to a tree. As a colleague at Act For Somalia, he is frighteningly intelligent, calm and able to unite people even in the most difficult situations over the most challenging issues. His election was such a shock to him that he shed a tear upon his name been called out as the new leader on Sunday night. This is indicative of how fair and merit based the entire selection process was.