On 25th October 2022, the Somali Public Agenda (SPA) held a forum in its office in Mogadishu. The forum was organized for the Somali Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in partnership with Urur Kaab, an EU-funded project implemented by a consortium led by FCG Sweden that build organizational and technical capacities of CSOs including improving their advocacy and policy influencing capacities. Somali Public Agenda joined this partnership to support the CSOs on how they can incorporate their advocacy plans and activities with evidence-based research to better influence policymakers and amplify their messages.
The aim of the forum was to link CSOs with think tanks and research institutions with a view to enabling the former (CSOs) access the research and evidence generated by the latter (think thanks and research institution) to inform their programmes and project design including advocacy and policy influencing. From the capacity assessments of CSOs carried out by Urur Kaab as well as during the capacity building, it had been observed that CSOs had limited research capabilities and hence had challenges in accessing relevant and credible evidence to inform their interventions. This has resulted in interventions that are not based on sound evidence and hence may not address the root causes of the problem. It was with a view to addressing this evidence-programming gap that this forum was convened
The induction meeting, which was organized and co-facilitated by SPA and Urur Kaab, took place at the SPA forums and training hall. The meeting started with an introduction by participants of the forum. Participants introduced themselves and their roles in their respective organizations. They also briefly talked about the different thematic/programming areas their organizations are engaged in. Henry Karanja, the Urur Kaab Team Leader for FCG Sweden, and Feysal Osman, the Deputy Team Leader of Urur Kaab joined the meeting virtually and also introduced themselves.
Additionally, Henry Karanja had given an overview presentation of the objectives of the induction forum and the CSOs’ advocacy plans and priorities, which were developed in November 2021 during the advocacy and policy influencing training. During the Urur Kaab technical assistance for civil society capacity building last year, the CSOs identified three key priority issues that they wished to develop advocacy plans on.
The three key priorities areas that emerged out of that training and the subsequent discussions which were identified by the CSOs that were presented at the induction forum were:
- Peacebuilding and conflict management
- Inclusion and the rights of persons with disabilities
- Protecting and promoting women’s rights and ending violence against women and girls
During his presentation, Henry Karanja had given a summary of each of the thematic areas and how they were planned. He talked about each of the aforementioned areas and how they were programmed by identifying their objectives, key stakeholders, activities and key messages, and expected outcomes. He finally reiterated how evidence-based research can play a central role in strengthening and validating the advocacy strategies and plans that were outlined. Therefore, partnering with an institution like SPA can help the CSOs by training them on how to incorporate their work into the available research and data.
Feysal who is the deputy team leader of this project further emphasized the significance of this partnership and how research institutions like SPA can help the CSOs in strengthening their advocacy programming through their evidence-based research.
On the other hand, Mahad Wasuge also gave a brief overview of the Somali Public Agenda and what it does. He stated that the mission of SPA is to see the delivery of efficient, effective, and inclusive public service in Somalia. He also mentioned how SPA strives to ensure the ideas and the needs of the ordinary Somali citizen reach the decision-making tables and are taken into account and considered in the policymaking tables. Mahad also talked about the different approaches SPA uses to advocate their evidence-based policy research outputs to influence policymakers and their decisions. Mahad further delved into explaining the different functions of SPA and the various branches that make up the work SPA does and how each department uniquely contributes to and compliments the overall SPA vision.
In the second session, SPA Director, Mahad asked the participants to identify the policy priorities of the current Somali government. This session aimed to deliberate what the current administration perceives as fundamentally important policy issues so that the various CSOs can align their key policy priorities with that of the government. This could help the CSOs to maximize their policy advocacy efforts. After a lengthy discussion, the participants have identified at least nine (9) key policy priorities for the federal government of Somalia. Among the areas identified were:
- Humanitarian response – the appointment of an envoy was an indication that the humanitarian response is a priority for the federal government.
- Climate resilience – a ministry of environment and climate change was established, which indicates that building climate resilience and addressing climate problems is a priority for the FGS.
- Security – the ongoing operations against al-Shabaab indicate that security is the number one priority for the new administration in Mogadishu.
- Completion of the review of the provisional federal constitution
- Establishing key public institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, the Constitutional Court, and the Judiciary Service Commission.
- Fighting corruption
- Completion of the debt relief process
- Elections at local, state, and federal levels
- Decentralization and local council formations
The CSOs discussed what they are doing and how their work is aligned with the government priorities. Participants of the forum discussed different ways that they can align their work with the government priorities. The SPA director provided an example of how the SPA aligns its work with the government priorities and took an example of how the SPA produced commentaries and briefs that informed the electoral process in the past few years.
Before the conclusion of the forum, participants discussed how they can incorporate research and evidence in their advocacy work and programming. Different ways the CSOs can utilize research and data were deliberated.
To help the CSOs access research they need to strengthen their advocacy programs, SPA and the participants agreed to create platforms where CSOs can access the current and previous studies conducted on the priority issues that have been highlighted during the forum. As a result, participants suggested that:
- Participants to subscribe to the SPA mailing list on the website
- SPA and Urur Kaab to create a WhatsApp group with the CSOs supported by Urur Kaab where SPA can share its publications and podcasts when released
- As this was an induction forum, the parties agreed to further their engagements and hold other forums.
Finally, Mahad and Feysal reiterated the significance of this new partnership and how this newly formed collaboration between SPA and Urur Kaab will help improve advocacy gaps and approaches that Somalia civil society organizations face.
Following the conclusion of the induction forum, the next steps will be to convene a series of forums during which SPA will present to the CSOs the evidence it has gathered through its research on some of the identified priority areas. These forums will also discuss how the CSOs can strengthen their advocacy interventions using the evidence and research that is available with research institutions and/or think tanks.