Civil society engagement with institutions in influencing.
The development agenda

Civil society engagement with institutions in influencing the development agenda PUNSAA has been actively engaging international actors in an endeavor to influence decisions on politics and socio-economic issues in Puntland. PUNSAA is also promoting better engagement with international institutions and donors to ensure international aid modalities are aligned with NSA priorities.

The platform acting as a coordinating agency that links NSAs to the government and the international community has been able to mobilize NSAs to engage in various preliminary discussions that focus on the future of Somalia with a particular emphasis on the New Deal initiative, through which the future development priorities for Puntland, and Somalia more broadly, are to be set. In this regard, the platform mobilized NSAs representing different sectors in Puntland in preliminary discussions through focus groups that contributed to developing the guideline document for programming of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) of 2014–2020. PUNSAA offered NSAs the opportunity to contribute to the 2012 London conference and prioritize the needs of Puntland’s civil society’s by making references to key national development documents. In this regard, PUNSAA utilized the National Five Year Plan 2007–2011, the Annual Plan 2008 and the Priority Needs of Puntland Institutions 2012–2013 to make informed decisions about designing development agendas. PUNSAA further consulted with the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation over Puntland communities’ development priorities, as the ministry is responsible for the programming of development projects.

Civil society engagement in Puntland media law

PUNSAA succeeded in mediating a lengthy dispute between the Ministry of Information and the Media Association of Puntland (MAP) through a conflict resolution process that relieved tensions between the media and the government, paved the way for essential future cooperation between them, and brought together the Minister of Information and MAP Secretary General to declare that the dispute is over.

Both parties were grateful to PUNSAA’s secretariat for their diplomatic efforts. PUNSAA advocated for an inclusive process to the formation of a Puntland media law, through which stakeholders could contribute their views during the development process. The Ministry of Information accepted PUNSAA’s lead of a civil society consultation on the content of media legislation. PUNSAA engaged an expert consultant to lead and facilitate a consultation of the draft law, which the ministry had formulated, with the aim of enabling any new legislation to conform to internationally accepted media law standards. The consultation meeting revised the draft law by incorporating the contributions and inputs of civil society media. The broad-based consultation meeting saw PUNSAA issue a comprehensive second draft of the media law that was acceptable to its stakeholders. Moreover, the consultation established mutual respect and cooperation between the Ministry of Information and MAP strengthening and deepening relations.

Influencing the constitution ratification process

PUNSAA played an active part in the constitution ratification process. It conducted two constitution consultation and dissemination meetings prior to the ratification of the Puntland constitution in April 2012, with 50 civil society representatives attending each meeting. The meetings were aimed to familiarize and engage the wider community about the constitution and its ratification process.

This process ensured the participation and contribution of civil society in the democratization process and enabled participants to present their concerns to the constitution validation panel. Puntland was at the time working towards what was hoped to be its first democratic elections since its inception in 1998.

The election process would have been fundamental in transforming Puntland politics from a clan-based system of government to a democracy.

PUNSAA has been at the center of the push for democracy, especially as we believe that civil society can strengthen governance by giving citizens a greater voice in decision-making. PUNSAA disseminated the constitution to the grassroots communities to ensure communities were familiar with the new document, engaged civil society in the democratization process, and built links between the government and civil society. The pre-election consultations focused on identifying the current role of civil society in democratization and how it could be improved. These consultation meetings found that the vast majority of civil society saw constitution ratification as a cornerstone of democratic transformation in Puntland. However, due to pre-election violence, on the eve of the local council elections, democratic elections were replaced with a clan-based selection process for the composition of the new parliament. Following this PUNSAA participated in a joint report with Saferworld on an analysis of what took place in the political process of transitioning power. Afterwards, Puntland civil society supported the constitution to be ratified. Five PUNSAA regional focal points, including the chair, participated in the ratification meeting and endorsed the constitution.

Regional democratization awareness raising campaigns

PUNSAA elevated the understanding and familiarity of the constitution and democratisation process with a range of Puntland communities through regional awareness raising campaigns. These aimed to share with communities the concept of democracy; empower civil society to participate in policy formulation and decision-making processes in the Puntland democratization process; publicize citizen’s constitutional rights and obligations; and enable the different sectors of civil society to share information, exchange ideas, and develop a common understanding to draw valuable inputs into the democratization process. PUNSAA reached 200 prominent members of civil society across the regions of Puntland, made up of representatives of women, youth, traditional elders, lawyers, Ulima (religious scholars), the media, and professionals. The awareness raising workshops in advance of the anticipated local council elections were valuable in ensuring participants were informed about the process and understood their role to participate and positively influence it. Such awareness raising complemented the work of other institutions, such as The Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC), in improving social awareness of democratization more broadly. The awareness raising activities saw participants reinforce the need for TPEC, the president, and other stakeholders in the election process to conduct extensive and broad-based civic education programs through continuous media programs, awareness raising campaigns, consultation meetings, newspapers and brochures. They also reinforced the need to engage in and give an effective participatory role to civil society, including Ulima and traditional elders, as well as establish a constitutional court and ensure that under-represented groups (women, youth and outcast clans) are included.

Domestic Election Observation (DEO)

PUNSAA was to form a core part of the Domestic Election Observation. This would serve to build public confidence towards electoral processes, detect human errors or manipulation/fraud, provide systematic information about whether the election is conducted according to established rules and regulations, contribute a peaceful election environment, and offer recommendations to improve future elections. During the DEO mission, PUNSAA recruited 60 observers (ten from South Central and 50 from across the regions of Puntland) through regional focal points. During this observation mission, PUNSAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with TPEC certifying the roles and responsibilities of each party and accredited the observers.

PUNSAA also prepared the observer selection criteria, which specified the eligibility of who can serve as an observer. The criteria also demanded 30 per cent female inclusion. PUNSAA gained experience from the Somaliland Non-State Actors Forum (SONSAF), who had previously overseen Domestic Election Observation in Somaliland, and engaged with international election experts who trained the observers on their roles, responsibilities, electoral processes and mode of working.  Considering the available budget, number of observers, polling stations, security of the observers and geographical coverage, PUNSAA had planned to observe 152 polling stations in 17 districts which were 30 per cent of the polling stations. Although the local council election was cancelled, the trained observers both from Puntland and South Central Somalia will remain a resource that can be deployed in future electoral processes.

Coordination committee establishment

One component of the Domestic Election Observation preparation was the establishment of a coordination committee comprising seven prominent and knowledgeable members selected from among Puntland civil society (professionals, media, elders, youth and women), due to their good standing in the community and their neutrality among the local council election stakeholders. The committee was established to serve a political liaison role by meeting with key election process stakeholders (government, TPEC, political associations, Monitoring Board and DSC) to guide the overall DEO and mission; oversee and advise the preparation and effective implementation of observer training manuals, code of conduct, pledge of neutrality, deployment plan, election day observation coordination; and issue all DEO press statements and reports. Upon the establishment of the committee, all the members signed a neutrality pledge declaring that they will remain non-partisan, neutral and impartial at all times in a manner of obeying the election laws, observer guide, and the PUNSAA and TPEC MoU.

The committee held a series of meeting with TPEC, political associations and the Election Monitoring Board, and Mr Nicholas Kay (UNSOM Somalia representative), and addressed the media on the election postponement and the future of the Puntland democratization process.

Involvement in political association opening process

PUNSAA organized a consultative meeting with civil society and government opposition entities to discuss and identify obstacles hindering the establishment of political associations, and to convince the government to address these gaps and make the process more inclusive and accountable. The consultation meeting was brought about following the closure of the political association registration period, which had culminated with no associations established. There had been an escalation in political rumors around intentional actions to prevent the establishment of political associations. 66 civil society and opposition representatives (from local NGOs, women’s networks, youth networks, media houses, the Puntland elders’ association, the private sector, and professionals) from across the regions of Puntland attended the meeting. They engaged TPEC representatives to present the electoral laws and a road map for participants to be on board with the election process. At the end of the two-day in-depth discussions about the issue, meeting participants brought out the obstacles hindering the opening of the political association, including limited time for the establishment of political associations and registration, the lack of a constitutional court, censorship on freedom of expression and free media, and limited awareness of the multiparty system and constitutional rights and obligations of the Puntland community. Later PUNSAA advocated for the government to address these issues and convinced TPEC to expand the time allocated for the registration of political associations and urged the government to establish safeguarding mechanisms, including the constitutional court, in order to restore public confidence towards the process.

Research on the reasons behind the failure of Puntland’s local council elections

Following the cancellation of the local council elections, PUNSAA conducted research into what happened, with technical and financial support from Saferworld. The research set out to examine the reasons behind the failure of the local council elections and set out a number of recommendations to the Puntland authorities and the international community for advancing and supporting inclusive and representative governance processes in Puntland, and in Somalia more generally. The research was designed in consultation with the Civil Society Democratization Forum, a platform of 17 members established to support the research and take forward civil society dialogue on the future for democracy in Puntland. A literature review examined the constitution, electoral laws, press releases and reports on the electoral process. Individual and group discussions were carried out, and 170 individuals, including 68 women, attended focus group discussions carried out in Garowe, Bossaso, Qardho and Galkayo where representatives from Sool, Sanaag, Ayn and Haylan partook the discussions. Individual interviews were carried out with a range of actors, including TPEC officials, civil society activists, NGOs, representatives of political associations, the police, women’s groups, and traditional elders. Interviews with international NGOs and donors were carried out in Nairobi in February and March 2014.
The research was conducted jointly by Saferworld and PUNSAA, with PUNSAA and the Civil Society Democratization Forum finally validating the final version. PUNSAA launched the report Puntland at the polls on 29 June 2014. The launch ceremony was attended by 42 participants, including the Minister for Constitution, Democratization and Federal Affairs; the Vice Minister for Interior and Local Governance; the Vice Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation; and the head of UNSOM’s office in Puntland. The former chairman of TPEC, the chairman of the UDAD political party, international and local organizations, the media, and prominent civil society members also attended. The Minister of Constitution, Democratization and Federal Affairs, Mrs Sahra Said Noor, expressed her thoughts about how the people of Puntland are keen to transition from the current clan-based politics into a democratic state (one person, one vote). The vision of all Puntlanders is to see an elected and accountable government that delivers basic services to its people. The minister concluded her speech by saying: “The research findings are a mirror image that illustrate what has gone wrong during the last attempt of the democratization process and its setting out of clear recommendations which, if adopted, could avoid the repetition of the same mistakes again, and I am sure it will benefit my ministry as well as all of Puntland’s government and its people.” Finally she appreciated PUNSAA and Saferworld for the effort they put into this research. PUNSAA disseminated the report to the meeting participants and wider stakeholders via e-mail and presented concisely the key reasons behind the failure of the local council election

Women’s participation in politics

  • PUNSAA identified the need to build momentum for women’s increased participation in politics. Through sensitization, we set out to enable women to stand up for their rights and sought to initiate strategies to enable them to reach their goals related to political representation. PUNSAA collaborated with Tala-Wadaag women’s movement to bring together 55 women from across Puntland to raise their voices, during a defining time in which the people of Puntland envisioned a fundamental change in the governance system; a new beginning that would offer new opportunities for women. Nine women out of the participants were selected to form a committee to advocate for women’s political participation and meet the key decision-making actors in the election, including traditional elders and potential presidential candidates, and finally issued a press statement pledging for women political participation rights in the following organs:parliament
  • District councilors
  • Judiciary
  • Independent commissions

Empowering youth to participate in politics

As part of our effort to empower civil society, PUNSAA advocated for youth to participate in political decision-making processes. On 31 December 2013, PUNSAA conducted a workshop with Puntland youth organizations to strengthen coordination, collaboration and information sharing among the regional youth networks, as well as give young people a platform for discussion, experience and idea sharing, and determining their priorities. They were also helped with petitioning and seeking support from presidential candidates, and work was done to pave the way for building a Puntland National Youth umbrella. During the workshop the youth prioritized advocating for youth participation in politics and decision-making processes, construction of youth regional centers, effective implementation of the Puntland youth policy, and the allocation of budget from the government’s revenue to the national youth umbrella for the sustainability and effective running of a youth umbrella. PUNSAA arranged for the youth to meet with the potential Puntland presidential candidates – including Dr Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Prof. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, Mohamed Abdinur and Ali Haji Warsame – to seek support for the youth’s demands. Most of the above-mentioned candidates, including President Abdiweli, signed the youth’s petition and promised to fulfill their demands. Lastly, the youth issues a press release congratulating the president, vice president, parliament speaker and the other MPs, and urged the president to realize the promises he made to the youth during his electioneering and hoped for peace, development and prosperity for Puntland.

Policy consultations

PUNSAA developed its first advocacy strategy over the course of a four-day broad-based civil society consultation workshop held in September 2012. During the workshop participants highlighted three main areas for PUNSAA to advocate for: environmental degradation, human rights violations and inclusive governance. PUNSAA conducted subsequent consultation meetings and training sessions to finalize the strategy, setting priority solutions to the pre-identified problems, developing influencing plans, stabilising thematic working groups (TWG) with the development of Terms of References, training the TWGs and conducting civil society consultation meetings to each PUNSAA advocacy theme. The consultation meeting on environment, inclusive governance and human rights hosted 75 NSA members, each drawn from across Puntland regions and representing the various categories of civil society, of which 40 per cent were female. During the consultation meetings participants discussed the current status of each theme, policy issues in the advocacy strategy and produced policy positions and influencing work plans through open discussions, group work, presentation made by theme experts, and comparisons from neighbour countries’ policies and UN conventions where possible. The TWGs were then tasked with disseminating the policy positions to their respective stakeholders such as the government, international community and relevant civil society organizations to integrate their plans. The consultation meetings focused on policy level advocacy, identifying the policy gaps. For instance it was noted that the Puntland environmental policy needed improvement and standardization. Advocacy action plans were also developed within the consultation meetings, which will facilitate the smooth running of PUNSAA’s advocacy strategy.

The New Deal: An opportunity for non-state actors

The Platform mobilized civil society groups to participate in the New Deal for engaging in Fragile States, peacebuilding and statebuilding working groups, as well as participate in pre-consultations to the New Deal High Level Ministerial Conference in Copenhagen, which took place in November 2014. PUNSAA acted as a watchdog to the commitments made in the Compact. In line with the Compact’s priorities, PUNSAA intends to support the Government of Puntland in transitioning out of fragility, as well as monitoring progress of the implementation of the New Deal commitments, especially those relating to: fostering inclusive political settlements, addressing injustices and increasing people’s access to justice, managing revenue and building capacity for accountable and fair service delivery. As the New Deal is anticipated to become the guiding framework for international, national and local engagement with statebuilding and peacebuilding in Puntland and Somalia more broadly, PUNSAA intends to mobilize and ensure NSAs, particularly from the private sector, remain engaged in participatory monitoring of the New Deal implementation right down to the local grassroots level.

Regional membership engagement

To deepen and expand the relationship between PUNSAA and the regional authorities (governors, mayors and councilors) the eight PUNSAA regional focal points conducted one-day regional dialogues with their respective regional authorities and local civil society. Each dialogue meeting hosted 30 participants comprising all sectors of civil society, marginalized groups and regional government authorities, of which 40 per cent of them were women.

This dialogue strengthened the relationship and cooperation between civil society organizations to their respective regional authorities. During the meeting the participants (government authorities and civil society) discussed improving joint collaboration between civil society and the authorities on various issues from preserving the environment, protecting human rights, inclusive governance, involvement in decision-making and policy-making processes, as well the role of the New Deal initiative in the regions. The regional government authorities promised to work with PUNSAA in these areas and to engage them in regional development programs.

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