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Capacity Building programme with Members of the Somali House of People

The BGIPU hosted a visit of Somali Parliamentarians to the UK for a capacity building and parliamentary strengthening programme. The 5 Members of the House of People met with Members, senior officials and clerks to learn about the functioning and procedures of the Westminster system. The visit formed part of the support offered by HMG to the Somali government and Parliament in establishing and strengthening the Somali parliamentary institution, since its re-establishment in August 2012.

Members of the Somali House of People took part in a parliamentary visit to the UK, with a focus on capacity building and parliamentary strengthening, from 8 – 12 July 2013. The visit, which was initiated by a pledge from Minister for International Development, Justine Greening MP to support Somali parliamentarians as they establish their new government and federal parliament, was organised in conjunction with the National Democratic Institute.

The Delegation was led by the Second Deputy Speaker of the House of People Hon. Mahad Aabdalle Aawed, who was joined by Hon. Abdikafi Maalim Hassan Member of the Committee Information, Culture, Media and Communications, Hon. Sadio Omar Shegow, Deputy Chair, Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, Hon. Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, Member of the Committee for Internal Affairs, Regional Administration and Security, Hon. Khadija Mohamed Diriye, Chair of the Committee for Human Rights, Women and Humanitarian Affairs

The visit came nearly one year after the Members of the House of People were nominated by clan elders to re-form the Parliament under the new draft provisional constitution and the new government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and provided them an opportunity to learn about the functioning and procedures of the UK Parliament, as well as a timely opportunity to exchange with UK Parliamentarians and give their view of progress being undertaken to establish stable and representative democracy within Somalia.

During their programme the delegates met with parliamentarians, clerks and senior officials of Houses to gain insight into the UK Parliamentary system. The delegation were given a detailed overview of the Westminster system both from House of Commons and Lords Clerks, had the opportunity to learn about the work of the House of Commons Commission and the Office of the Chief Executive, as well as discussing the Library and information services available to Members.

The Delegation also gained first hand insights and practical advice from the Clerk of the House, Sir Robert Rogers KCB, who discussed with the delegates how they might prioritise the needs and services of the House of People to best aid parliamentarians in establishing new laws and a new parliamentary structure.

The Group also had wide ranging and engaged discussions with the Lord Speaker and Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds MP. A key theme of these discussions was the continued support provided to Somalia by the diaspora in the UK, many of whom send remittances home to family members in Somalia and whom the parliamentarians and Somali government wish to encourage to return to Somali to contribute their skills and knowledge to Somali society.

The importance of engaging with these Diaspora communities was reflected in the delegations many meetings with them in the sidelines of the programme, including visiting the large Diaspora community in Birmingham to mark the breaking of fast or Iftar, on Wednesday evening. The significance of these remittances was also emphasised by Rushanara Ali MP, a Shadow Minister for International Development, who registered with the delegation the importance of the Somali government working to ensure any obstacles to the flow of remittances were addressed, noting that remittances had been crucial to establishing stability and economic security for much of the Somali population.

A Parliamentary roundtable meeting, chaired by BGIPU Chairman Robert Walter MP, offered an opportunity for the delegation to exchange views with their UK counterparts. Detailed exchanges were held on the security situation within the country, as well as maritime security, with both parties expressing relief that piracy off the coast had reduced. Discussions also were held on the parliament’s legislative agenda, plans for repatriation of people displaced in neighbouring countries and whether the government had a strategy in place to attract inward foreign investment to the country. These discussions were continued in a meeting with Richard Ottaway MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who echoed the stance of Minister Simmonds towards the steadfast and continued support the British government to the Somali government and its people.

A meeting on gender sensitive parliaments with female parliamentarians and representatives from women’s political networks gave the delegation, including the Chair of the Committee for Human Rights, Women and Humanitarian Affairs, an opportunity to discuss plans for increasing and cementing female representation across all aspects of Somali society, through legislative and quota mechanisms.

The significantly improved situation in Somalia was a key theme throughout the visit; however, the scale of the task presented to the parliament, in material, legal and security terms was also clear. It is hoped that the exposure and knowledge gained during the visit will be shared amongst parliamentary colleagues in Mogadishu and assist them in making difficult but informed decisions in further establishing the Somali parliament and progressing with the extensive and necessary legislative actions and reforms ahead of them before the country’s democratic elections proposed for 2016.

The BGIPU is grateful to all who contributed to the success of this visit, particularly members of the BGIPU Executive Committee and other members who hosted key events, as well as Clerks and other parliamentary staff who provided highly informative and practical information to the delegation.