Dialogue between policy-makers from fragile states opened in Helsinki

NGO representatives Mahdooba Seraj (Afganistan) and John Caulker (Sierra Leone) present the outcomes of group discussions, suggested solutions to improving the participation of civil society, to the conference attendees. Photo: Minna Vähäsalo
NGO representatives Mahbouba Seraj (Afganistan) and John Caulker (Sierra Leone) present the outcomes of group discussions, suggested solutions to improving the participation of civil society, to the conference attendees. Photo: Minna Vähäsalo

On the eve of the Finnish Midsummer Festival, a conference dealing with the role of civil society in fragile states brought together members of civil society, representatives of governments and traditional leaders from Sierra Leone, Somalia and Afghanistan, as well as professionals of international development cooperation. The conference opened up a dialogue which the participants decided to continue and expand on a country level.

The participants came up with efficient practises to strengthen the role of civil society in peace building and advocacy in fragile states. The role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in fragile states was also discussed.

The participation of women in the decision making process from the beginning was one of the most important themes to the participants. Both quantitative and qualitative criteria were considered important in the evaluation of the realisation of women’s participation.

“However, numbers are not always enough but the quality of representation is also crucial – there has to be, for example, strong woman candidates in elections,” said John Caulker, Executive Director of the NGO Fambul Tok International.

During the conference, solutions to coordinating dialogue between the state and the civil society on a country level in Afganistan, Somalia and Sierra Leone were developed. Also, international processes were identified; processes, such as the development forum for vulnerable states (IDPS) and projects under the UNDP, which could further the process launched at the conference on a long-term basis. Jussi Ojala, Finn Church Aid Senior Advisor in peace work sees potential global consequences in the achieved results.

“This conference could be seen as starting point to a process that aims at improving the relationship between the state and the society through dialogue, not only in the countries present in the conference, but also more widely in fragile contexts around the world,” Ojala describes.

The conference was organised by Finn Church Aid, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS). The conference was organised with the help of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the UNDP, and its aim was to bring together representatives from the state and the civil society to look for solutions which would permit the civil society to participate more in the building of fragile states. The strong presence of Finn Church Aid in both Somalia and Sierra Leone allows the support to fragile states to continue.

Further information: Jussi Ojala, Senior Advisor, Right to Peace, p. +358 50 352 6536