FCA in the Central African Republic – work for peace

Peace is in your own hands when you have something to hold on to

A stable income goes a long way in a region where a life is worth only 4 euros. The Central African Republic, which has gone through a long civil war, is finding its way towards increasing stability, and FCA’s Youth Peace Clubs offer young people new chances.

IN THE SOUTHEASTERN part of the Central African Republic and a hundred kilometres from the capital, Bangui, lies the Mbaiki village. The red glow of the late afternoon sun is setting on the village. The rainy season has turned the walkway even more verdant than usual – a true moment of beauty for this city of 25,000, known for its flowers.

A neat row of shoes can be spotted at the end of a village road in front of a light-green house. The local hair salon is evidently still busy, with barbers and stylists making braids and cutting hair. Everything is close and personal within this 20 m2 room.

The barber and hair salon founded by the youth peace club has become famous in Mbaiki for the fact that women and men go there at the same time.

This salon is for both men and women. Posters on the walls offer inspirations for hairstyles, including the players of Real Madrid. Merlin Sombo takes a glance at the wall from time to time. He is finishing his work with a millimetre’s precision. The trimmer changes to scissors and a comb while clipping hair from a male customer’s head. He wears a cap on his head as he works and everyone says he can’t be beat for punctiliousness.

You can’t top a hair saloon for daily encounters, according to Charlene Derich Nam-Ngania, 25, who runs the place. Writing on the building’s walls tells us that the shop was set up by local Youth Peace Club. Customers mill around and exchange familiar greetings.

”This is a good place to stay on top of what’s happening in the community. We serve the young and the old, from merchants to local politicians,” says Nam-Ngania.

Charlene Derich Nam-Ngania emphasises the importance of meeting places in successful peace work.

The village barbershop is an example of a business that strengthens social cohesion in the community. The youth not only earn a bit of income but also have an opportunity to change their lives. Face-to-face meetings are beneficial: just recently, a client changed their intention to obtain a divorce after conversations in the barbershop chair.

”We also hear when rumours spread within the community. Often, people think that the youth are the source of tensions – but we are also the ones trying to find the solutions,” Nam-Ngania says.

Violence weighs on the Central African Republic

THE CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC is one of the world’s poorest countries. Its inhabitants have, throughout the decades, endured the consequences of coups, periods of unrest and violence and a destructive civil war that started in 2013.

The war had multiple causes and actors, but the simplified narrative is that of two sides: the mostly Muslim Selekas and the mostly Christian Anti-balakas. The Selekas attacked civilians in 2013, and the Anti-balakas quickly organized a resistance movement. Hate speech has further increased the division between religious groups that were pitted against each other. The violence forced hundreds of thousands to leave their homes.

The Seleka violence took root from dissatisfaction with the country’s leadership, blamed for ignoring the country’s Muslim majority North. Fighters from neighbouring countries, like Chad and Sudan, joined their ranks in 2013.

Throughout the years, presidents have changed, but unrest has continued. The Khartoum peace treaty in 2019 was the first step towards stability. Nevertheless, the latest round of violence in 2020 only ended with the help of bilateral forces. Peace is still fragile, and the country’s stability is dependent on external powers.

According to the youth of Mbaiki, the reason for conflicts in the Central African Republic is considerably simpler.

”Poverty – that’s the cause of all our issues,” Koke Augrace, 23, summarises.

Augrace’s home is a stone’s throw from the barbershop. He’s in charge of another Youth Peace Club, with a focus on raising piglets. When the piglets reach breeding age, the club gets income from selling the new piglets. With the capital gained, they can offer credit to youth who are struggling with their education costs or want to start small businesses for further income.

The youth peace club raises piglets in the Koke Augrace yard.

”The key to a meaningful life is education. Our intent is to ensure that no one needs to interrupt their education,” Augrace says.

The possibilities of young people to get money and be in control of their own lives play a key role in all this, Augrace says. He knows what he’s talking about. He used to be a drug addict and says marijuana use led him to hang out with bad people. As a teenager, Augrace stole motorcycles and got into fights. He had a bad reputation and resented adults. He even hit his own teacher.

A disadvantaged financial situation and detrimental company might lead a person even towards murder. Olivier Bizanga, project officer for FCA’s peace work in Mbaiki, knows that it’s possible to get young people to kill one another for as little as 2,000 Central African francs – less than 4 euros. Financially desperate youth with poor future outlooks are easy targets of recruitment for armed groups.

”Young people join armed groups in lack of alternatives or by following the example of their friends and family members,” Bizanga says.

Olivier Bizanga (left), who leads FCA’s peace work in Mbaiki, inspired Koke Augrace to join the youth peace club.

Education uproots hatred from its breeding grounds

DISADVANTAGED YOUTH and low levels of education create a fertile ground for political hate speech. The Central African Republic’s civil war created deep divisions between Christians and Muslims in communities where, according to the locals, none existed previously.

Before the civil war, Muslims and Christians used to, for instance, play football together, says Addun Ache, 48. Her hijab reveals that she’s a Muslim. She’s also a member of a women’s savings and loans group, which meets in the backyard of its President, Ogalana Alice. Here, the group tends goats, which they obtained through an FCA project funded by UNDP. The initial four goats have now multiplied to 12. Apart from raising goats, the women also make soap for sale at Mbaiki’s market. The hardworking women already have half a million Central African Francs in savings – nearly 800 euros.

Dimanche Suzette, Yaba Vivianne, Addun Ache and Ogalana Alice at a women’s savings and loan group meeting in Mbaiki.

When the mainly Christian Anti-balaka troops struck without mercy against Muslims as a vengeance for Seleka actions, Addun and her five children escaped the fighting to neighbouring Chad. Their spell as refugees became short. Addun’s children could not attend school, and the family did not have enough food, so the family decided to return to their home region.

Like many people in the area, Addun found her house burnt and the property looted. It was also dangerous to walk in the streets of Mbaiki.

”People pointed fingers and said that there walks a Muslim and she should be killed,” Addun recalls.

Being a single parent, she started selling fish on the streets. Many of her clients were Christians. The trust needed for peace could be built through everyday encounters. Due to religious tensions, however, Addun Ache ended up changing the name of her eldest son to a Christian one, which made it easier for him to apply for university studies in Bangui.

The women’s group gets its income from, among other things, the manufacture and sale of soap. Women can use their savings to apply for loans for their own small businesses or other needs.

Now, out of 25 members in Addun’s women’s savings and loans group, almost all are Christians. According to her, giving people more opportunities to increase their income is the most important way to stabilize society. The women’s group has also taught people to read.

”Education and literacy do not only help people to become independent, but they also help in taking a critical view of information spreading in communities and teaches how to manage people’s differences,” she says.

Prosperity strengthens peace

FINN CHURCH AID’S income-generation activities within its youth peace clubs are a great example of grassroots-level peace work.Still, durable reconciliation also requires work at the governmental level. The new constitution, updated after the peace treaty, emphasises the role of women and youth in peacebuilding.

According to the law, there needs to be a 30 per cent representation of youth in local committees for peace and reconciliation. The law forbids hate speech and requires the various religious groups to be represented in the official councils and projects of civil society organisations. In addition, Muslim holidays are now also national holidays.

To improve the position of women, the government has set a quota, according to which 35 per cent of parliamentary election candidates must be women. The women’s representation in parliament is, however, still only at 13 percent.

When FCA peace project officer Olivier Bizanga arrived at Mbaiki school to lecture on peace and open applications for the organisation’s peace clubs, Koke Augrace saw his way out from a vicious cycle. He had for long wanted to reverse the direction of his life and had at least managed to stay in school.

The application process to the Peace Club measured the applicants’ motivation and understanding of peace, as well as presentational skills and capacity to teach others convincingly. Koke was one of the best in all areas but one – the head teacher warned the selection committee that he is a poor role model.

”But the teacher added that if they manage to successfully reverse my life’s direction, they’re not going to find a better example that change is possible,” Koke says shyly.

Koke Augrace (right) with his wife Deganai Elodie and their nine-month-old baby Marcosus. According to Augrace, poverty is the beginning and root of all conflicts, and livelihood opportunities are therefore crucial.

It has been four years since the establishment of Augrace’s youth peace club. Today, he sits next to his wife Deganai Elodie and his nine-month-old son Marcosus. To Koke, family comes first. Next is his dream to register his peace club as a formal organisation. This would mean keeping the association running even after FCA’s project ends, so that the club can apply for further funding for its activities, such as trainings and other youth events.

”Achieving peace requires that people have something to believe in, something to hold on to,” Augrace says.

A profession can transform a life

AGRICULTURE IS the most common source of livelihood in the verdant Mbaiki. Not everyone is up to becoming a farmer, however. Merlin Sombo, the barber, tells us at the end of his day at work how he ended up becoming one.

”I was a failure as a farmer, and so were my crops. And I didn’t have the attitude to become a salesperson either,” the reserved man says.

Barber Merlin Sombo, 35, says he found his dream job as a barber.

Luckily, Sombo’s sister knew how to cut hair and how to teach it to her brother. It paid off more than well. Today, the apron-wearing 35-year-old considers his greatest source of pride when people point at him on the street and say: “There is the man who gave me this nice haircut”.

 ”This is my thing, I love my work. The feeling when you’ve found something you’re good at is hard to beat,” Sombo says.

Text: Erik Nyström
Photos: Björn Udd

10 + 1 facts about forgotten crises

10 + 1 facts about forgotten crises

Conflicts, natural disasters, famines, and economic disasters – sooner or later, crisis like these drop from the headlines and the lips of politicians, but they continue to be an acute reality for the people on the ground. When we talk about forgotten and neglected crises, what do we mean?


That is why we prefer to talk about neglected crises. Being privileged individuals, we may often forget about individual crises; as such crises do not affect us directly and thus do not require our constant attention. These crises can better be described as neglected – by the international community, which may either be unable to respond with sufficient money, or even find the required political willpower. 


Conflicts between two states are easy to grasp, as are natural catastrophes. But many other crises have multifaceted reasons – the Syrian conflict, for instance, began after a climate-change-caused dry period and cannot be reduced to a mere geopolitical, historical, and ideological squabble. Events that we find hard to understand are also difficult to follow and  identify with. 


The recovery period is a part of the crisis. Peace treaties are signed, typhoons die down, but these things still do not mean the crisis itself is over. Rebuilding infrastructure, institutions and citizenship takes a long time and requires a lot of resources, whether it is war or a natural catastrophe. 


An individual person cannot carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially if they also are facing issues in their personal lives. Continuous obsessive monitoring of media – doomscrolling – benefits nobody. We often see compassion fatigue – a situation where the sheer burden handicaps or short-circuits our feelings of compassion, particularly when there is no solution in sight. 


There’s not enough room for many crises in the news at the same time. Also at play are geographical and cultural relationships, which have their effect on what the news finds important. It is easy for Finns to pay attention to the Ukrainian crisis, for example – the attacker is familiar to the people of Finland and is also Finland’s neighbor. Continuous access to news means that existing crises are buried by new ones. Moreover, instead of civilian suffering, the news often finds battles and political squabbles more important.  


The Internet offers more information about various crises than ever before – and a wealth of differing viewpoints. An enormous amount of information is swirling about online and when crises have complicated and far-reaching reasons, it is all too easy to assume simple, even false points of view and fake news. All of this affects the way we view these crises and their potential solutions. 


Politicians, parties, and the international community may, due to their lack of ability or will to act, be unable to solve or prevent certain crises, and this may also serve as a reason for them to not pay attention to certain crises. On the other hand, if people do not demand actions from their leaders, the resulting  political apathy may also be a factor in the  low amount of attention the crisis receives. 


Enormous crises, like the tsunami in Asia or Russia’s attack on  Ukraine, bring aid organizations vast amounts of funds from private individuals and organizations. Which is good! Getting aid without media attention is always more of a chore, though. Traditional funders still understand the importance of long-term aid work, but even established actors like the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency have troublecollecting the funds they need for their work. 


Those living in the middle of long-lasting conflicts may feel abandoned and isolated, if the international community ignores their problems. This lack of vision and feelings of hopelessness then provide grist for extremist mills. Hope and belief in one’s future are important – through these, people and communities have, throughout history, managed to survive various awful crises. 


The climate catastrophe and nature loss will cause natural disasters, weaken food security, and drive refugees and armed conflicts far to the future. The scale of changes is enormous, but the effects are distributed unequally and there are considerable differences in the level of community preparations and available resources. This is hardly a new situation, however: in the 2010s, over 80 percent of all catastrophes were related to climate and weather. One way or another, this crisis is showing up in everyone’s backyard. We cannot ignore it any longer. 


FCA’s work is not over even when the most acute part of the crisis is. The organization also helps prepare for coming crises and prevent them in advance. Additionally, FCA collaborates with communities to strengthen their ability to prepare and survive by searching for nature-based solutions and innovating to always be a little bit better. FCA also works in crisis areas with its partner organizations. 

For this story, we interviewed FCA’s humanitarian aid manager Jan De Waegemaeker and political history researcher Noora Kotilainen, a communication, crisis, and political violence expert at the University of Helsinki. Additional sources include materials drawn up by the Norwegian Refugee Council on forgotten refugee crises and the World Disasters Report. 

Teksti: Anne Salomäki 
Kuvitus: Carla Ladau
Translation: Tatu Ahponen

FCA supports fostering inclusive governance in Jowhar, Somalia

FCA supports fostering inclusive governance in Jowhar, Somalia

The Jowhar district in Somalia recently celebrated the launch of its district council formation process. It marked a significant step toward establishing inclusive local governance and advancing peace and development in the region.

REPRESENTATIVES FROM Jowhar district gathered to commemorate the initiation of the council. Community leaders and distinguished guests, including members of the State Parliament, local authorities, and international actors. Their presence at the event underscored the importance of the initiative in enhancing local governance.

Local governance is the most visible form of government to people. Establishing community-owned, functional local governments responsible for delivering services to their population supports the legitimacy of government. It also fosters trust and relations between government and local communities.

Elders play a crucial role

“The creation of the Jowhar district council formation process has been a significant achievement, considering the challenges we faced along the way,” said Mohamud Osman, a local leader. “The role we played as elders in the mediation and negotiation process cannot be overstated. We were instrumental in ensuring that the concerns and opinions of all stakeholders were considered. And that the process was fair and transparent.”

Another community leader, Ahmed Olow Beerrey, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the significance of fair representation and addressing community concerns.

“The elders are the custodians of tradition and culture in Somalia. We appreciate the support of international actors and Hirshabelle state leaders,” he said.

A man and a woman sit together in a room with IDs around their necks. Both wear serious expressions
Yasin Mohamed Ali (R) won the second seat in the Jowhar district council elections, defeating Duniyo Yusuf Ali (L).

Empowering women and youth in the political process

One of the newly elected women to the district council formation process, Faadumo Farah Jima’le, expressed her commitment to inclusive governance.

“Women’s participation in politics and district council formation is essential for building a more inclusive and democratic society. As one of the elected women on the new district council, I am confident that we will work hard to represent the interests of all women in Jowhar.”

A large number of men and women sit in a room. A table with water bottles is in the foreground
Community members met to learn about delegate training sessions and the overall election procedure.

Mohamed Ali Ahmed, 25, serving as the second Deputy Mayor, conveyed his vision for the youth’s role. “As the youngest council member of the Jowhar district, I will fully represent the district’s future and its youth. I am confident that the youth representatives on the new district council will work hard to have necessary public services and represent the interests of all youth in Jowhar. “

Economic growth

The formation of the council will also have a positive effect on economic growth and community development. Local businessman Haji Hunsheeye Ahmed Arraale recognised the impact of the Jowhar District Council.

“It is a positive step towards improving the business sector and the infrastructure of several markets in the district. I am excited to see how this new district council will work towards building a brighter future for the community and increasing the per capita income of those living in the district,” he said.

Between 24-27 October 2023, 26 district councilors were elected to their positions. Out of those, three are women were elected, most notably Madina Addow Ali, a renowned women’s rights activist. Moreover, ten candidates represent the youth of the district in the newly elected district council.

Two men shake hands standing in front of a banner bearing the logos of FCA, the Federal Republic of Somalia and the European Union. One of the men is holding a certificate
Isma’il Warsame Farah (L) was succeeded to the 25th seat of Jowhar district elections. The minister who is in the right side of the picture handed over the certificate of district council membership.

Strengthening local governance

The Jowhar District Council formation represents a milestone in enhancing local governance and addressing the pressing needs of the community. The elected council members, representing different community interests and wards, work diligently to improve the well-being of the residents.

The election process, which involves registered delegates selected by clan elders, is designed to ensure the council’s accountability to the people it serves. Council members are dedicated to their mission and are known for advocating for the community’s interests at higher levels of government.

Two men and a woman sit in a room with more men and women in the background
Seynab Siidow (R), Abdi Aadan (C), and Ibrahim Ali Muhumed (L) competed for the fifth seat in the Jowhar DC elections with Abdi Aadan winning the race.

EU Funding

This significant development is part of the EU funded local governance project that is aimed at strengthening governance structures and systems for more accountable and inclusive Federal Member States. The project promotes inclusive participation of all community groups, including women, youth, and minority groups, in the district council formation process.

The path to inclusive local governance, supported by the EU-funded project, fosters stability in Somalia and aligns with the broader objectives of building a more inclusive and democratic society.

Since 2016 FCA has been implementing various Right to Peace programmes, including promoting inclusive local governance through district council formation (DCF) following the Wadajir National Framework for Local Governance and increasing women’s political participation.

Text and photos: FCA Somalia

FCA launches new office to the African Union 

FCA launches new office to the African Union 

A group of people pose for a photo on an indoor staircase. Either side of them are banners showing logos of FCA and The Peacemakers Network
The inauguration of the new FCA liaison office to the AU was attended by AU delegates, government officials, and civil society organisations, as well as experts from FCA and the Peacemakers Network.

Finn Church Aid and The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers gathered with African Union delegates to inaugurate new liaison office in Addis Ababa. 

A THREE-DAY EVENT, held in the capital of Ethiopia, marked a significant step toward realising shared objectives between FCA and the African Union (AU), a continental body that comprises 55 African states.

The inauguration of the new office was attended by diplomats, international organisation representatives, AU delegates, government officials, and civil society organisations. In line with FCA’s priority areas, of education, livelihoods and peace, speakers from the AU outlined the union’s commitment to inclusive education and its agenda for peace and security.

The liaison office will be a focal point for FCA’s collaboration, coordination, advocacy and partnership with the African Union, focusing on meaningful participation of African civil society actors; especially youth, women and religious and traditional actors.

A shared vision  

Ambassador Sinikka Antila, Finland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union celebrated the establishment of FCA’s AU liaison office, underscoring its role in peacebuilding amid numerous conflicts worldwide.

Ambassador Sinikka Antila (third from left) praised FCA work in peacebuilding, education and livelihoods.

She also highlighted FCA’s extensive experience in emergency education contexts, especially during 2024, which the AU has designated as the ‘year of education’.

“In Finland, like in Africa, education is a top priority. The most precious resource for any country is its human resources. Therefore, education, by leaving no one behind, is the priority investment for development.” 

Ambassador Antila also lauded FCA’s work in fostering livelihoods, especially in a continent with a young population where job creation and entrepreneurship are of utmost importance.  

“FCA’s efforts in livelihood development, including promoting entrepreneurship and start-ups, have the potential to play a pivotal role in empowering Africa’s young population and fostering economic growth. This aligns with the increasing importance of job creation, especially in innovative and creative industries,” she said.

2024 a year of education

Sophia Ashipala, Head of the Education Division at the African Union, conveyed her enthusiasm for the occasion in her address and commended FCA for its pivotal role in bringing the event to fruition. 

A woman in a room is sitting at a laptop and speaking
Sophia Ashipala of the AU emphasised the importance of education, science, technology and innovation.

“Education, science, technology, and innovation are the cornerstones of progress and development for any nation or continent. As we embark on this journey together, it is crucial to recognise the immense potential that lies within Africa’s youth and the transformative power of education,” noted Ashipala. 

Africa, like many other regions, faces profound challenges in its education systems, spanning from early childhood education to tertiary and higher education levels. These systemic issues have widened the gap towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education, a challenge mirrored in the Continental Education Strategy for Africa

“Having education as the theme of the year 2024 is a significant step that is expected to shine a continental spotlight on building resilient systems for increased access to inclusive, quality, and relevant education in Africa,” Ashipala stated. This theme year will involve concrete and impactful activities and initiatives at various levels. 

Focus on peacebuilding 

The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers came together with FCA to organise the event with network members from across the continent participating and briefing their work on conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Africa.

A group of people pose for a photo outside. Behind them is a banner that bears the logo of The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers
Members of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers posed for a photo during the AU office launch event in Ethiopia.

FCA hosts the Secretariat of the Network, a global movement of over 100 members (primarily religious and traditional actors, women, and young people) working across 40 countries worldwide to achieve peace through mediation and dialogue.

Two men sit in an office and smile at the camera. Behind them is a banner bearing the FCA logo
John Bongei, FCA Kenya Country Director (L) meets with Ambassador Frederic Gateretse-Ngoga (R)

Network members had the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Frederic Gateretse-Ngoga, the Senior Advisor on International Partnerships, the AU border program and regional security mechanisms in the office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security.

He pointed out the vital role of religious leaders in peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and post-conflict resolution, their respected status within communities making them key figures in sustaining peace.

“There is need for Africa to have its own strategy for the world,” he said, adding that “there can be no successful peace process without the involvement of religious leaders and traditional mediation methods,” he said.

The Network’s Regional Programme Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, Gina Dias, shared that “84% of the world’s population has a religious affiliation, and in recent years, roughly two-thirds of all conflicts have or have had a religious dimension. Religious leaders and faith-based organisations play an important mediating role in many conflict situations and yet are often not fully acknowledged, and their potential contribution remains underutilised.”

African expertise

FCA operates in five African countries and, as an organisation, recognises the critical importance of establishing deeper connections with the AU. This commitment comes at a time when Africa is resolutely working towards realising the aspirations of ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

All of FCA’s Country Directors for African countries were present at the inauguration from Central African Republic, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. 

Mahdi Abdile, FCA’s Executive Representative to the AU, emphasised the strategic importance of the inauguration, “the reason why this event is important is because the AU is a strategic partner for us as FCA, and we want to enhance our collaboration and strengthen our partnership, understand their priorities, and identify areas where we can work together.”

Text and photos: Daisy Obare

Read more about our work in African countries: Central African Republic, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda

District council formation in Burhakaba, Somalia launched with emphasis on inclusion

District council formation in Burhakaba, Somalia launched with emphasis on inclusion

Burhakaba district in the Bay region of Somalia celebrated the launch of a process to form their district council, a critical step in forming inclusive local governance to support peace and development in the region

The President of Southwest State of Somalia, H.E Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Laftagaren, graced the launch event on June 11th 2023 of the district council formation process for Burhakaba district in order to improve the provision of essential service delivery to the people in Burhakaba.

The district stakeholders welcomed the initiative, citing it as an opportunity to advance the long-awaited decentralization effort in the district. “Whereas the district government has been an exclusive institution in the past, the initiative district council brings needed local representation.”

“The population of Burhakaba will no longer feel the pinch due to the lack of inclusive administration as we are set to elect a council that can hopefully advance our mutual interests,” said Muno Mohamed, the Chair of Burhakaba district.

H.E. President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed Laftagaren echoed similar thoughts further stating that “[the] Burhakaba population should take note of other districts such as Hudur, Barawe, Dinsoor and Bardale that have a well-functioning district administration.”

The path to one person, one vote 

The President, speaking on the monumental achievement for the district, explained the three phases of the council formation. The first phase is where the Ministry of Interior nominates the district administration; phase two sees a section of key community representatives electing the council members through a series of consultative and awareness raising process; and phase three will involve a voting process to elect one representative at each district in the state before the end of next year.

“We want to have an accountable district administration that can help the population of Somalia to achieve the planned second phase of liberation efforts that would eventually set the country free from the shackles of Al-Shabab and through which we can after achieve meaningful development,” continued the President.

Inclusive governance through meaningful women’s representation

While speaking on women’s inclusion to the council members, the Minister of the Interior Southwest State of Somalia, Mr. Abdullahi, shared, “We can no longer define inclusivity as just having few clan members at the district administration, but rather we want to see women at the decision-making table through ensuring 30 per cent quorum for women representation at Burhakaba district council. “

Mr. Abdullahi’s counterpart from the Ministry, the Director General, Mr. Mustafa, also emphasized the need to have meaningful female representation.

“My specific request goes to our respectable community elders, we should no longer be discussing the inclusion of women without tangible progress and as such we aim to have women incorporated to this crucial process throughout. As such, Burhakaba should follow the path of Dinsoor which had 50 per cent female council members “

The President reiterated the stakeholders’ consensus on the need to have women and youth in the decision-making process. The Somali authorities and communities lead the council formation process of Burhakaba with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Finland via the MIDEEYE project, supported by The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and implemented by FCA Somalia.

FCA supports the formation of inclusive local governance through district council formation in line with the Wadajir National Framework and National Reconciliation Framework. Together with the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, we work closely with the Somali State and Federal Government, local authorities, communities, and civil society partners.

Text: Fatima Abshir

Religious actors play a critical role in peace processes

Religious actors play a critical role in peace processes

The war in Ukraine coloured the discussion at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany between August 31st and 8 September 2022. Also highlighted was the role of the churches in peacebuilding and reconciliation, which led to a lively panel discussion on 5th September, organised by Finn Church Aid and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

THE TITLE of the panel discussion was “Faith-based actors’ role in peace-building and reconciliation processes”. Taking part were Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Most Rev. Dr. Tapio Luoma; Moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Dr. Agnes Abuom from the Anglican Church of Kenya; Ms Sally Azar from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan; and the Holy Land and Mr Matthias Wevelsiep from the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

Since over 80% of the world’s population self-identify as as members of a religious group, religious actors play a critical role in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and reconciliation processes around the world. Mediators from a religious background work within communities, while tradition and faith serve as motivation and guide for peacebuilding.

The panel emphasised the importance of religious leaders and communities as well as other faith-based actors in peace processes.

“Looking globally, religious leaders have a lot of influence in their own communities, but also a great responsibility to act equitably and promote justice and peace with their own activities,” said Archbishop Tapio Luoma.

Moderator of the WCC Central Committee Agnes Abuom also emphasised the importance of ecumenical organisations as platforms for dialogue and peacebuilding.

four panelists and moderator
Panel discussion organised by FCA and Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. PHOTO: KATRI SUOMI/FCA

Ecumenical cooperation to promote peace

The World Council of Churches was founded in Amsterdam in 1948 and includes 352 member churches from more than 120 countries. The Assembly is WCC’s highest decision-making body and meets every eight years. WCC’s mission is to promote Christian unity. Work to promote peace and justice has also been a key element of WCC’s operations since its foundation.

Finn Church Aid is WCC’s partner organisation, supporting WCC’s projects for peacebuilding in the Middle East as well as interreligious dialogue and cooperation. In addition, FCA works actively in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), sending volunteers annually to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. During the three-month period, the volunteers monitor the human rights situation at the grassroots level, report on it and provide a protective presence to the locals.

FCA’s other global ecumenical partners are the ACT Alliance and the Lutheran World Federation.

Text: Sini Tyvi
Photos: Paul Jeffrey / WCC Assembly and Katri Suomi / FCA

Building inclusive local governance in Somalia

Building inclusive local governance in Somalia

In Somalia, FCA has trained more than 700 women leaders in leadership and other skills.

OVER THREE DECADES OF CONFLICT has left Somalia in poverty, most of its infrastructure destroyed, and ongoing political instability and armed conflict exacerbate the effects of climate shocks. Women have borne the brunt of these hardships.

FCA has been supporting state-building and the establishment of inclusive local governance through district council formation in line with the Wadajir National Framework and National Reconciliation Framework. Together with the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, we worked closely with the Somali State and Federal Government, local authorities, communities, and civil society partners.

In 2021, we released a new publication on lessons learned and best practices for supporting inclusive local governance, focusing on promoting the participation of women, youth, and marginalised groups to support future state-building efforts in Somalia. As decision-making is largely in the hands of clans, which men dominate, decision-making processes exclude women, youth and marginalised groups. Since 2016, our support has resulted in the formation of five new district councils, with sixteen women elected as district council members. Furthermore, FCA has trained more than 700 women leaders in leadership and other skills.

In 2021, we lobbied for women’s meaningful participation in federal and district elections. In the Barawe district of Southwest state, a new council was formed, comprising twenty men and seven women, including the first female Deputy Mayor. Twenty youth (fourteen men and six women) were also elected. In partnership with the Network, Somali Peace Line and the Ministry of Women, Human Rights and Development, we promoted women’s participation in federal elections in Southwest and Hirshabelle State, advocating for a 30% quota.

Social media, radio and television raised awareness about civic rights and opportunities to participate in political processes and communication activities that FCA supported. That contributed to a 98 per cent awareness rate of district council formation, which helped increase the participation of women and other marginalised groups. Inclusive local governance in Somalia is time-consuming and labour-intensive work, but the incentive is clear – the dividend is peace.

“Looking Back – Looking Ahead” report documents more than a decade of work in inclusive local governance in Somalia

“Looking Back – Looking Ahead” report documents more than a decade of work in inclusive local governance in Somalia

FCA launched a new publication on inclusive local governance in Somalia with support from the EU. The report covers the lessons of the District Council formation process, community participation, and the inclusion of women, youth, and marginalised groups.

ON NOVEMBER 24, 2021, in an event co-organized by the Federal Ministry of Interior and Reconciliation Affairs (MOIFAR) and Finnish NGO FCA, FCA launched a new publication on inclusive local Governance in Somalia with support from the EU. The publication has been developed through a participatory process with key local governance and stabilization actors and partners in Somalia and documents more than a decade of work in inclusive local governance.

More than 50 participants representing the government at federal and state levels across Somalia, district administrations and councils, elders, women’s groups and networks, and key stabilization and international support actors convened to discuss inclusive local governance efforts in Somalia in-person and online. At the event, the participants reflected on the lessons learned, challenges and best practices captured in the publication and identified priority actions and next steps to take the recommendations forward.

The publication covers the lessons of the District Council formation process, community participation, and the inclusion of women, youth, and marginalised groups.

Local governance is the most visible form of government to the people

In Somalia, eight district councils have been established in line with the Wadajir National Framework of 2016. Out of these eight, five district councils have been successfully formed with active and inclusive community participation, including women, youth and marginalized groups, with the efforts and support of FCA and its partners and with generous support from the EU.

As local governance is the most visible form of government to the people, it is crucial it is seen as inclusive and legitimate. Establishing community-owned, functional local governments responsible for delivering services to their population supports the legitimacy of government and fosters trust and good relations between government and local communities

As highlighted by the Director General of MOIFA, Saed Alasow in his opening remarks:

“MOIFAR really appreciate the joint efforts and collaboration between the Somalia government, donors and civil society support for inclusive local governance in Somalia, MOIFAR is fully committed of supporting and facilitating inclusive local governance and Reconciliation in Somalia, also encourages the participation of all stakeholders.”

One of the key lessons is that formation of these councils are so much more than elections. Civic education, dialogue, conflict resolution, reconciliation, negotiation, and power-sharing have just as much of a role. In addition, support to women’s political participation brings tangible change at different levels.

Reconciliation processes need to be revisited

“The reconciliation processes need to be revisited and resigned to be inclusive because male dominates the reconciliation, but women play critical roles, but their contribution is not recognized, and they are not given credit for their efforts, this has to be changed,” said Idil Ibrahim, a program advisor for Life and Peace Institute on reflecting lessons learned and best practices.

Visions and dreams related to the future of Somalia’s local governance include implementing district council formation processes in all the remaining districts across Somalia: good relations and collaboration among different levels of Governance across the country, community ownership of district council formation, and having resources for it allocated by the central government, a democratic and inclusive Somalia with systems in place and all essential services attended to by districts, realized national reconciliation as a foundation for trust-building, unity and more vital governance institution, a shared vision of a common future leading the way to a new social contract and social cohesion; political stability, justice and an improved security situation at large.

“In comparison to the other districts that have not yet been formed in Somalia’s South West state, hope, confidence, and trust have been stored in the established district councils,” said Director General of South West State Ministry of Interior, Mustafa Sh. Abdullahi.

“Furthermore, we are here to promote inclusivity and women’s rights in any government formation – if we look back and solve issues in the community, we are looking ahead in a better way.”

For more information:

For more information on FCA’s and partners efforts in promoting inclusive local Governance, and to access the publication, please refer to: kua.fi/localgov

Since 2016 FCA has been implementing various Right to Peace programmes, from promoting inclusive local governance through district council formation (DCF) following the Wadajir National Framework for Local Governance to increasing women’s political participation. The programmes have been supported by the EU delegation to Somalia, USAID/TIS+ and Somalia Stability Fund.

Media inquiries: Mr. Ikali Karvinen, tel. +252 617 234 597, email: ikali.karvinen[a]kua.fi (preferred way of contact)

Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Distance learning, quarantines and travel bans. Lockdowns, cancelled events, and hundreds of online meetings. Remembered as the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was an exceptional year for everyone, including Finn Church Aid, writes executive director Jouni Hemberg.

Conditions have been dire in our programme countries before; however, this was the first time that a crisis affected the entire organisation. Even though we have experienced conflicts, earthquakes, natural disasters and epidemics, none of us had ever experienced a global pandemic.  

Although what happened during the year took us and everyone else by surprise, we weren’t entirely caught off guard. As our teams are geographically dispersed, remote working is not unusual. In Finland, our entire Helsinki office relocated to employees’ homes practically overnight. When I compare the ease of remote working now to what it was a year ago, it’s as different as night and day. Our country offices in Asia, Africa and the Middle East were also able to ward off coronavirus infections for a long time, which was crucial for our Covid-19 response in 2020 

The pandemic has inevitably affected our education, livelihoods and peace programme work. Schools worldwide switched to distance learning, and some had to shut down entirely in 2020. While families in Finland agonised over remote school and remote work arrangements from home, people in our programme countries needed to be even more resourceful. Without access to internet or any infrastructure, teachers travelled from village to village teaching children, and radio lessons were provided. 

Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact on livelihoods. Unlike in Europe where governments have taken responsibility for helping people and businesses cope, people in developing countries have been left to their own devices. In countries where social safety nets are weak, an epidemic much less dramatic than the Covid-19 pandemic can make life difficult. Unable to earn a living, people are forced to leave their homes and seek opportunities elsewhere. Forced migration is not only a risk in terms of the pandemic, but it also increases regional tensions. Conflicts arise regardless of epidemics, and this has made our peace work all the more challenging.  

Despite such challenging circumstances, we as an organisation have performed extremely well. A significant increase in our international funding shows that partners such as the UN, the EU and other public funding providers, have strong faith in us and our vision. 

However, the Covid-19 epidemic diminished our church collection income. With various social restrictions in place, we have been unable to reach our donors as we normally would. Passing the collection plate online is very difficult, and our hardworking face-to-face fundraisers were forced to stay at home. But while our internal funding in Finland decreased, so did our expenditures, as travel-related costs shrank. With that being said, we were fortunate to not experience significant losses in 2020.  

A year amidst the pandemic has opened our eyes to new opportunities. We must be able to grow as an organisation and learn how to make effective use of new digital tools. Going forward, a large part of our education activities will no longer take place in physical buildings despite a vast number of people in places like Africa will still need access to education. This is where digital learning could come into play. The fact remains that the way we work will never be the same it was before the pandemic. We need to contemplate on the lessons learned during the pandemic and adopt new working modalities in the future.  

As the Executive Director of Finn Church Aid, it is my heartfelt wish that we will soon defeat the pandemic and begin our journey to recovery. Our post-Covid-19 work will focus strongly on sustainable development. We will continue our efforts to promote education, peace, livelihoods and equality. And now that remote working has proved successful, we can start pursuing more ambitious environmental objectives, such as rethinking what constitutes as necessary travel. 

Although 2020 was an extremely tough year for us at Finn Church Aid, it was also a major success story, thanks to our employees, board members and other elected representatives and volunteers. You are our most significant resource, and your valuable input allows us to help those most in need.  

You are also the best indicator of quality and trust in our activities. Thanks to your efforts to develop our operations, our funding has increased. We learned a valuable lesson from the pandemic: when all the parts of our organisation come together, we can weather any crisis. 

Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director for Finn Chruch Aid

This text twas originally published as the preamble of our Annual Report 2020 that came out recently. Would you like to know more about what was done?

South Sudan faces multiple shocks, but optimism remains

South Sudan faces multiple shocks but optimism remains

South Sudan reaches its tenth Independence Day on 9th July in a situation in which the Covid-19 pandemic is hampering the country’s gradual recovery from conflict. An economic crisis and exceptional floods add to the challenges, but there is also significant optimism among youth, writes Finn Church Aid’s Humanitarian Coordinator Moses Habib.

WHEN WILL THE PANDEMIC END? Who brought Covid-19 to South Sudan? These are questions we encountered from beneficiaries while rolling out community awareness campaigns about the pandemic. As a layperson with limited knowledge about Covid-19, it was intriguing to explain to people the myths about a virus we all did not understand, and that left me with memories I will have forever.

The general situation in South Sudan is dire. What worries me most is that before the pandemic struck, more than two-thirds of the country’s population – about 8.3 million people – were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance in order to survive. In 2020, the multiple shocks caused by intensified conflict and sub-national violence, a second consecutive year of major flooding, and the impacts of Covid-19 hit communities severely.

The challenges increased the vulnerability of populations that were already at risk. It worries me even more to hear some say that there is not enough political will to end their suffering.

We believe that advancing inclusion over exclusion paves the way for addressing the root causes of conflicts and ending the cycles of violence. In practice, we equip youth, women, traditional and religious actors with skills in conflict resolution, mediation and peacebuilding. Our efforts have materialized at local and community levels but have not yet translated to adequate representation in the national peace process.

What gives me hope is that there is optimism among young people, despite the country’s protracted challenges. South Sudan has abundant natural resources, which keeps many South Sudanese optimistic about the future. People believe that with a conducive environment free of conflict, this country has the potential to take off and become a breadbasket of the East African region and beyond.

Text: Moses Habib, Humanitarian Coordinator
Main photo: Sumy Sadurni

Photo story Peace Work for over 10 years

Finn Church Aid has worked in South Sudan throughout the country’s independence. FCA builds peace in local communities, empowers youth and women in peacebuilding and through access to vocational education, and supports children’s access to school. Have a look at photos of our work throughout the years!

Joukko ihmisiä on kokoontunut istumaan ulos.

Members of a youth peace committee in Pibor in 2019. Pibor has a reputation for cattle rustling and fighting between youth groups, but peace committees have reduced conflict and supported reconciliation.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

A gathering of the women’s peace committee in Pibor in 2019. Women are an integral part of peace building efforts but often not represented in peace processes. Before this group was founded, villagers reported incidents of violence five times a week. Thanks to peace committees like this one, incidents in 2019 occurred at an average of once a week.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

One of Finn Church Aid’s key objectives is to maximise the opportunities of children and young people to attend school and receive a quality education. This project, funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), supported 7,000 pupils’ access to school in Fangak County.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Girls playing after class in New Fangak. Schools offer a safe place for girls amidst disasters, societal pressures and harsh economic realities that lie at the bottom of issues like child marriage and child labour.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Joukko ihmisiä on kokoontunut istumaan ulos.

Teacher training funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) in New Fangak. The training of teachers builds the foundation for quality education.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Youth at the local youth centre in Pibor. Football is one of the most popular pastimes across the country.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Floods and drought create challenges for food production in South Sudan’s northern parts. Nyaluak Kong Kuon lost her harvest to the floods and faces difficulties in planting during the heat of the dry season.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Nyakuola Pale Thieng grows onions on her lands in Old Fangak. In 2020, a total of 6,347 beneficiaries benefitted from Finn Church Aid’s distribution of agricultural inputs and fishing gear.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Luor Luny Thoar with his catch near Toch village in South Sudan’s Sudd swamp. Besides receiving gear, fishermen are also trained in fish preservation methods, which ultimately increase the profit of their livelihood when they sell their catch to the market.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Youth at the Juba Technical School. Finn Church Aid supports Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) for youth in for instance construction, catering, mechanics, hairdressing and tailoring.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

23-year old Abir Mustafa trains in construction. More than half of the 414 youths that benefited from TVET training in 2020 were women.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

21-year-old Reida trained in catering in Juba and managed to secure an internship at a hotel. In 2020, 414 young people completed a post-vocational internship in the private sector, and 298 of them continued at work after their internship.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

The market in Yei town in South Sudan’s southern parts. Yei County is traditionally considered South Sudan’s breadbasket region due to its fertile soil and agricultural traditions. The conflict that erupted in 2016 forced many to flee across the border to neighbouring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

The peace agreement in September 2018 has encouraged some people to return home from the refugee settlements. Finn Church Aid supports returnees and the host community in Yei with for instance cash transfers that help people feed their families and rebuild their houses and livelihoods.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Siblings Stella, 28, and Pascal, 25, returned to Yei from Uganda’s refugee settlements in 2019 and have worked hard to cultivate their plot of land. Pascal managed to finalise his agricultural studies thanks to the cash transfers.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni