Somali Youth guide development of National Culture Strategy for Somalia

On 24 and 25 May 2021, UNESCO, in collaboration with the Somali Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education (MOECHE), the Somali Academy of Arts and Science (SOMASA), and the Italian NGO CISP, held a national consultation and validation workshop for the Somalia National Culture Strategy and Action Plan for 2021-2025 in order to get youth and other key national stakeholders’ inputs on how to make it stronger, more relevant and respond to their needs, priorities and challenges.

The hybrid workshop mobilized 55 cultural stakeholders to engage in a participatory process for the Culture Strategy review, including 35 Somali participants at SOMASA in Mogadishu and 20 Somali and international participants who joined online. Eighteen youth were among the participants, half of them female. The workshop was led in English and Somali with simultaneous interpretation available both languages.

The National Culture Strategy and Action Plan were developed for Somalia following a national consultation and experts meeting in November 2020, which looked at natural and cultural heritage, intangible cultural heritage, underwater cultural heritage, and the cultural and creative industries sector in Somalia, as well as their role in promoting peace and sustainable development.

This May 2021 workshop was organized as part of the EU-funded “ArtXchange” project implemented by CISP and currently underway in Somalia, which aims to support young creative professionals and community-based organizations by promoting collaboration, capacity building and exchange as part of their AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub.

A brochure on the role of culture policies and culture diversity in Somalia was distributed to all participants along with a copy of the draft strategy and action plan. The first day presented the strategy and action plan with inputs from national and international experts. The second day invited the youth and other key stakeholders to reflect on the themes of the strategy and provide their conclusions and recommendations for inclusion in the final Strategy and Action Plan.

The meeting was opened on 24 May 2021 with introductory remarks by: Mr. Abdulkadir Nur Hussein, Chairperson of SOMASA, Ms. Chiara Camozzi, Culture Advisor of CISP Somalia, Ms. Karalyn Monteil, UNESCO Programme Specialist for Culture (on behalf of Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director and Representative of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa), and H.E Abdirahman Mohamud Abdulle, State Minister of MOECHE.

UNESCO introduced the role of culture, including natural heritage, in sustainable development and peacebuilding. Mr. Ismail Yusuf Osman, Director General of Culture and Higher Education presented the Draft National Culture Strategy and then international UNESCO experts–Ms. Ayeta Wangusa, Prof. George Abungu and Ms. Emily Drani–shared their comments and recommendations. Mr. Abdikadir Mohamed Osman, Head of the Culture and Research Department of MOECHE presented the draft action plan, and Dr. Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, MOECHE Technical Advisor, introduced the links between the National Culture Strategy and the National Education Strategy.

On the second day of the workshop, participants were divided into 5 groups for thematic discussions on youth involvement in implementation of the Culture Strategy and Action Plan. This was followed by presentations of group feedback, which included the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • Need for scholarships and training in culture and natural heritage management and promotion in order to increase youth engagement in heritage protection;
  • Use of social media platforms to promote Somali culture;
  • Promotion of Culture in all regions of Somalia as a way to teach coexistence, combat tribalism and foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding;
  • Increased awareness and education on Somali wildlife and natural heritage;
  • Promotion and safeguarding of the Somali language through culture and the arts;
  • Creation of more public spaces for culture and exchange;
  • Integration of Culture into the National Curriculum;
  • Use of culture competitions to increase youth engagement in culture;
  • Support for the production of local arts and crafts production;
  • Promotion of Somali poets and poetry.

Mr. Abdiqani Ahmed Abdullahi, Cultural Attaché from the Permanent Delegation of Somalia to UNESCO, gave conclusions and recommendations, highlighting the importance of having Somali youth voices influencing the future Somali Culture Policy. He pledged to search for opportunities for scholarships and capacity building for youth. Ms. Monteil from UNESCO recalled the opportunity to use UNESCO Clubs and UN Days to engage youth in the protection and promotion of culture, and highlighted the economic opportunities for youth employment in the culture sector, especially the cultural and creative industries such as music, film, art, theatre, dance, literature and poetry. Ms. Camozzi from CISP shared information on the Teachers Guide for Art and Culture developed by CISP and UNESCO through a previous EU Project as well as the Database of Somali Cultural Heritage, also developed with EU-funding. Lastly, Mr. Mohamed Caabi Hassan, General Director of MOECHE presented the closing remarks on behalf of H.E Abdullahi Abukar Haji Abdullahi, Somali Minister Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education. He stressed the importance of youth participation in peacebuilding and reviving Somali culture to ensure its transmission to future generations. He called on closer links between the Somali National University and SOMASA in strengthening the links between education and culture.

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