HARGEISA, 25 November 2009 (Somalilandpress) – A consultative meeting forum hosted by the International Horn University funded by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Finish Church Aid (FCA) was held at Ambassador Hotel in Hargeisa. The forum brought together some Religious & Traditional leaders, Civil Society and Government Representatives.

The conference was intended to be forum to debate on constant issues touching the impact of the activities carried out by the Aid Workers as well as to build the confidence, respect and understanding between the Traditional leaders, Religious Community and International agencies for mutual benefit and identify areas of future collaboration to improve efficiency as well as enhance security in the areas of operation.

The forum was officially opened by the president of the International Horn University who mentioned that some of our people believe a wrong idea from International NGOs which is making westernization to the domestic Communities. Participants were from the religious and traditional leaders, civil society, government officials and representatives from the International NGOs working in Somaliland.

During the one-day session, it has been discussed about how the Aid Workers carry out their humanitarian actions while considering the cultural sensitivity of the local Somaliland communities. It has been highlighted the importance of respecting the cultural and religious believes of the local communities during different interventions from the international aid workers.

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Some of the religious and traditional leaders mentioned the sensitivity of the local population that the international NGOs are spreading Christianity and western ideologies among them. They said people see the NGOs as a tool to change people’s believes along with the limited humanitarian aid they provide. They said it is the NGOs to proof their stance by respecting the local cultures.

It has been highlighted the importance of engaging the local communities in the planning, implementation and intervention stages of the projects so that people it will enable people to fill the gaps and fulfill their basic needs. Some participants said the donor driven policy is not going to work at this stage.

Officials from the Somaliland government highlighted the importance of collaborating with the government in all the projects. They said it is important for the government to know who is doing what and where so that it will be easy for the government to provide the necessary support in terms of security, accessibility and others.

Representatives of the International NGOs said they are here to deliver the humanitarian needs and not to intervene people’s believes and cultures. They said being from different countries they sometimes don’t know about the local costumes and that can sometimes bring clash of cultures or cultural shock. They said they do their best to consult their local staffs and respect the community leaders when it comes to believes and cultures.

In this light, it has been suggested that the NGOs should employ cultural and religious consultants to avoid any violations against the social and cultural believes of the local people. It has been also mentioned that the NGOs should collaborate with the traditional and religious leaders when implements projects in any area of the country. That will make the local populations collaborate with the NGOs.

Some of the participants complemented that role of the NGOs in the development and emergency situations in Somaliland. They mentioned how Somaliland’s people survived with the assistance of the UN/INGOs during the mass displacement in 1988 until now where many development projects have been successfully implemented by the humanitarian workers.

During the session, it has also been discussed about the security. The traditional and religious leaders said it is their responsibility to protect the aid workers in the field. They mentioned that Islam prohibited harming those who are helping the needy and the Somalis are good at hosting the guests in all conditions.

At the end, the participants and the organizers of the conference agreed to hold more of this kind to enable people exchange ideas and discuss the issues concerning all.

The conference was a follow up of another one which took place earlier this year which has been discussed the role of the International Aid Workers in Somaliland.