Remittances for Peace? Experiences from Somalia

Led by Cindy Horst

Jun 2007 – Jan 2008

The research will answer the question of whether remittances are, or can be, channelled to support peace initiatives in Somalia. This question will be answered through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with key-informants and others in Norway, Kenya and Somalia. Whereas there has been a steady increase in literature and policy initiatives related to remittances, the focus has largely been on how personal financial transfers can contribute to development processes rather than looking at their role in sustaining wars or contributing to peace. It is vital to gain an understanding of the links between migrant remittances and processes of conflict and peace, since refugee diasporas play a central but often underestimated role in home country politics.

In political terms, the recent developments in Somalia make it a particularly relevant and current case. Members of the elite in the Somali diaspora continue to have strong interests in the outcome of the conflict, and aim at influencing this outcome from abroad by contributing financial and other resources. The large majority of Somali refugees just want peace to be established, ultimately dreaming of going home, but, because of their clan-ties and other characteristics, often do support one side over another. While most of this support may be in mind, some of it can also take the shape of financial contributions to the political actors in Somalia. This support can both contribute to peace and reconciliation initiatives as well as to conflict. The research is set up as an exploratory study into this complex and delicate topic, aiming to increase our understanding of how remittance dynamics play into conflict and peace initiatives. Main questions include: who within the Norwegian Somali community financially support which political actors in Somalia; for what reasons; how are these remittances organized (privately, collectively) in Norway; what are these remittances used for in Somalia; and can we find examples of where remittances contribute directly to conflict or peace related initiatives.

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