Now in its 12th year the Hargeysa International Book Fair, provides an opportunity for the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland to showcase cultural, literary and journalistic talent and develop an international profile. At this year’s event the political class of Somaliland were engaged throughout and it provided an occasion for many diaspora Somalis to return. The Vice-President of the Republic of Somaliland, H.E. Abdirahman Abdillahi Saylici, opened the event and over five days, an audience of several hundred people heard from novelists, journalists and academics specialising in Somaliland and the region.
The theme this year was ‘Coexistence’. This fitted a collaboration of three research projects concerned with the fate of new migrants to poor urban areas, all funded under the Poverty Alleviation strand from ESRC-DFID and jointly supported by the Impact Initiative. The projects were, first ‘Supporting the social mobility of trapped populations’ , a research project involving the University of Hargeysa in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Sussex, Durham and SOAS to investigate opportunities for internal migrants from pastoral areas of Somaliland to Hargeysa (in addition to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka). Second, ‘Safe and sustainable cities: human security, migration and wellbeing’ considered urban change in Bangladesh, led by the University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) at the University of Dhaka . Finally, ‘Security on the Move: Everyday Security of Internally Displaced People in rapidly growing Somali Cities’ was led by the University of Durham and Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Picture caption: Protecting migrants in the city panel (l-r) Mr. Abdirahman Edle, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO); Dr Jutta Bakonyi, Durham University; Dr Peter Chonka, Kings College London; Mr Mubarak, Director General of Ministry of Planning and National Development; Dr Ricardo Safra De Campos, University of Exeter
Photo: Michael Collyer, University of Sussex.
These three projects share a concern with the planning challenges and individual impacts of the growing movement of poor people into poor urban areas, in a variety of cities, including Hargeysa. At the book fair the three projects jointly received funding from the Dragon’s Den challenge set by the Impact Initiative. This funding enabled us to present two events, an exhibition and a panel discussion, under the theme ‘Protecting migrants in the city’. The exhibition ran for three days and involved comic book narratives from the ‘trapped populations’ project and photos from the use of the PhotoVoice method in the ‘safe and sustainable cities’ and ‘security on the move’ projects. The exhibition was launched by Professor Laura Hammond (SOAS) and Dr Peter Chonka (Kings College, London). The panel considered results from all three projects (see photo above).
The Director General of the Ministry of Planning and National Development, Mr Mubarak, served as the discussant on the panel. He made a commitment to uphold the rights of displaced people in planning in the city of Hargeysa. He also expressed his enthusiasm to continue to work with the results of the Hargeysa research to resolve the planning challenges that migration to the city created in a way that offered protection to those migrants and prioritised their permanent shelter.
Furthermore, Mr Mubarak identified a planning focus to support people in rural areas to investigate ways of preventing the failure of their herds to allow them to continue rural livelihoods if they wished. Migrants to the city were citizens, he said, and deserved to be protected as citizens.
This focus on citizens and on citizenship rights, coming from the representative of the Somaliland government has given all three projects an important new direction. The notion of the right to the city arose in wealthy cities yet it has found its way into the 2016 New Urban Agenda and is now easily recognisable around the world. The language of citizenship, which Mr Mubarak was comfortable using in this event, provides a basis to discuss equality and protection for migrants to the city, even those without security or housing rights who are often forcibly evicted. As these three research projects have come to an end, this provides a focus to develop the research and ensure that migrants to poor urban areas are less marginalised.