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Potential of the Finnish Somali Diaspora for Peacebuilding : Diaspora Insight

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Title: Potential of the Finnish Somali Diaspora for Peacebuilding : Diaspora Insight
Author(s): Olkkonen, Katri
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
Specialisation: African and Middle Eastern Studies Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
In this thesis I concentrate on diaspora peacebuilding and examine the potential of the Finnish Somali diaspora for peace in Somalia. My research question is, how members of the Finnish Somali diaspora perceive the greatest challenges and primary needs in Somalia for peace and their abilities to contribute to peace in the country. My research data consists of eight semi-structured interviews resembling themed interviews. These interviews were conducted with active members of the Finnish Somali diaspora, and I have analysed them by using qualitative content analysis. The aims of my research are to contribute to the current critical academic discussion on peacebuilding and to deepen the discussion on diaspora peacebuilding, as well as to bring out voices from the Finnish Somali diaspora regarding peacebuilding. In the theory chapter I review current academic discussion on the challenges of peacebuilding related to local ownership and negotiated hybridity and examine novel academic literature on the strengths of diaspora for peacebuilding. Drawing from both theoretical literatures, I suggest that diaspora could mitigate shortcomings on the peacebuilding field for example with the help of context-specific knowledge and a more nuanced understanding of actors and power structures at play in their place of origin, and by helping to bridge the gap between the local and the international. In the material analysis I examine the challenges and needs for peace in Somalia as perceived by my interviewees and their hopes and dreams for the future of the country. Moreover, I explore strengths of the Finnish Somali diaspora for peacebuilding in Somalia and challenges to diaspora peacebuilding as identified by my interviewees. The challenges for peace in my interview data mostly related to problematics of a long-collapsed state and economic or resource related power structures in a country suffering from an elongated conflict. My interviewees demonstrated an understanding of different actors and power structures at play in Somalia on both local, regional, and international levels. My interviewees understood peacebuilding in a broad way, and skills and knowledge transfer was a preferred mechanism of diaspora peacebuilding in most of my interviews. Capacity building and education transfer came up multiple times, and education and experience from Finland was considered highly valuable. Setting up businesses in Somalia was also considered positive as long as locals would be employed. These activities were presented as a response to the challenges in Somalia related to poverty and unemployment and hence radicalisation, especially among youth. Political involvement of the diaspora in Somalia was mostly seen as problematic. The greatest challenge for diaspora peacebuilding identified by my interviewees was the poor security situation in Somalia. From my research it is clear, that the diaspora is a heterogenous group just as the local or the international is, and there are generational differences within the Finnish Somali diaspora that need to be considered in relation to diaspora peacebuilding. Based on this study, I would encourage further research on peacebuilding and diaspora youth, and on diaspora-local relationships.
Keyword(s): diaspora peace peacebuilding local ownership local turn hybrid peace hybrid governance Somalia Finnish Somali diaspora Somali diaspora youth semi-structured interviews qualitative content analysis rauha, rauhanrakentaminen

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