On July 21-22, 2002 members of the Somali business community met in Djibouti to discuss their role in the rebuilding of Somalia. On the agenda was the creation of a secure environment, the support and participation of the private sector in the economic reconstruction of the country and ways in which the business community could assist a new Somali government. The Djibouti "High-level Dialogue", which sprang from correspondence between Kenya's special envoy for Somalia and WSP International, occurred within the framework of the third and last phase of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference (SNRC). In October 2002, SNRC was launched by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.
The conference was the third forum for members of the Somali business community to discuss their obligations and commitment to Somalia's rehabilitation. The first such meeting was held in Dubai in April 2003 and cosponsored by the Dubai Somali Business Council and a partnership of the affiliated Center for Research and Dialogue and WSP International. The second meeting was cosponsored by the United Nations Development Program for Somalia (UNDP) and CRD/WSP International and held May 2003 at the Windsor Club in Nairobi. The two-day meeting addressed the challenges facing the Somali business community in the absence of a central government and the need to develop a strategy for national reconstruction. Participants met representatives of the international community and heard a statement by Ambassador Kiplagat. Members of the Somali business community also addressed the plenary of the SNRC at Mbagathi and pledged commitment and support. Although independent of the SNRC, both conferences essentially sought to harness the resources of the private sector to the goal of reconciliation. Neither however successfully maintained momentum.
The Djibouti High-level Dialogue was sponsored by IGAD and the government of Djibouti, and held at the Djibouti Sheraton. It coincided with the SNRC's final and critical phase, that of forging agreement on the formation of transitional institutions in a reconstituted Somalia. The meeting was attended by 36 Somali business-men and -women representing the major economic sectors and geographical regions of Somalia.
Also present, as befits a High-level Dialogue, were H.E. Ismail Omar Guelleh, president of the republic of Djibouti; H.E. Ali Abdi Farah, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the republic of Djibouti; H.E. Seyoum Mesfin, minister of foreign affairs of the federal democratic republic of Ethiopia; H.E. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, minister of environment and natural resources of the republic of Kenya; Mr. Mirugi Kariuki, assistant minister of foreign affairs of the republic of Kenya; and H.E. Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat, special envoy of the Kenyan government for Somalia. In attendance also were: diplomats from the United States, Sudan, and Eritrea; representatives of UNPOS, UNDP, EU Somalia and international organizations accredited to Djibouti. Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson University, who was touring the region, was also present. The conference was covered by the following media organizations, among others: BBC Somali Service; STN Television and Radio (Mogadishu); Djibouti Television; Benadir Radio; and Radio Shabelle.
The meeting was funded by UNDP Somalia and the government of Djibouti, which invited the participants and provided accommodation. CRD/WSP International facilitated the process. EU Somalia also extended background support.