"They are here to discuss the needs of the people and the root causes of the conflict," Eric Laroche, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia, said in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on 29 May. "They are trying to find strategies to lift the lives of the Somali people out of a humanitarian situation and into one of recovery, reconstruction and development."
About 60 delegates from Somalia and elsewhere are attending the meeting. "Only 25 percent of schoolgoing children in Somalia are in school," Laroche added. "The meeting will discuss how the five-year programme can increase this to 40 percent."
Richard Hands of the European Union said: "The [fewer] children who go to school the [smaller] the chance to end the cycle of violence." Improved school enrolment, he added, would contribute to pacifying the Horn of Africa country.
The proposed five-year programme, which will cost an estimated US$2.2 billion, would involve training 300 judges and 10,000 police officers in southern Somalia, and improving water supply to 400,000 urban and 830,000 rural Somalis. It would also improve basic infrastructure, and focus on crop production and watershed management to increase yields by 50 percent.
Laroche said this was the first time a conference of this nature had been convened to discuss a plan that not only reflected the needs of the Somali people, but had the institutional support of the UN, the World Bank and donor countries.
The funds needed include $462 million for deepening peace, improving security and establishing good governance and $666 million to invest in people through improved social services, he added.
The remaining money is required to establish a sustainable environment for rapid poverty-reducing development.
Abdulkadir Walayo, one of the Somalis representing civil society, agreed that unless poverty was addressed, achieving sustainable peace in Somalia would take a long time. "If they address the problem of poverty, everything will then be alright," he told IRIN.
Organisers said they wanted non-state actors' views heard independently, adding that the outcome would represent at least 85 percent of what the general reconstruction and development plan would look like.
Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991. The transitional government that was named in Kenya in 2004 has yet to take full control of the country.