While noting progress, the international group that brings together the United Nations and its diplomatic partners in support of efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia today expressed concern over the missing of deadlines which form part of the process of ending the country's current transitional governing arrangements on 20 August this year.
In a communiqué issued in Rome, Italy, today, following its 22nd meeting, the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia "reiterated its firm determination" that the transitional arrangements end on the agreed date, and welcomed progress made in reaching agreement on a final draft constitution for the country.
The two-day meeting, which ended on Tuesday, was chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga. Asides from representatives of the international community, those attending included Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden of Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and representatives of the Somali regions of other Somali regions and groups.
After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with its Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, which spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in August.
"The ICG noted progress in many areas of the Roadmap, and called for the remaining tasks to be completed on time. For the time being, the focus is rightly on ending the Transition on schedule," the communiqué stated.
"But the Group invited the next Government of Somalia within sixty days of its formation to set out its priorities and associated resource requirements with a view to securing international support," it added. "As a first step, the Group agreed to hold a preliminary, high-level discussion on emerging priorities in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September."
In February, the ICG had called for a new draft constitution to be completed by mid-April, noting how it would pave the way for the establishment of a new, smaller and more representative parliament and elections for the positions of Speaker, his or her deputies, and the President. The final draft constitution will now go to the National Constituent Assembly for provisional adoption.
The repeatedly missed deadlines which drew the ICG's concern included those for the opening and closing of the National Constituent Assembly, the selection and induction of the new Federal Parliament, and the election of the Speaker and his or her deputies, and the President. The ICG also called for the immediate activation of various committees, as well as a Roadmap Signatories Coordination Office.
"With regard to the Federal Parliament, the Group welcomed the need for the new body to meet Somali people's expectations, especially in terms of the quality and commitment of its Members, gender balance, more effective working practices and ability to hold the executive arm of government to account," the communiqué noted.
"A joint legislative work-plan should be developed between the new Parliament and Government, including with a view to strengthening the legislative framework for the promotion and protection of human rights and transitional justice," it added.
The ICG also offered to assist in building support inside Somalia for respect for all human rights and the rule of law.
In relation to security, the ICG commended recent military advances by the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), TFG forces and their allies, including Ethiopia, in "response to continuing aggression" by the Al Shabaab militant group, which controls parts of Somalia, primarily in its south-central regions.
While acknowledging AMISOM's improvement in the protection of civilians, the ICG called upon all actors to ensure protection of civilians, with particular attention to women and children.
The ICG called for unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance by all persons in need. Despite Somalia's official lifting out of famine earlier this year, the situation is still fragile and could be reversed without continued international aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Until last year, most of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides - Al Shabaab fighters and troops belonging to the TFG, with the latter supported by AMISOM forces. Displaced by fighting and drought elsewhere in the country, some 184,000 people have sought humanitarian relief in the city.
Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital's central parts in August, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city's surrounding area. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers still take place, as do outbreaks of fighting.
In late May, AMISOM and TFG troops pushed into the Afgooye corridor, outside of Mogadishu. At the time, OCHA said that while civilian casualties from the operation appeared to be light, the operation led to the reported displacement of some 18,000 people.
In its communiqué, the ICG also welcomed the adoption of the UN Security Council's resolution 2036, which expanded the operations and support package for AMISOM and raised its troop ceiling from 12,000 to a maximum of 17,731. The unanimously adopted resolution also called on Member States and regional and international organizations to provide additional equipment, technical aid and funding to the enlarged force.
South Africa has offered to host the next meeting of the ICG on Somalia in early 2013.