United Nations (New York)

14 February 2013

Somalia: For First Time in Two Decades, Somali People Speak of Hope, Optimism, Faith in New Developments, Even Though Still Facing Daunting Challenges, Security Council Told

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The Security Council this morning, as it was briefed by a top United Nations political official on the recent transformation in Somalia and the daunting challenges ahead, was told by the country's Deputy Prime Minister that the Somali people, for the first time in more than two decades, spoke of new hopes, optimism and confidence, as well as strong faith in the new developments in the country.

Fawzia Y.H Adam, who is also the Foreign Minister, said there had been a "rebirth" in her country, and she urged the United Nations and other friendly stakeholders to return to Mogadishu, where the security situation was "still difficult" but "manageable".

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun said the progress - marked by the establishment of a Federal Parliament, the selection of a President and the approval of a Prime Minister - called for a concomitant change in support, based on a new Somali-led partnership with a United Nations that no longer worked remotely from another country. The United Nations presence, he said, could steadily relocate in the coming 6 to 12 months from Nairobi to Mogadishu and be substantially realigned from a political office to a peacebuilding mission.

He noted that the Secretary-General, in his report (document S/2013/69), recommends the "liquidation" of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the establishment of a broader peacebuilding mission based in Mogadishu. Its envisaged tasks included good offices, advice and assistance on security, peacebuilding and State-building, electoral preparation, human rights and rule of law promotion, and coordination of international assistance. He intended to deploy a technical design mission to develop more detailed plans.

He added that the Secretary-General's recommendation for a United Nations Assistance Mission - while maintaining the high level of support of the United Nations Support Office (UNSOA) for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) - was the best option for the Organization to simultaneously provide enhanced support to peacebuilding and to meet other development and humanitarian objectives. Mr. Ban was committed to full structural integration as soon as conditions allowed.

There had been notable success achieved internationally, by the Somali Government, but that was matched by "daunting challenges" at home. It was continuing to implement its six-pillar policy for stabilization and peacebuilding. The growing expanse of territory liberated from Al-Shabaab had created an opportunity for the federal Government to extend its control over the country and enhance its legitimacy. "The Government was "working to fill the vacuum through an inclusive bottom-up approach, but the process is naturally contentious," he said.

Despite several attacks by Al-Shabaab, there was now a "tangible sense of security and optimism in Mogadishu", he said. Across the country, the African Union Mission in Somalia was deployed at full strength and had been effective in degrading Al-Shabaab's operational capability. However, that militia was not yet defeated, and its presence continued to hamper freedom of movement for Somalis and those who would assist them.

He said that a lack of sustainable and predictable funding for AMISOM also remained a concern. Security Council members were aware of the request of the Somali Government to relax the arms embargo in order to facilitate the development of the security sector. The Secretary-General suggested in his report that a calibrated approach be taken, based on all the factors at play, including the pressing need to support the development of Somali forces while avoiding the proliferation of uncontrolled weapons.

Development of the security sector, he added, must be coupled with enhanced support for the judiciary and respect for human rights. And, swift progress was needed to build accepted administrations in the liberated areas and ensure that the complex political process was accompanied by other critical stabilization deliverables, notably, security, law and order, and basic service delivery - without which long-term peace and development would be difficult to attain.

He noted the Secretary-General's concern by the ongoing threat to journalists working in the country and by the number of reported incidences of sexual violence, which underscored the considerable investment needed to develop a national framework that promoted international human rights norms.

Only the Somali people could realize the transformation that "we all hope for in their country", he said in closing. However, the United Nations could have a significant supporting role, and he looked forward to receiving the guidance of the Security Council on its future presence and engagement in the country.

Ms. Adam added that her country's renewal had started with the successful end of the transition and the laying of the foundations for credible, as well as viable, governance structures. Today, it had a fully functioning and lean Government and a robust and lively legislature. The well-known conflict and acrimony between Somali leaders was something of the past and a cooperative atmosphere now prevailed.

Her Government, she informed the Council, had adopted a policy framework consisting of six pillars: security and peacebuilding; law and good governance reform; economic recovery and public finance management reform; good and targeted service delivery; restructuring of international relations; and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.

Based on those pillars, the Government had adopted several initiatives and programmes. She said in the security sector, Government troops, in collaboration with the AMISOM, had regained control of new areas previously held by Al-Shabaab. Today, the rebel group was weakened, with its leadership in disarray and on the run. Her Government would continue the fight against that scourge until final victory was achieved.

It was establishing local administrations in the newly recovered areas in south-central Somalia, she said, noting that, based on the bottom-up approach referred to by Mr. Zerihoun, local communities were empowered to select their own leaders. The Government had also initiated much needed steps in establishing a credible, transparent and accountable public finance system, for which tax collection was a priority. A programme for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in neighbouring countries, as well as the resettlement of internally displaced persons to their original habitat, was also under way.

Serious challenges remained, however, and "we have no illusion about this", she said. Getting rid of the remnants of the Al-Shabaab was a top priority. That required the strengthening of the military capacity of the Somalia Defence Forces through training and, among other things, further restructuring command and control structures. To consolidate peace in the recovered areas, securing the necessary military and financial resources was another priority, and she called for the arms embargo to be lifted as a prerequisite for attaining that goal.

On the institutional capacity-building, she said further action was required and that was where the United Nations could step in by way of the specialized agencies' physical presence on the ground, which would team up with line ministries. Programmes could not succeed without the blessing, political will and long-term commitment of the international community to step up to the plate and partner with the new Somali Government in providing the necessary technical and financial resources. Security, she knew, was the pre-requisite for political, economic and social stabilization and recovery.

The support of the Security Council was required in lifting the arms embargo to allow the Somali National Armed Forces to assume full responsibility for the nation's own security. The Council of Defence and Security Ministers had discussed the issue of a maritime component for AMISOM during its eleventh ordinary meeting in Seychelles. Somalia had clearly stated that it did not need such a component, and it had been unanimously agreed, she said, stressing that significant progress had been made against piracy.

Meanwhile, she said the humanitarian situation remained critical for hundreds of thousands of its Somali people, with many at risk. A million citizens remained internally displaced and many more had sought refuge elsewhere. So many lives had been saved by the United Nations and the many humanitarian agencies and friends of Somalia. "Let us build on this success and invest in the capacity of our people to take care of themselves." She added: "We are strong people and should not be dependent on aid."

On human rights, the Somali Government was aware of the shortcomings and the prevailing abuses and was committed to move decisively to ensure access to basic human rights, so that the culture of violence, and particularly against women, was brought to an end. Turning to a resolution banning the charcoal trade and export, she asked the Council to punish the violators of the ban.

The Somali people and Government sought a permanent partnership with the United Nations for peace, good governance, socioeconomic, political and cultural cooperation, she said, adding that that requires a paradigm shift in the international community's engagement. The gradual return of the United Nations system to Mogadishu had begun, and she urged the United Nations and other friendly stakeholders to come back.

On AMISOM's future, she reiterated her country's position that there must be an integrated United Nations mission, which would deliver and speak as one. The advantages of having a unified structure far outweighed the concerns of those seeking to maintain the status quo. Somalia accepted that the integration of the military component could be gradual and could begin as soon as the active military campaign was over. "We sincerely hope that our voice is listened to," she said in closing.

The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 10:43 a.m.

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