The end of the transition period in Somalia and the adoption of a new provisional constitution represent an “historic starting point” for the East African country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling on the international community to provide support to the State in its next political phase.
“My message to this conference and the world is this: Commit to long-term assistance for Somalia,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the second Istanbul Conference on Somalia, adding that financial resources as well as engagement with the country are essential to help it tackle some of its major challenges, including terrorism, piracy and drought.
Known as Istanbul II, the two-day conference brings together the private sector, donors, Somali authorities, the UN – including the President of the General Assembly, Abdulaziz Al-Nasser –
and civil society to focus on the country's recovery and development as well as support for Somalia’s political transition.
After decades of warfare, the Horn of Africa country is undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with its Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing a roadmap, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on 20 August.
Next month, the country will adopt a new provisional constitution and members of parliament will be selected by Somalia’s elders, with assistance from a so-called Technical Selection Committee, to ensure that the nominees meet the criteria set out in an earlier agreement.
“The end of the transition marks the beginning of a new phase in the political process,” Mr. Ban said. “A new phase of inclusive dialogue where all Somali voices should be heard […].”
The Secretary-General praised the country’s leaders for their commitment to ensuring that women hold 30 per cent of all seats in the new institutions, and stressed that the new constitution must reflect international human rights standards.
“In the transition toward a better future of Somalia it is crucially important to ensure that women’s rightful place be established in their society,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Ban emphasized that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its successor will have to earn the population’s trust and quickly start delivering security and basic services to avoid a power vacuum that could be exploited by warlords in the country.
The UN chief reiterated the UN’s support to help Somalia establish its own security and justice institutions that can consolidate progress in the long-term, and underscored the need to build the country’s capacity to uphold the law and fight impunity.
“Success in building the security sector and rule of law now and in the future demands far greater engagement from both the Somalis and the international community,” Mr. Ban said. “I urge donors to contribute to this critical effort. In the face of terrorism, piracy and drought, Somalia needs solidarity.”
In his remarks to Istanbul II, General Assembly President Al-Nasser acknowledged the progress made in Somalia’s peace and reconciliation process, emphasizing that much remained to be done before the end of the country’s transition process.
“We still face many challenges – there are continued, widespread grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, especially against the most vulnerable,” Mr. Al-Nasser said. “I would also note that targeting, obstructing or preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, and any attack on humanitarian personnel, is unacceptable.”
He also flagged the problem of piracy off Somalia’s coastline, and stressed that although there have been signs of improvement on the humanitarian front, that improvement “can only be sustained by continuing the current level of assistance."
In addition, the Assembly President reiterated that the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel – civilian and uniformed – must be a top priority for all involved.
Until last year, most of the Somali capital of Mogadishu was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the TFG, with the latter supported by the peacekeeping forces of the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital’s central parts in August 2011, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s surrounding area.
However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place; and the capital is home to more than 180,000 displaced people in need of humanitarian assistance.
In December 2011, Secretary-General Ban and President Al-Nasser paid a surprise visit to Mogadishu to express the solidarity of the United Nations with the people of Somalia – the first time that a Secretary-General and an Assembly President visited the country together, and the first by a UN chief in nearly two decades.
While on the ground, the two men met with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and other leaders to discuss the way ahead and how the international community can help the country, which has been torn by factional strife for the past 20 years.
In his closing remarks at the end of the conference on Friday, the Secretary-General thanked all of the countries represented which pledged their support for Somalia’s peace and reconciliation process, noting that the international community has a responsibility to help Somalia achieve its goals.
“I leave you with a simple message: keep your word. Speeches are only useful if they are matched by actions,” he told the gathering. “Pledges are empty if they are not backed by funds."
"Promises are meaningless if they are not kept – let us give great meaning to this Istanbul II Conference by working for our vision of a peaceful and prosperous Somalia,” he added.