Opening High-Level Partnership Forum on Somalia, Deputy Secretary-General Urges Strong Support for Building Peaceful, Prosperous Future for Thriving Nation

The United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson (right), the President of Turkey, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (middle) and Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left), address a press conference on the sidelines of the two-day High-Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) on Somalia, held in Istanbul, Turkey on February 23, 2016. Credit: UN Photo.

Deputy Secretary-General
Press Release

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the High-Level Partnership Forum on Somalia, in Istanbul:

President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, President [Hassan Sheikh] Mohamud, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank President Erdoğan for his generosity both as a host of this important forum and for Turkey’s unfailing support to Somalia.

I also want to convey my respect to President Mohamud and the representatives of Somalia’s federal Government and regional administrations for their efforts to make Somalia a peaceful and thriving nation. I am also encouraged to see so many international partners. Thank you for your commitment to Somalia.

Excellencies, I first visited Somalia as the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator in the 1990s. At that time, and for years afterwards, it was hard to imagine that we would see the substantial progress that we are recognizing at this Forum. Despite brutal terrorist attacks and the struggle to meet basic needs, Somalia today offers a story of hope — a source of good news in a turbulent world.

This year marks the end of the Somalia Compact and the end of the mandate of the first federal institutions formed under Somalia’s 2012 Provisional Constitution. Yet, 2016 is not a finish line. Somalia has tough challenges ahead. We must move beyond crisis management and towards an ever stronger partnership for sustainable peace and development, grounded in the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Somalis have worked hard over the past four years to build the foundations of a new federal, democratic State. I commend the federal Government’s decision of 28 January on an electoral model, particularly its commitment to make sure that 30 per cent of the seats in the new Parliament will be held by women.

I urge all stakeholders — Somali and international — to support implementation of this decision in line with the Mogadishu Declaration and Security Council resolution 2232 (2015). A secure, fair and transparent electoral process held on time will do much to maintain confidence in Somalia’s transformation.

This requires all parties to work together. For that reason, I am disappointed that Puntland’s Administration is not represented here today. I urge the people and Government of Puntland to play their full part in the 2016 process.

We all recognize that this is an interim step. I urge President Mohamud, in consultation with regional leaders, urgently to finalize a road map to deliver universal suffrage elections in Somalia in 2020. Those elections — Somalia’s first since 1969 — will be an extraordinary legacy of this generation of Somalia’s leaders.

Of course, democracy does not begin or end on election day. Legal, political, security and technical preparations are needed to ensure that everyone can participate freely and have confidence in the process. I urge the federal Government to begin these preparations soon.

Meanwhile, Somalia’s underlying governance framework must be expeditiously completed. I urge our Somali colleagues to make sure that the State formation and constitutional review are completed quickly, with the continued involvement of women, young people and minority groups. I pledge the full support of the United Nations to achieving this goal.

Excellencies, advancing the political process in Somalia requires a basic level of security. I pay tribute to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), whose work and sacrifices have helped to create space for political gains. I reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to our unique partnership in Somalia and our shared responsibility to support AMISOM in delivering its mandate.

Yet, we know that sustainable peace in Somalia can only come through capable, accountable, Somali security institutions, including army, police and intelligence services. None of us has done enough to advance that goal.

International support has been generous, but fragmented. Somalia’s leaders have been slow to create the necessary political and legal framework. We have all tended to focus on short-term operations at the expense of durable, nationally owned institutions grounded in the rule of law.

From today, we must do better. I warmly welcome the President’s announcement of a process to define a nationally owned security strategy and architecture, including a policing model suitable for a federal state. I urge all Somalia’s leaders to make it a priority to find agreement by May. I urge international partners to ensure coherent, unified support.

Excellencies, we must not see security as a purely military issue. Instead, let us take a broader look at what security means — and this, in particular, in the areas recently recovered from Al-Shabaab. I urge all to devise and invest in a comprehensive approach to Al-Shabaab.

We should do more to build up local police forces, which will free up military assets and create an enabling environment for economic growth. We should also support channels for the peaceful resolution of disputes, through local reconciliation and justice systems, especially to help Somali leaders engage marginalized groups.

I call on international partners to support community recovery and the extension of state authority and accountability, to help new administrations to deliver much-needed public goods and services. This will build stronger bonds between Government and the people. Such bonds must be extended to Somalia’s internally displaced people, who deserve durable solutions to their plight.

I want to emphasize the fundamental role of Somalia’s women and youth in building peace and development. As set out in this morning’s important side events, women and youth must have a voice and the tools for making a difference.

Excellencies, whenever we speak of building sustainable peace, human rights must be front and centre. This is especially critical in a setting where we wish to prevent and counter violent extremism. Respect for human rights standards by security forces should be a priority.

I commend the federal Government for its commitment to follow up on the recommendations of the universal periodic review recently held in Geneva. I encourage the prompt establishment of key national institutions, including a Human Rights Commission.

Excellencies, all this work is unfolding in a country where 40 per cent of Somalis remain dependent on humanitarian aid. There is a risk that Somalia slips down the priority list for assistance if seen as a protracted crisis. That would be disastrous. I urge partners at this crucial stage to contribute generously to the humanitarian priorities.

Beyond humanitarian aid, we must do more to help Somalia’s economy grow sustainably and equitably, including to the benefit of women and youth. We must work together to stimulate public and private investment in productive sectors that drive jobs and growth.

I welcome Somalia’s recent progress in public financial management, including the passage of procurement and anti-money-laundering legislation. Progress must continue in 2016. In parallel, I hope the Government and international partners will continue to increase the use of country systems and strengthen Somali ownership of its development.

To this end, the UN Peacebuilding Fund will today contribute $2 million, the first such direct investment through the “national window” of the Somalia Development and Reconstruction Facility. This should enable the federal Government to extend development support to federal states and interim regional administrations.

Looking ahead, we must also help Somalia create the conditions to access support from the international financial institutions. I warmly welcome the resumption of dialogue between the Government and the International Monetary Fund on next steps in this regard.

I want to make a particular plea on remittances, which remain a key source of income for many Somalis, far outstripping donor aid. I urge all of you to protect the flow of remittances, while working to develop more transparent legal channels.

Excellencies, the Somalia Compact has taken time to be translated into concrete plans and actions. But, it has gained momentum and confidence among Somalis and partners.

The national development plan will be another milestone. I commend the inclusive process so far. This plan will need coordinated international assistance across political, security and development efforts.

The next six months will be challenging both on the political and security fronts. This Forum is helping set the direction and prioritize issues that must be tackled. It needs to be followed through with regular engagement in Somalia.

We all recognize the need for international partners and the people of Somalia to work together at this critical moment in time. Somalia is reaching a turning point and we must all do our part to make sure it leads to greater opportunities and a better future for all the people of Somalia.

For information media. Not an official record.