Newly Elected President Urges Council to Help His Country Fend Off Looming Famine
Unanimously adopting resolution 2346 (2017) today, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 16 June.
By other terms of the resolution, the 15-member Council noted that a review of the United Nations presence in the East African country had been deferred until the end of the electoral process. Further by the text, the Council recalled all its previous resolutions and statements of its President concerning the situation in Somalia, in particular resolution 2275 (2016), by which it had requested the Secretary-General to conduct the review.
Briefing members after the adoption, Michael Keating, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said a drought-induced humanitarian crisis was engulfing Somalia with an imminent risk of famine. More than 6 million Somalis were in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Famine Prevention Operational Plan sought $825 million to reach 5.5 million people by June, he said, and further resources were needed to help affected people before it was too late. “Had the recent parliamentary and presidential elections not delivered a result accepted as legitimate, drought response efforts would be much more difficult.”
Against that backdrop, the recent elections had created a sense of hope, he said, noting that the new Parliament was more diverse, younger and female than ever. “Somalis have made history and set a great example to countries emerging from conflict,” he said. It was time to use that goodwill to build a functional and inclusive federal State to tackle the socioeconomic, structural and political issues that made millions of Somalis vulnerable to drought and insecurity.
Unless Somalia attracted serious investment and generated domestic revenues, State-building would remain an aspiration, he cautioned. He urged greater efforts to build institutional capacity, improve financial management, transparency and accountability, and eliminate terrorism.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo of Somalia, participating via teleconference, said the recent elections, despite enormous scepticism, had ended peacefully and democratically, and for the first time in history, women now held 30 per cent of the seats in Parliament.
At the same time, he said, more than half the population faced food shortages and 15 per cent of Somalis were facing famine. Having recently declared the drought a national disaster, he urged institutions to act immediately and work with the humanitarian community. “Your support and generosity will be noted, not only by the Somali people, but by history,” he declared. Redoubled efforts were needed to build resilience and disaster management.
On the security front, he said Al-Shabaab had been weakened, thanks to the sacrifice made by Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops. The only way to protect Somalia was to fully rebuild its army and security forces. “This is our goal and we will achieve it with your support,” he asserted.
Briefing via video-link, Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, agreed the security situation had greatly improved thanks to efforts by the Mission and the national forces. The Somali Government was working hard to improve its efficiency, while regional Governments had continuously built capacity to respond to people’s needs.
While the Somali economy had come back to life and 80 per cent of the territory had been recovered from Al-Shabaab, he said more must be done to ensure the security of liberated communities. Somali soldiers must be screened, equipped, paid and given command over how to effectively face the enemy, he said. As AMISOM would draw down in 2018, building the capacity of national forces was crucial.
During the discussion, Ethiopia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed to a number of Somalia’s important achievements, including the elections and progress in weakening Al-Shabaab. “What we see in Somalia today is more than a light at the end of the tunnel,” she emphasized. The United Nations and the international community must find ways of ensuring predictable, dependable funding for AMISOM so it could “finish the job”. Ethiopia, for its own part, was supporting the United Nations response by allowing the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to purchase supplies from its local markets, and facilitating easy-access corridors for humanitarian supplies entering Somalia.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council Presidency for March, said the crisis in Somalia had undermined gains made in the political and security fields. “This is a critical time for the security in Somalia and we must work together,” he declared. Stressing the importance of a political agreement between the federal Government and the states, supported by Parliament and civil society, he expressed hope to also make progress at the London Somalia Conference in May.
In similar vein, Japan’s representative said his Government had decided to extend $26 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, with $8.5 million directed to Somalia. Those funds were in addition to the $22 million in assistance that Japan had announced in January
A number of delegates, while noting that recent developments had raised hopes among Somali citizens, underscored the need to abide by the road map for the next elections. Sweden’s representative emphasized that preparations for the 2020 polls must begin at the earliest possible moment and that a clear path towards “one person, one vote” must be developed.
Also underlined by speakers was the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, with Egypt’s representative saying “terrorism still represents a major threat”, including for neighbouring countries. Stronger regional and international efforts were critical to defeating the group, he stressed.
At the outset, several delegates condemned the 22 March terrorist attack in London, expressing their condolences to the bereaved. Representatives also expressed concern about attacks by Al-Shabaab in which dozens of Somalis had been killed.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ukraine, Senegal, Italy, Kazakhstan, China, Uruguay, United States, Bolivia, Russian Federation and France.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
MICHAEL KEATING, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) said the country was experiencing a moment of both tragedy and hope. A drought-induced humanitarian crisis was engulfing Somalia with the imminent risk of famine, while the recent electoral process had created momentum for fresh political engagement.
More than 6 million Somalis were now in need of humanitarian assistance, he said, stressing that politicians, business people, civil society and members of the diaspora were taking responsibility for drought response. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo had declared a national disaster within days of taking office and was using all available platforms to mobilize national and international support. While access to assistance was a challenge in Al-Shabaab-controlled areas, the scope for crisis response was greater than in 2011. Further, cell phone coverage and money-transfer options had expanded, data on needs had improved, controls on resources and partner vetting was stronger, and operational capacities had grown.
He said the most urgent challenges included funding for immediate life-saving actions, especially cholera response. While treatment centres and units were being opened throughout Somalia, the disease continued to spread, requiring rapid scale-up of treatment and preventive measures. The Famine Prevention Operational Plan sought $825 million to reach 5.5 million people by June and further resources were needed to reach affected people before it was too late.
“Had the recent parliamentary and presidential elections not delivered a result accepted as legitimate, drought response efforts would be much more difficult,” he said, noting that the elections had created a sense of hope. The new Parliament was more diverse, younger and female than ever. The polls, largely peaceful, had not been derailed by Al-Shabaab and the outcome had generated wide‑spread goodwill with international partners. “Somalis have made history and set a great example to countries emerging from conflict,” he underlined.
He said the new Government and Parliament must use that goodwill to build a functional and inclusive federal State to tackle the socioeconomic, structural and political issues that made millions of Somalis vulnerable to drought and insecurity. Unless Somalia attracted serious investment and generated domestic revenues, State-building would remain an aspiration and the country would stay perilously dependent and vulnerable to weather-related shocks. Such efforts required greater institutional capacity and a settlement between the Government and the private sector.
Government efforts to improve public financial management, transparency and accountability, including by fighting graft and corruption, deserved international support, he said. An immediate challenge was to eliminate terrorism, requiring a multipronged approach, embedded in a political strategy led by the Somali Government. Also needed was support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), along with security sector reform, the resolution of local conflicts, the stabilization and extension of State authority in liberated areas, and attention to governance and rule of law deficits. In that regard, the first step must be a political agreement between the federal Government and the states, supported by Parliament and civil society, embracing both army and police. While Somalia faced daunting difficulties after decades of violent conflict, it now had a political opportunity, he stressed.
FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSÉ MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), via video link, said 6.2 million people were on the brink of famine, a similar catastrophe to 2011. The African Union, with support from AMISOM, would continue to work hand in hand with Somali authorities to save “our brothers and sisters”. Despite the humanitarian crisis, the security situation had greatly improved thanks to efforts by AMISOM and the national forces. The last four years had also seen intense political reform. The Government was working hard to improve its efficiency, while regional Governments had continuously built capacity to respond to people’s needs. The Somali economy had come back to life and 80 per cent of the national territory had been recovered from Al-Shabaab.
However, more must be done to ensure the security of liberated communities, he continued, underscoring AMISOM’s role in enhancing the effectiveness of the Somali army, police and intelligence. Indeed, Somalia had turned a new page. Now under new leadership, it was committed to putting its people first, he said, adding that to achieve common objectives, it was vital not to lose sight of medium- and long-term benchmarks and goals. Government security forces must be provided the resources to govern territories they had liberated. Al-Shabaab must be fought and degraded. Containing that group required Somali soldiers be screened, equipped, paid and given command over how to effectively face the enemy. As AMISOM would draw down in 2018, building the capacity of national forces was crucial.
MOHAMED ABDULLAHI MOHAMED FARMAJO, President of Somalia, via teleconference from Nairobi, said that, while there were medium- and long-term challenges to overcome, there was also much hope. Socioeconomic and political gains must go hand in hand with good governance to achieve development for all Somalis. The recent elections, despite enormous scepticism, had ended peacefully and democratically, he said, expressing optimism that Parliament would support the new Cabinet. The election had seen the incumbent President graciously accepting the outcome and encouraging all Somalis to work together to support the new Administration. For the first time in history, women now held 30 per cent of the seats in Parliament and citizens had an increasing role in shaping the country’s direction.
Responding to the humanitarian crisis was critical, he said, stressing that more than half the population faced food shortages and 15 per cent of Somalis were facing famine. “I am truly saddened by this,” he said. Sharing harrowing accounts of how livelihoods had perished, leaving people to search for food, he urged businesses and the Somali diaspora to provide help. Having recently declared the drought a national disaster, he also had urged institutions to act immediately and work with the humanitarian community. “Your support and generosity will be noted, not only by the Somali people, but by history,” he said, urging the Council to help Somalia increase resilience and disaster management. Neighbours must also share experiences to help mitigate the damage caused by the East African drought.
With the sacrifice of Somali and AMISOM troops, Al-Shabaab had been weakened, he said, emphasizing that the only way to protect Somalia was to fully rebuild its army and security forces. “This is our goal and we will achieve it with your support,” he said, noting efforts to decrease AMISOM troops and increase Somali troop presence and capacity. Meanwhile, investing in people, particularly in the area of agriculture, was critical to preventing another crisis, as was investing in critical infrastructure, such as water and major roads. Building trust between national and international institutions would help ensure access to the capital loans needed to carry out such projects. None of the many challenges ahead was insurmountable. “Somali people are resilient,” he said, reiterating the critical role of Somali’s regional and international partners.
BORIS JOHNSON, Council President for March and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that, as long as the Somali Government worked for the benefit of its citizens, the Security Council would stand with it. Noting that Somalia had experienced three famines in the past 25 years, he said that, today, more than 6 million people needed humanitarian assistance as the crisis continued to undermine gains made in the political and security fields. If the international community learned the lessons of 2011 and acted decisively, famine could be prevented. For its part, the United Kingdom would continue to provide emergency assistance, he said, urging all partners to step up their efforts, and the Somali Government to both honour its commitments and remove logistical blockages.
He had witnessed a military training session in Somalia, where he had acknowledged that soldiers carried a heavy responsibility to guarantee security. “This is a critical time for the security in Somalia and we must work together,” he said, expressing hope to make progress at the London Somalia Conference. Stressing the importance of a political agreement between the Federal Government and the states, supported by Parliament and civil society, he commended AMISOM soldiers and their Somali counterparts who had made a great difference in fighting Al-Shabaab. He also welcomed the Government’s focus on economic recovery and job creation for young and ambitious Somalis. However, success depended on economic reform and compliance with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) country programme.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that the focus in Somalia now must shift towards clarifying the arrangements between the central Government and the federal states. The establishment of local governance and brining basic social services to Somalis should be given priority, while the country’s constitutional review must be urgently resumed with a view towards its conclusion before 2020. In addition, preparations for the 2020 elections must begin at the earliest possible moment and a clear road map towards “one person, one vote” must be developed. Emphasizing the need to ensure that ordinary Somalis benefited from the international community’s peacebuilding and development efforts, she said it was critical to provide AMISOM with all necessary support, including more predictable and sustainable funding.
“We also need to make sure AMISOM’s drawdown is consistent with a corresponding build-up, and takeover, of Somalia’s own security forces,” she continued, underscoring the need for strong United Nations leadership, well-coordinated support and a comprehensive approach to security as adopted by AMISOM. Expressing hope that the high-level conference to take place in London in May would help to identify a clear path for sustainable security sector reform, she went on to echo expressions of deep concern about the severe situation caused by the drought in Somalia and the region. The international community, including Sweden, was responding, and there seemed to be a joint determination not to allow a repeat of the catastrophic famine seen six years ago. In that regard, it was crucial to continue to scale up both funding and delivery of those efforts.
HIRUT ZEMENE, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, underscored the urgent need to act swiftly to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia. Commending Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo’s decision to convene a high-level conference to mobilize assistance for the humanitarian response, she reiterated the recent call by the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers for enhanced international support. Ethiopia was supporting the United Nations response by allowing the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to purchase supplies from its local markets, as well as facilitating easy access corridors for the humanitarian supplies entering Somalia.
Noting that Somalia was facing that humanitarian challenge at a time when it had made significant gains on the political and security fronts, she urged States to do everything possible not to allow the drought to undermine those gains. Pointing to a number of important achievements, including the holding of Somalia’s recent election and progress made in weakening Al-Shabaab, she stressed that the United Nations and the international community must find ways of ensuring predictable, dependable funding for AMISOM so that it could “finish the job”. Indeed, while the country continued to face enormous challenges, “what we see in Somalia today is more than a light at the end of the tunnel”, she said. Now was the time for scaling up support for Somalia’s post-conflict reconstruction and development endeavours.
VADYM PRYSTAIKO, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said he was heartened to see significant progress in the political and security areas in Somalia since 2012. The most substantial strides had been made in the electoral field. Indeed, it had been an election marathon with many hurdles along the way, yet, at the finish line, the international community had witnessed the most peaceful and inclusive electoral process Somalia had ever had. While elections alone could not end instability, they were a historic milestone for peace and reconciliation.
Yet, a dire humanitarian situation persisted, he said. “This is a time for joint action to redouble our unified support and assistance to the Government and people of Somalia,” he said, calling on the international community to never again let famine devastate that country. Regarding security and counterterrorism, he acknowledged recent improvements yet cautioned that the threat posed by Al-Shabaab remained. Regarding AMISOM’s exit, he encouraged Somalia to accelerate security sector reform in close cooperation with the United Nations and international partners. The readiness of local forces for a gradual takeover of security responsibilities from AMISOM should be a priority, he added.
MAME BABA CISSE, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese Abroad of Senegal, noting that successful elections and the adoption of a new Constitution were the examples of decisive steps in the right direction, encouraged both regional and international partners to support Government efforts to move forward. While acknowledging progress made, he stressed that the drought had made millions of Somalis vulnerable amid terrorist asymmetric threats posed by Al-Shabaab.
“We are seeing child combatants and attacks on humanitarian staff, impeding aid delivery,” he continued. To better respond to such challenges, the priority must be security sector reform, he said, commending AMISOM for its efforts. Equally important were the provision of financial resources by the international community, and strict observance of the arms embargo imposed on Somalia.
VINCENZO AMENDOLA, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said his country was working with relevant partners to support the empowerment and stabilization of Somali institutions. Stressing that Somali national security forces and regional partners must work together, he said the presence today of the President testified to the progress Somalia had made. However, it was critical not to lose sight of the challenges posed by terrorists. The United Nations and all its partners could do more to tackle the roots of radicalization: poverty, a lack of education and a lack of opportunity among them.
He called on international financial institutions to improve the business climate in Somalia. Welcoming the President’s prompt efforts to deliver humanitarian aid, he said Italy would contribute support to Somalis as they faced a critical situation. Expressing condolences to the forty refugees who recently had died on a Yemeni boat, he said insecurity and humanitarian problems were interlinked and urged the international community to do more to address root causes of mass migration.
YERLIK ALI, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the African Union, underscored the need for early efforts to build stable institutions, as well as interministerial coordination, which would provide foundations for the rule of law, good governance and security sector reform in Somalia. Among other things, he stressed that regional and international organizations, along with financial institutions, should find resources to provide regular salaries to Somalia’s army and to provide AMISOM with enhanced training, financial and technical support to help them combat asymmetrical conflicts. Expressing deep concern over recent Al-Shabaab attacks, he said that, as Chair of the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Kazakhstan sought to promote peace and security in the Horn of Africa. He also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Somalia, stressing that the international community’s inability to provide assistance would undermine key State-building and peacebuilding initiatives in the country.
LIU JIEYI (China), emphasizing that Somalia had entered a crucial stage of national rebuilding, welcomed the President’s commitment to stabilizing the country. The security and humanitarian situation, however, remained precarious. “Somalia still has a long way to go in its quest for stability,” he said, urging continued international support. Over the past decade, AMISOM had helped to combat terrorism in Somalia, while the United Nations had cooperated with the African Union and tackled other hotspot issues. China fully supported “tackling African issues in an African way”, enhancing cooperation among parties and building synergies. It also welcomed the settlement of differences through dialogue and the building of mutual trust. He urged the international community to nurture a vision of cooperation, support capacity-building and draw up clear peacebuilding goals, drawing attention to various programs that China supported in Africa, including agricultural development.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was important to determine how the Council and AMISOM could best support Somalia in the post-election period. Indeed, it was a decisive and historic moment for the country. Last month’s election had showcased Somalia’s political transformation and inclusion of women in the electoral process. Condemning Al-Shabaab, he stressed that reforming the security sector was critical in order to properly equip Somali forces. Underscoring the need to protect civilians, he urged the Government to broker agreements and to achieve stability, especially in areas where humanitarian assistance was much needed. Priority must be placed on building capacity and strengthening institutions. Expressing concern over the increase in human rights violations, he said the detention of children for their alleged ties to Al-Shabaab was of great concern. Children must be treated, first and foremost, as children, he stressed.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), acknowledging the successful parliamentary and presidential elections in Somalia, expressed hope that they would contribute to the country’s development and efforts to eliminate the terrorist threat. AMISOM must adapt to events on the ground to support the Government in sustaining peace and national reconciliation, and developing national armed forces. “Terrorism still represents a major threat, undermining the progress made,” he said, noting that that challenge was not limited to Somalia as it affected neighbouring countries. Strengthened regional and international efforts were critical to defeating Al-Shabaab.
MICHELE SISON (United States) said security challenges in Somalia complicated the daunting tasks ahead. A worsening hunger crisis affected half the population and the Famine Prevention Operation Plan was only 32‑per‑cent funded. The international community must aggressively pursue an agenda to mitigate the possibility of another famine, she said, emphasizing the need to eliminate bureaucratic blockage to allow unhindered aid delivery. She expressed concern about asymmetric attacks by Al-Shabaab against civilians and security forces, urging AMISOM and Somali forces to be proactive in disrupting that terrorist group’s efforts. AMISOM could not stay forever in Somalia, she said, underscoring the need for joint planning by the United Nations and the African Union.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), noting that progress to peace and stability in Somalia had been “unfortunately fragile”, said robust and sustained international assistance, as well as Somali leadership, was critical to addressing the remaining challenges. Stressing that famine would threaten recent State-building gains, he said tackling the risk of famine would also help to address the root causes of terrorism. Last week, Japan had decided to extend $26 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, with $8.5 million directed to Somalia; those funds were in addition to the $22 million in assistance that Japan had announced in January. As improving Somalia’s security situation was the top priority, he underscored the need to reinforce the capabilities of the Somali National Army and the national police forces, as well as support institution-building and ensure the provision of basic services.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) welcomed last month’s peaceful elections in Somalia, which had aroused hope among its citizens. Underscoring the need to abide by the road map for the next elections to take place by 2020, he expressed concern that some 6 million people were in living in food insecurity, with more than 1 million at risk of starvation. The breakdown of social services had raised the possibility of crisis. He expressed serious concern that the world was facing its biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, amid the worst concentration of wealth in history. Underscoring the need to address climate change, he condemned recent suicide attacks by Al-Shabaab that had killed dozens of Somalis and stressed the importance of cooperation among the African Union, AMISOM and the international community. It was also vital to respect Somalia’s territorial integrity, he said.
PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), while welcoming the election of the new President as an important step in Somalia’s democratic system, expressed concern that a clan-based political system prevailed. The new Government must pay greater attention to political reform, economic growth and strengthening the basis of federalism. Moreover, the security situation was far from stable. Expressing concern over the destabilizing activities of Al-Shabaab, he stressed the need to resolve payment issues for African peacekeepers who “shed their blood” to keep people safe. The partial lifting of a weapons embargo had been effective. While expressing concern that hundreds of thousands of people were on the verge of famine, he urged the international community to ensure that people had food, drinking water and medical supplies. The Russian Federation had regularly provided assistance to Somalis in the country and those dispersed in the region.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), acknowledging the uncontested elections in Somalia, commended UNSOM efforts in the area of logistics. Famine remained a reality in the region, he said, calling on the authorities to tackle that challenge with the support of the international community. Institution-building, the promotion of human rights and the stabilization of the security environment were other areas that required further attention. While AMISOM continued to be financially supported by the European Union, other donors must come forward to secure its predictable and sustainable funding. Its exit from Somalia should be decided not by a deadline, but rather, by positive developments on the ground.
The full text of resolution 2346 (2017) reads as follows:
“The Security Council,
“Recalling all its previous resolutions and statements of its President concerning the situation in Somalia, in particular resolution 2275 (2016),
“Noting that as a result of delays in the electoral process in Somalia, the review of the United Nations presence in Somalia requested in paragraph 6 of resolution 2275 (2016) was deferred until the conclusion of the electoral process,
“Looking forward to the report of the review, recognizing the importance of adequate time to consider the outcome of the report and in this regard, also recognizing the need for a short extension to the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM),
“1. Decides to extend UNSOM’s mandate as set out in paragraph 1 of resolution 2158 (2014) until 16 June 2017;
“2. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”