Britain played host Thursday to a major international conference on Somalia, attended by heads of government and senior representatives from more than 50 countries and organizations, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a large delegation of Somali leaders.
Together, we agreed that the time is right for a series of practical measures aimed at helping Somalia back on its feet.
First, we affirmed that the transitional government in Somalia must end in August and that there must be no further extensions. The Somali people must determine the shape of their future political institutions, so we emphasized that the political process must be inclusive and representative. We also agreed that the political process should be open to all those who are prepared to reject violence, including those in areas currently under al-Shabab control.
We also acted on the decision of African heads of state to establish a joint financial management board to improve public financial management. Our aim is to have a mechanisms in place for reducing corruption, rebuilding trust and ensuring that Somali and donor funds are properly and transparently spent on providing services to the Somali people.
Security is essential for making political progress. That’s why the international community has agreed to help African Union troops extend beyond Mogadishu, to further counter the challenge currently posed by al-Shabab. A new UN resolution has endorsed an increase in troops from 12,000 to 17,731, along with a new equipment package.
We also moved to support regions of relative stability within Somalia, agreeing to principles for aid and establishing a new fund to resolve disputes at the local level, to provide jobs and basic services that local people need and to support the development of the local authorities.
The conference also addressed the challenge of terrorism – a threat shared by the Somali people, the region and the wider world – prioritizing the disruption of terrorist travel and finances. We will also be supporting the Somali criminal justice system.
On piracy, we will establish a new regional anti-piracy centre and look to prosecute the kingpins, ransom negotiators and middle men. There were also a number of agreements between nations to make it easier to try suspected pirates in the region before transferring them to Somali prisons.
Somalia has suffered from a terrible famine in the past year. The conference highlighted the need for donors to continue responding generously to this crisis – and to provide aid on the basis of need alone. Despite the UN’s welcome announcement that famine conditions have now ended, the humanitarian situation remains gravely concerning. More than two million people are still affected.
Together, these measures represent an attempt to change the dynamic in Somalia from inexorable decline to gradually increasing stability and security. We must be under no illusions about how long it will take to achieve this, and our approach must be realistic and sober. We cannot turn Somalia around with one conference and the future is ultimately in the hands of Somalis themselves.
However, Somalis cannot do it on their own, which is why we called this conference – to galvanize international support and to send a signal to the people of Somalia that we will stand by them. And to remind all those who willfully import and perpetuate violence and terrorism there that they should not underestimate our resolve.
William Hague is British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
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