Wednesday April 12, 2023
Mogadishu (HOL) - UN Secretary-General António Guterres completed his two-day visit to Somalia on Wednesday by reaffirming the United Nations' commitment to supporting the country on its path to establishing lasting peace and stability. During his stay, Guterres met with key figures, including Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, government officials, and representatives from civil society organizations.
While in Somalia, Guterres praised the progress made on peace, security, and sustainable development. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between the Federal States to address threats posed by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, stating, "I commended the President's efforts to advance peace and security and highlighted the importance of strong collaboration with Federal [Member] States to address the threats posed by Al-Shabaab."
Guterres also highlighted the support of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), an UN-mandated multidimensional mission that assists Somali security forces in their fight against Al-Shabaab.
Somalia has a history of conflict and instability, dating back to the collapse of the central government in 1991. Since then, the country has struggled with civil war, terrorism, and recurring humanitarian crises. These challenges make the progress Guterres highlighted all the more significant.
During his visit, Guterres met with representatives of Somali civil society organizations working in various areas, such as women's affairs, climate change, and youth empowerment. He expressed his admiration for their vision and energy, stating that he was "deeply inspired by their vision and energy."
Guterres encouraged the full participation of women and young people in political life, including the constitutional review process. Regarding women's representation in politics, Guterres said, "I welcome the Government's commitment to women's rights and representation and call for the full implementation and codification of the 30 percent quota for women in elections."
Somalia's last electoral process in 2022 saw women occupy only 21% of parliamentary seats, falling short of the 30% quota set by the United Nations. Achieving gender equality and empowering women is essential for the country's development and stability.
Guterres' visit comes amid a devastating drought that has caused the deaths of 43,000 people in 2022 alone. Approximately 8.3 million Somalis are in need of urgent assistance, and 1.4 million have been displaced by the drought. Food prices are rising, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition. Somalia has experienced recurrent droughts and famines, with climate change intensifying these crises.
Addressing the drought, Guterres said, "Today, the situation is once again alarming. Climate change is causing chaos. Somalia has experienced five consecutive poor rainy seasons, and this is unprecedented… Poor and vulnerable communities are pushed by the drought to the brink of starvation, and the situation can get worse."
Between now and June, 6.5 million Somalis are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity, and the risk of famine is increasing. Guterres urged the international community to act immediately to prevent a catastrophe, stating, "We must act now to prevent a catastrophe."
Somalia's 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, developed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), seeks $2.6 billion in funding. However, the plan has only received 15% of the necessary funds, totalling $347 million. Guterres called on the international community to dramatically increase funding, saying, "When famine looms, this is totally unacceptable. The international community must step up and dramatically increase the volume of funds to support Somalia in this moment of difficulty."
During his visit, Guterres also observed the Ramadan fast and shared an Iftar meal as part of his annual tradition of visiting Muslim countries during the Holy Month of Ramadan. These visits demonstrate the UN's solidarity with Muslim communities worldwide.
Despite its ongoing challenges, Guterres's visit to Somalia highlighted the country's progress in recent years. By meeting with key figures and emphasizing the importance of collaboration, women's representation, and humanitarian aid, Guterres seeks to foster further progress in Somalia.
He urged the international community to support Somalia, stating, "I strongly appeal to donors to stand with Somalis in their time of need. The international community has the responsibility and the interest to support Somalia with the resources needed to defeat Al-Shabaab, to build resilience and to [stabilize] the areas liberated and to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance."
Guterres' visit to Somalia served as a reminder of the resilience of the Somali people and the importance of international support in helping the country move forward on its path to peace, stability, and sustainable development. His call to action emphasizes the urgency of addressing the humanitarian crisis and the need for increased financial assistance from the global community.