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UN envoy Catriona Laing highlights achievements, sets future goals as Somalia tenure ends

Sunday May 12, 2024

Dhusamareb (HOL)  — As she nears the end of her tenure later this month, the United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, Catriona Laing, highlighted progress and set forth ambitious objectives for the country’s future, with a focus on women’s rights. During her visit to Galmudug, Laing celebrated crucial developments and spoke about the UN's ongoing commitments to the region’s advancement.

Laing revealed that a new UN office is nearing completion in Dhusamareb, a strategic move to enhance collaboration between the UN and the Galmudug government. The facility will house various UN agencies, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme, all working in sync to support local development initiatives.

Laing commended Galmudug for becoming the first Somali Federal Member State to outlaw all forms of female genital mutilation (FGM). 
The groundbreaking legislation, she noted, was the result of concerted efforts by the local government and dedicated activists. The ban represents a significant step forward in protecting women's rights within the region.

Looking ahead, Laing outlined three strategic objectives: effective implementation of the new anti-FGM law, expansion of legislative reforms to other states, and promotion of Somalia as a global leader in combating FGM. Although she will soon step down, Laing pledged to continue supporting Somalia’s initiatives from abroad, particularly through advocacy within the Somali diaspora.

Laing’s leadership period has been marked by broader strategic shifts within Somalia and its interaction with international partners. Her tenure coincided with ongoing negotiations over the future of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), as Somalia seeks to conclude the mission by October 2024 and aims for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Somali government has formally asked the United Nations to start planning a transition from a political mission to a development-focused UN Country Team, highlighting a strategic shift in the partnership aimed at stabilizing the nation.

Laing's tenure as a UN Special Representative to Somalia was notably shorter than those of her predecessors, some of whom served up to three years. The reasons for her early departure remain unclear.

UNSOM has been a significant presence in Somalia, advising the federal government and a 14,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force. This force, known as ATMIS, is also scheduled to withdraw and transfer security responsibilities back to Somali control by year-end. The termination of UNSOM, established in 2013 and renewed over 15 times by Security Council resolutions, marks a critical juncture in Somalia’s pursuit of self-governance.


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