Press remarks of the UN Secretary-General on the conclusion of his visit to Somalia

12 Apr 2023

Press remarks of the UN Secretary-General on the conclusion of his visit to Somalia

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, 

I wish to thank President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the people of Somalia for their warm welcome.

I am happy to be back here during the Holy Month of Ramadan.  

This continues my annual tradition of Ramadan solidarity visits, which dates back to my time as High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Every year, I have the honour of visiting Muslim countries, fasting in solidarity and sharing an Iftar dinner with the people we serve in this case by the very gentle invitation of the President. 

I am profoundly grateful to all those who helped make this visit possible, and for allowing me to join in this special time. 

Despite several challenges, the people of Somalia continue to demonstrate enormous strength and resilience. 

During the six years since my last visit, we have seen progress on peace, security and sustainable development. 

In my talks with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the Government yesterday, we discussed how the United Nations system can continue to support Somalia in building on this positive momentum. 

I commended the President’s efforts to advance peace and security, and highlighted the importance of strong collaboration with Federal States to address the threats posed by Al-Shabaab.

The United Nations is committed to supporting national and regional efforts to protect human rights and combat terrorism and violent extremism – including through the African Union’s Transition Mission. 

I also met civil society representatives and was deeply inspired by their vision and energy.

A safe and inclusive civic space is essential to good governance and can help prevent and reduce violence. 

The full participation of Somalia’s women and young people in political life – including the constitutional review – is critical.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to women’s rights and representation and call for the full implementation and codification of the 30 per cent quota for women in elections.  

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, 

My last visit to Somalia in 2017 was during a large-scale humanitarian operation to prevent famine.

Today, the situation is once again alarming.

Climate change is causing chaos.

Somalia has experienced five consecutive poor rainy seasons. 

And this is unprecedented. 

A devastating drought has already resulted in the tragic loss of 43,000 lives – in 2022 alone.

It has led to the displacement of 1.4 million Somalis – with women and children making up 80 per cent.

And rising food prices are naturally aggravating hunger and malnutrition.

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. 

So the risk of famine is still looming.

And I congratulate all those who were working to avoid famine in 2022, from the government to the UN agencies to the civil society for the way in which successfully they avoided a famine last year. We must do the same this year.

And so urgent humanitarian assistance is needed for some 8.3 million Somalis. 

And we must act now to prevent a catastrophe. 

Yesterday, I visited Baidoa, and spoke to families who have lost their livelihoods to drought and insecurity. 

I am deeply moved by their struggles.

I was also impressed by their resilience, their courage and their determination to rebuild their lives.

But they cannot do it alone.

Here in Somalia, 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. 

The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks 2.6 billion US dollars, is just 15 per cent funded. 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. 

It is unconscionable that Somalis, who have done almost nothing to create the climate crisis, are suffering its terrible impact – just as they are beginning to emerge from years of conflict and insecurity. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Somalia faces many challenges. 

But in the spirit of Ramadan, I also bring a message of hope and renewal. 

The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Somali people.  

Let us come together to advance peace and security, sustainable development and human rights – and build a better future for all Somalis. 

Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Wanaagsan! 

Thank you very much.


(edited for clarity)


Question: My question is about Somalis that we have been talking to, and they say, yes, they want to see more in terms of aid. And, you know, we also know that there is a funding gap. But a lot of Somalis are saying that they want to see more resilience measures. How can that happen so that, you know, Somalis can avoid this cycle of drought and violence that we've been seeing for so many years.

Secretary-General: I believe the Government is totally committed to adopting a policy that not only cares for humanitarian assistance, but cares for building resilience in order to create conditions to promote sustainable development of the communities. But for that, the governments and all the agencies working in Somalia need financial support. And as I said, it is totally unacceptable that until now, in relation to the humanitarian appeal that was launched, only 15 per cent of the funds were delivered. My strong appeal to the international community is to quickly step up in order not only to fill the humanitarian requirements, but also to make available the resources needed for a true policy of sustainable development, based on the creation of resilience conditions in the communities that are impacted by the drought. And I will repeat again, Somalia practically does not contribute to climate change, but Somalia is in the first line of the negative impacts of climate change. So there is a large responsibility for those that are the big emitters to fully support Somalia in this moment of distress.

Question: My question is, how does the United Nations prioritise, or rather which metric does it use to gauge which nation needs more humanitarian aid than others? Since just like in the 1982 Bosnian war, the current political turmoil between Ukraine and Russia seems to have diverted the attention of the world to Europe, rather than Somalia, which is currently facing drought.

Secretary-General: There is a lot of suffering in Ukraine and humanitarian action is of course needed in Ukraine. But the same happens in Somalia, the same happens in the Sahel, the same happens in Yemen. So it is absolutely central to consider that every person in difficulty, every person that is suffering, is entitled to have exactly the same attention independently of the geographic location where they are.

Question: Mr. Guterres, welcome to Somalia. I have two questions, and one is about something you mentioned about Somalia, contributing less greenhouse emissions. And of course, it's paying the price for climate change. Yes, Somalia is contributing less than 0.03 emissions and is paying the price for other countries because of the drought. Is there maybe a United Nations initiative for compensation for those damages caused by other countries to Somalia? And the second question is about the arms embargo, many people believe that maybe Somalia is not ready for the lifting of the arms embargo. What is your position on that?

Secretary-General: In relation to the first question. The Conference of State Parties, the so-called COP27 that took place in Sharm-el Sheikh in Egypt, has approved the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund. And the objective of the Loss of Damage Fund is exactly to provide support to the countries that are more dramatically impacted by climate change. We are now in the phase of creating the conditions for the Fund to be put in place, and we hope that it will be as quickly as possible. There is a group of countries that is put in charge of that responsibility and the UN is supporting that effort. We need to have as quickly as possible the Loss and Damage Fund being operational for the reasons that you mentioned. The second question […]

Question: The second question is about the lifting of the arms embargo.

Secretary-General: That is a matter that is to be decided by the members of the Security Council. It is not for the Secretary-General or the Secretariat that has any power of intervention in that regard. The only thing I will be able to testify is that I have seen a considerable capacity of the Government of Somalia to build up its military forces, its security forces with success that we have seen in the recent months, and that the efforts to now build up even more capacity in relation to the next offensives need to be supported by the international community.

Question: The UN said it needed 2.6 billion dollars to save the Somalian people. Have you been receiving this amount? And what's the most important challenge for this situation?

Secretary-General: The immediate challenge is, of course, to make sure that we avoid famine again in 2023, and that is, of course, an extremely important priority. But we cannot go on and on and on just providing humanitarian assistance. We must, we must address the root causes. So we must put the same urgency in the measures needed to build the resilience of the communities in relation to infrastructure, relation to the best use of water, in relation to the possibility to create conditions for, independently of the weather situation that exists, the communities being able to stand and being able to provide for their members. And this requires investment, and that investment needs a very strong support from the international community. That's why we are appealing for humanitarian aid. But we are also appealing for the support to the Somali government in order to create the conditions for building resilience of communities and creating the basis for sustainable development, which means addressing the root causes. 

Thank you very much.

Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak!