Remarks by UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, James Swan, to the Media in Hargeisa
I would like to begin by thanking President Muse Bihi Abdi and his team for the warm welcome we received here today.
I’m here in Hargeisa with colleagues from different parts of the UN family – the Country Director of the World Food Programme, Cesar Arroyo; the Representative of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, Johann Siffointe; and the Country Programme Manager for UN Women, Sadiq Syed.
They represent only a sample of the more than 20 UN agencies, funds and programmes that operate here in Somaliland.
We arrived yesterday and had the opportunity to meet with senior government officials and members of civil society, and the National Electoral Committee, before meeting with President Bihi and members of his cabinet this morning.
We are very pleased to be able to discuss the work of the United Nations in Somaliland in helping to address practical issues affecting the people of Somaliland. Our partnership dates back to 1991, and we have remained committed since then through the most difficult times and the better times.
UN support is wide-ranging. It includes humanitarian and development help, and my colleagues and I were able to see some of that support first-hand with a visit to a World Food Programme-operated nutrition and medical centre.
Moreover, at that centre we observed other UN agencies that are providing integrated food, nutrition and health support to babies, young children and their mothers here in Hargeisa.
More broadly, the World Food Programme is committed to supporting long-term food security in Somaliland. It invests in safety nets, food systems enhancements and livelihoods programmes that complement and build on its humanitarian relief portfolio in this area – and that includes food relief, nutrition and school feeding – supporting hundreds of thousands of food-insecure people.
Another very important element of the World Food Programme’s work in Somaliland is the at international port in Berbera. The port forms part of a critical corridor serving the UN agency’s operations, not just locally but also around the wider region of the Horn of Africa.
More than a quarter of a million metric tons of humanitarian assistance cargo passed through Berbera last year. Between 2019-2020, the World Food Programme injected more than $50 million into the economy of Somaliland in the form of port fees, warehouse costs and transport charges.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is mandated to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and other displaced people. In Somaliland last year, its help in this area covered education, healthcare, livelihoods and shelter, to mention just a few sectors.
Specifically, UNHCR has provided support in rehabilitating and equipping schools, rehabilitating and equipping health centres, including Hargeisa and Berbera hospitals, and offering business grants and vocational training.
In relation to gender equality, UN Women is working closely with the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Family and civil society to advocate in this area.
UN Women has been supporting both the ministry and civil society groups in promoting women’s political participation as well as organizing community dialogues on gender issues, with a focus on addressing negative social norms. UN Women is also partnering with the Somaliland Women Lawyers Association to carry out advocacy on women’s access to justice.
As we know, Somaliland faces recurrent climatic shocks with the potential of an acute drought looming due to the poor Deyr rainy season this past year.
In this respect, to build resilience among communities in drought-prone areas, the UN Children’s Fund – UNICEF – and the Somaliland authorities have been working with the private sector to construct and install permanent water supply systems so that in times of drought, women and children still have access to clean water. To date, 18 permanent water systems have been built and rehabilitated across Somaliland, reaching over 200,000 people.
And these are in addition to the UN-Habitat programme, supported by the European Union, to construct the new pipeline from the Geed Deeble well field to Hargeisa.
Again, these are all just some examples of the support being provided by the UN system here in Somaliland.
During our meeting, President Bihi and I also spoke of the forthcoming elections.
I’m pleased to learn of the progress toward both parliamentary and local elections. All of Somaliland’s partners look forward to these elections. We welcome confirmation this week by the Guurti that the elections will be held on the 31st of May.
All indications from the National Electoral Commission are that the technical work in preparation for the elections is well-advanced. Voter registration has been a major exercise, but has been carried out in a comprehensive manner reaching out across the regions.
We look forward to the National Electoral Commission’s work facilitating successful elections at the end of May.
We urge an inclusive and transparent process.
Once again, I extend my thanks to President Bihi and his team, and the people of Hargeisa, for their hospitality. We look forward to working together for the good of the people of Somaliland in 2021 and beyond.