Remarks by UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, to the media in Baidoa

14 Jan 2021

Remarks by UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, to the media in Baidoa

Good Afternoon, Mr. President.

I would like to thank you, President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed ‘Laftagareen,’ and your team for the usual warm welcome that you have extended to us with today.

I am pleased to be here with the International Organization for Migration’s Chief of Mission, Richard Danziger, and, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Head of its Humanitarian Access and Civil-Military Coordination Unit in Somalia, Edward Melotte.

We are very pleased to be in Baidoa today. It’s the first of our visits to the Federal Member States in the new year and we have come to discuss with the President and his ministers the work of the United Nations in support of South West State. This ranges from support for ongoing reconciliation, security and stabilization efforts to providing humanitarian and development assistance.

Let me offer a few specific examples. The UN Support Office in Somalia and the South West State government are working together on improving the local environment. One of the projects is the planting of some 200,000 tree seedlings near Baidoa as part of a wider project to eventually plant six million trees around Somalia.

The United Nations is also working with local partners to reduce its environmental footprint and support a shift to renewable energy production. A step forward in this respect is the signing last year of an agreement between the UN Support Office in Somalia and a private sector firm for the supply of solar power to the African Union-United Nations camp here in Baidoa, making renewably-generated electricity also available to the Baidoa market. Solar panels will be laid out later this year.

Another example of our cooperation involves the International Organization for Migration and its partners, to provide more sustainable solutions for the large population of internally displaced persons in Baidoa – and that number is now approximately 500,000 – to assist this population of internally displaced in Baidoa and in other urban areas of South West State. The International Organization for Migration is working closely with the state administration to develop new settlements near the town of Barwaaqo for internally displaced people. 

These settlements are approached as an integrated part of the urban environment, and planned as urban extensions, rather than temporary camps disconnected from the city. So far, more than 700 households have been relocated and a further one thousand households will soon join them.

These settlements will include basic services, such as health clinics and sanitation facilities, schools as well as police stations and roads.

In today’s discussion with the President and his team, we also covered issues of humanitarian access. The opening up of airspace to enable unhindered humanitarian support to vulnerable populations remains a key concern, and I welcome and encourage the South West State government’s continued support to ensure and sustain the security of airstrips across South West State.

I also particularly came along with this delegation to listen to what the South West State authorities hope for and expect from the United Nations in 2021 so that we can better work together to ensure the needs of the people, and that those of South West State, are also met.

In this regard, I want to note that many of the projects I’ve discussed – the environmental projects, the power generation project, the IDP site – these are innovations and, really, models that are being created here in South West State and that we hope can inform the work of the United Nations in other locations in Somalia going forward.

Finally, we also discussed the wider political situation in Somalia, particularly regarding the elections. In this regard, I would like to express my appreciation for President Abdiaziz’s ongoing efforts to bring the different parties together to agree on a way forward. I reiterate that a spirit of consensus and collaboration, which means putting the good of the country first, is paramount at this time.

We in the UN urge all of Somalia’s leaders to make every effort to engage in dialogue in a collegial spirit to ensure that the national elections are held, based on broad consensus, rooted in the 17 September Agreement, and that these elections are underpinned by transparency, fairness and inclusivity.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may show signs of lowered intensity, it is still present and it is important to continue to implement precautionary measures and ensure that residents remain vigilant. The United Nations will continue providing support with surveillance to health authorities both in South West State and across all Federal Member States for as long as is required.

Once again, Mr. President, my sincere thanks for your time and hospitality. We look forward to working together with you and your team and the people of South West State in 2021 to build a better future together.