Transcript of the UN in Somalia’s Virtual Press Conference in Mogadishu - 26 October 2021

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26 Oct 2021

Transcript of the UN in Somalia’s Virtual Press Conference in Mogadishu - 26 October 2021

SPEAKERS 

  • James Swan, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)
  • Anita Kiki Gbeho, UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia
  • Lisa Filipetto, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Head of UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS)
  • Mohamed Ayaya, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and acting Humanitarian Coordinator
  • Jocelyn Mason, Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and acting Resident Coordinator

JAMES SWAN: Good morning and welcome. My name is James Swan. I'm the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Somalia. I'm joined here today by Lisa Filipetto, who's the head of the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) and also by Anita Kiki Ggeho, who is the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, responsible for political, rule of law and security issues. Also, Mohamed Ayoya, who is the acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia and also the Country Representative for the UN Children's Fund. And finally, Jocelyn Mason, who is the acting Resident Coordinator for Somalia and the Resident Representative for the UN Development Programme.

This past Sunday was United Nations Day, the anniversary of the day in 1945, when the U.N. charter entered into force.

The United Nations was created as a vehicle of hope for a world emerging from conflict. And now, 76 years later, it continues to serve the peoples of the world. Some of the challenges it was created to address have not changed, unfortunately. Conflict, poverty, hunger at the same time, new challenges have arisen COVID-19 and climate change, to name just two examples.

I'd like to begin by quickly recapping what the United Nations at its core is about, and broadly speaking, it's built on three foundations.

First, it is a set of principles enshrined in the UN Charter and other documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Conventions and Agreements that codify the aspirations of the world.

Secondly, it's a grouping of entities that provide direct contributions to the well-being of the people of the world in areas ranging from food security to human rights, and much more. These entities include more than 20 agencies, funds and programmes, which have a presence in Somalia, such as UNICEF, the UN Development Programme, the UN refugee agency, UN Women, and many, many more.

Thirdly, the United Nations is a forum for its 193 Member States – most of the world's countries. It's a place where they come together to discuss and seek agreement and make decisions on the way forward on critical global priorities.

Here in Somalia, the United Nations has been a steadfast partner of the country since its independence, dating back decades, and we expect the partnership with Somalia to continue across a wide range of areas in the future. This includes support for security and state building, support for humanitarian needs, support for development, assistance with local governance, service delivery, human rights, the inclusion of women and youth, and ensuring the representation of minorities and other marginalized groups in political processes and decision-making.

On the political front, we are encouraged that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmaajo’ and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble have announced an agreement to resolve differences that arose last month between them, and we hope that will shift focus back to where it is most needed right now: the country's electoral process.

In that respect, we welcome the near completion of the Upper House elections and urge Somalia's leaders to turn quickly to the next phase – the election of the House of the People seats. We also welcome the efforts to achieve the minimum 30 per cent quota for women's representation in Parliament, while also noting that approximately 26 per cent of the Upper House seats have been filled by women so far. We call on all involved to redouble their efforts to achieve the quota in the upcoming House of the People’s elections.

The UN support for the electoral process has been a constant over the past years. It includes coordinating donor support and their generous contributions. It includes frequent engagement with the Federal Election Implementation Team, State Election Implementation Teams, the Office of the Prime Minister, Federal Member States and the donors.

I also want to note, in regard to elections, the local elections that took place on a ‘one person, one vote’ basis in three districts in Puntland yesterday. The United Nations had a team in Qardho yesterday to show solidarity with the people of Puntland as they embarked on this process.

And we are hopeful that if this process is shown to have been successful, it can offer a model for future elections on a ‘one person, one vote’ basis to be held at local, Federal Member State, and, in the future, national levels, here in Somalia.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has continued its support for Somalia's development needs. Examples of this include our efforts on water management, on anti-corruption programing with the Somali authorities, efforts to support local governance, to be at the forefront of service delivery, and much more.

All of this support is delivered in a spirit of partnership and fully aligned with Somalia's National Development Plan. And, we ensure that the UN supports those efforts through the United Nations Country Framework which has also been signed with the Somali authorities.

The same is the case for support for Somalia's humanitarian needs. Sadly, conflict remains the key driver of displacement, but now, climatic shocks are the second leading reason for Somalis to leave their homes. The projection for 2022 is that 7.7 million Somalis will need humanitarian assistance during the course of the year.

So far in 2021, the UN and its partners have provided humanitarian assistance to some 2.3 million people in Somalia. In regard to the humanitarian situation, I want to take this opportunity to register our deep concern over the recent fighting in Guriel. It has had severe negative humanitarian impact on the population. Moreover, it has distracted from the priorities of completing the electoral process and fighting Al-Shabaab.

Let me turn briefly to the Somali health authorities’ response to COVID 19. Again, we have been pleased to be partners of the Somali government in this effort.

The country has now secured almost two million doses of lifesaving vaccines via donation, mainly through the COVAX facility since March 2021. The World Health Organization and UNICEF continue supporting the Federal and State ministries of health to ensure the equitable and safe distribution of these vaccines through the management of cold chain systems, training of vaccinators and by encouraging the uptake of the vaccine.

Moreover, we of course continue to support government efforts to ensure the continuation of preventive COVID-19 behaviours in local communities. Today, approximately four per cent of the Somali population has received at least one dose of the vaccines. These vaccines play a paramount role in keeping not only the frontline workers safe, but also the most vulnerable people safe. Still, more vaccination is needed to help Somalia achieve its 20 per cent target.

Finally, as we mark UN Day again, I have offered just a few examples of the range of support provided by the United Nations here in Somalia. But these efforts have impact only through partnership with the Somali Federal Government, Federal Member States, civil society organizations and the many multilateral and bilateral partners that are friends of Somalia. Somalia has achieved significant progress in recent years, yet the needs remain great.

We in the United Nations are honoured to be Somalia's partners in its efforts to advance peace, good governance and development in the country. I'd now like to ask my colleagues to say a bit more about their respective areas of work, in their spheres, and then we can turn to any questions you may have.

Thank you very much.

I think I’ll first turn to Lisa Filipetto, Assistant Secretary-General and head of the UNSOS.

 

LISA FILIPETTO: Thank you very much, SRSG Swan.

The United Nations Support Office in Somalia is one of the key partners assisting Somalia in bringing security to the country as part of Somalia's transition plan on security. We are here for the Somali people and support their vision for a peaceful, stable and developed Somalia.

UNSOS was established by the UN Security Council in 2009, initially to provide logistics support to AMISOM military, police and civilians. These currently number 19,600. Our support is provided to 76 sector hub and forward locations around Somalia, and includes food, fuel, defensive stores, transport, etc.

The Security Council later added to our responsibilities the provision of logistics support to the Somali security forces in joint operations with or in coordination with AMISOM. Our support currently goes to 13,900 Somali security forces, and our support includes food, fuel, water, defence stores, counter-IED capacity-building and also casualty evacuations.

We also support the Somali political process through the logistics support we provide to UNSOM operations as mandated by the Security Council. Our current priority is to support electoral security provided by AMISOM and the Somali security forces in polling areas.

We assist the UN Country Team, providing some enabling services to the international community and we establish and manage UN camps across Somalia. In all we support 34,000 people directly, but we also fund our contractors who employ Somali and international staff.

UNSOS is not always visible to Somalis, but you may see the UN aviation fleet that is operated by UNSOS. Some of the activities which UNSOS has undertaken, which benefit the country's development, include the upgrade and repair of runways, aviation runways in Baidoa, Jowhar, Belet Weyne and Dhusamareb. This makes them more accessible to commercial aviation, as well as our own.

We have also assisted in providing oxygen to local hospitals in the fight against COVID-19 before local capacity was established. We transported medical equipment for COVID treatment to some states and we ensure that our own clients were vaccinated.

We also assisted this year and last year in transporting examination material for secondary examinations to hard to reach locations. UNSOS endeavours, and is pleased to provide services efficiently and effectively to our clients. We are also very grateful for the support we receive in doing this from the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member State governments, international partners, UN colleagues and UNSOS staff in meeting these responsibilities.

Thank you.

 

JAMES SWAN: Thank you very much, Lisa. I’m now pleased to turn over the floor to Mohamed Ayoya, who is the acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

 

MOHAMED AYOYA: thank you very much SRSG Swan, and good morning everyone. I would like just to add few points on the humanitarian situation on what the SRSG has already shared with you.

Let me start by saying that the Somalia humanitarian situation remains very dire. As the SRSG said, 7.7 billion people, or nearly half of the country's population, is projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022. And Somalia has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people. We estimate this to be about 2.9 million, and between January to September alone, conflict and insecurity have forced some 420,000 to flee their homes.

Somalia remains on the forefront of climate change. And after two consecutive below average rainfall seasons, we are unfortunately now bracing ourselves for a third. The humanitarian needs are vast. Unfortunately, our resources are limited. Humanitarian partners have been racing against the clock to deliver aid and protection to the most vulnerable Somalis.

Every month, as the SRSG just noted, 2.3 million people out of 4 million targeted by the Humanitarian Response Plan, receive lifesaving supports. In August alone, humanitarian partners provided 1.1 million people with camp management and camp coordination support, 62,200 people with nutrition support and more than 96,000 people with WASH assistance.

The crippling effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, along with other factors, have resulted in severe humanitarian funding shortages for Somalia this year. Even now as we speak, we are now nearly at the end of the year and our HRP is unfortunately only 50 per cent funded.

The UN Day is a timely and suitable occasion to reflect on the progress but also re-commit ourselves to delivering lifesaving assistance and alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable Somalis, particularly women and children. It is also a day to re-dedicate our efforts to amplify the common principles on which the United Nations was founded.

Thank you, SRSG.

 

JAMES SWAN: thank you very much, Mohamed. Now lets turn to Jocelyn Mason who is the acting Resident Coordinator.

 

JOCELYN MASON: Thank you very much, indeed, SRSG Swan, and thank you all.

I’ll speak now a bit about the economic progress and challenges. The challenges we inherited in 2020, including the onset of COVID and its devastating effect on the global economy, droughts and flooding, as well as the locust infestation, are, sadly, not yet behind us. According to some projections, as much as 20 per cent of Somalia's population may be directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic.

However, according to the World Bank report, the country's economy is expected to rebound from these shocks, with real domestic product projected to grow by about 2.4 per cent this year. Nevertheless, it has some way to go. Somalia's domestic revenue was 13 per cent lower in the first quarter of 2021, and, in addition, due to the ongoing uncertainty around elections, budgetary support from international partners is still on pause.

The UN and partners have nonetheless continued to persevere and work with the government of Somalia on advancing progress and achieving sustainable development. With UN support, Somalia, on the 11th of August, acceded to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and this really is a monumental milestone in the fight against corruption.

Now, building on the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-23, a UN task force together with the government are developing a ten-year joint programme that will focus on tackling corruption and its impact on women and children, and everybody living in this country.

Another notable achievement is the launch of the National Water Strategy for Somalia on the third of August. This achievement has set the foundation for sustainable development of water resources in the country. This is particularly important as climate change is increasingly seen as a driver of conflict and requires holistic solutions to prevent disaster.

A national task force on droughts and floods has now been launched as well, and will lead nexus-centred interventions to reduce the negative impact of climatic shocks. Somalia’s crises are multifaceted, and they therefore require multifaceted, holistic solutions that build resilience against future shocks.       

The UN in Somalia is focused to deliver such solutions by identifying opportunities for joint operationalization of the triple nexus. In a recent durable solution stock-taking event, the durable solutions joint donor and expert partner working group identified three priority areas for durable solutions in programming, and that is: access to sustainable basic services, housing and land property, and scaling-up of economic and financial inclusion.

On this UN Day, we re-commit ourselves to continue working with the government of Somalia towards a stable, peaceful and prosperous society, and I look forward to any questions you might have.

Thank you.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

(edited for clarity)

 

SIMON VALMARY (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE): How is the ongoing situation in Guriel a concern in terms of security but also regarding the electoral process, given that Galmudug is already behind in the electoral process for the Upper House?

JAMES SWAN: Thank you. Yes, we are indeed concerned, even alarmed by the ongoing fighting in Guriel, which has now continued for several days.

First and foremost, we're concerned about its humanitarian consequences, which have been severe. Obviously, the reports are still initial, but they signal [that] nearly 20,000 families displaced, representing some 100,000 people. Moreover, there have been very troubling reports of damage to hospital and civil society facilities as a consequence of the fighting. And obviously this would be a violation of international humanitarian law if this was a targeted effort.

Beyond that, of course, we are concerned that this is a distraction from other critical priorities, namely, completion of the electoral process and a continuation of the fight against Al-Shabaab. And as a consequence, we would certainly welcome efforts by the parties to this conflict to pause the ongoing hostilities, and explore opportunities for talks or dialogue that might allow for a peaceful resolution of this situation without further suffering of the people.

 

SIMON VALMARY (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE): Do you expect the current timeframe of the election process to be held on time, given the Lower House is due to be completed by 25th November? Do you expect a president to be elected by the end of the year?

JAMES SWAN: Well, indeed, the election management bodies, notably the Federal Election Implementation Team, has recently released an updated calendar for the electoral process, which calls for the House of the People elections to be concluded by the 20th of November.

Clearly, this is a very ambitious timeline. But we think it is important that maximum momentum be generated to move ahead with the electoral process. The Upper House process is nearly complete, with only two seats left to be chosen in Galmudug.

That process, however, has taken some three months and, clearly, the House of the People process must be accelerated. We have been working very closely through our Integrated Elections Support Group within the United Nations system – that includes UNSOM and UNDP, as well as other UN staff members – who are working in close collaboration with the federal and state election implementation teams, and with the Office of the Prime Minister, to encourage this to move forward. The timelines are indeed tight. I think what's most important is that there be an accelerated effort to move ahead with the House of the People election; that momentum be maintained and that it be clear this process is moving forward irreversibly in the coming few weeks.

 

CATHERINE HOURELD (REUTERS): I'm just curious to know what you make to the fighting in Galmudug? What is the potential for this fighting to spread further? You put out a statement about it yesterday.

JAMES SWAN: I think we are concerned that the longer this fighting in Guriel continues, the greater the risk of escalation, the greater the risk that other forces, whether they are community-based forces or other forces in support of the Galmudug administration and federal authorities, will be entering into the conflict.

This is why I think it's important that there be a rapid resolution, both for humanitarian reasons but also to ensure that it does not become, as perhaps you're hinting, again a distraction and a deviation both from the electoral process but also from the need for Somali security forces to keep their focus on the fight against Al-Shabaab.

 

CATHERINE HOURELD (REUTERS): Could you give us any specifics about how Al-Shabaab has benefited from this kind of fighting between former allies? Is it expanding into more territories? Is it able to mount more attacks in this region? Can you give a bit of an update?Are there specific examples that you can give us of Al-Shabaab exploiting this situation, please?  

JAMES SWAN: Over the last four days I can't give you a specific example during the period of this active conflict in Guriel, but it is a broader concern that the more that you have Somali forces focused on an objective that is not Al-Shabaab, the more you have leadership attention directed to an objective that's not Al-Shabaab, the more that you have security and intelligence elements focused on an objective that is not Al-Shabaab, the greater the opportunities for Al-Shabaab to benefit from this period. And this is, again, a concern that that we have about this situation. But in terms of giving a specific example, just within the last several days, I don't have one to share at this time.

 

MOHAMED YUSUF (VOICE OF AMERICA): Can any one of you can talk about the issue of humanitarian, how the current conflict in Galmudug has impacted the humanitarian situation, and, generally, in the last couple of months there has been delayed elections and political tensions, and how that has also impacted, generally, humanitarian aid and, generally, the people.

MOHAMED AYOYA: Thank you very much. I'll try to address the issue around humanitarian [activity] and what are the consequences of what is happening right now in Guriel. As the Special Representative said, our assessment so far shown us that 20,000 households have been displaced, and that's about more than 100,000 people.

And, of course, the problem there is that getting access to those people with the services that we can offer in time is extremely complicated and difficult. So, as we speak, we are indeed on the ground with our partners trying to provide services in terms of water and sanitation, hygiene, but also food.

But it is quite limited because, as I said earlier as well, our resources unfortunately are also limited. The Special Representative has also spoken about the issue of hospitals being affected, and that also means reduced access to people to health care in some areas, in Guriel specifically.

Also, the Special Representative has spoken about one of our implementing partners, a local NGO, also being targeted directly and affected, and, unfortunately, even lost one of their employees. All that means for us really is a number of constraints and limits to be able to access people and to provide the services that we can provide at the moment.

We are all coordinated together by OCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and we are working day and night to make sure that we can provide the services we can provide as I said in terms of water and sanitation, in terms of health as much as possible, but also in terms of food on the ground.

 

JAMES SWAN: If I might just pick up on the impact of the delay in elections – this is part of a broader concern that we have, that these delayed elections are occupying such a central place in the attention of the leadership of the country at this time, that unfortunately it is causing other critical priorities to be deferred.

And we can really look across the board at the development agenda, we can look at additional work to be done in the security sector, we can look at longer term state-building priorities around the Constitution, around establishing rule of law institutions, judicial institutions, about building a more effective framework for national reconciliation. These, unfortunately, have been deferred because of the intense focus on national elections, and there are also practical consequences, including, as Jocelyn mentioned, delayed disbursement of external donor support because of concerns about this protracted electoral process.

So once again – and we believe this is very much consistent with the desire and intent of the Somali people – we would urge that this electoral process move forward swiftly, credibly and in an inclusive manner, that is respectful also of the need to ensure participation by women, youth and other historically marginalized groups so that the country can move on to address other critical national priorities as soon as possible.

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