UN Special Representative highlights need for inclusive dialogue during Puntland visit

31 Mar 2024

UN Special Representative highlights need for inclusive dialogue during Puntland visit

Garowe – As part of her regular engagement with Federal Member States (FMSs), the United Nations' top official for Somalia today visited Puntland for discussions on the state's development and humanitarian needs and political situation in the country.

"We had the opportunity to have an open and frank discussion. I congratulated President Deni on the appointment of his new cabinet," said the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Catriona Laing.

The UN Special Representative who was accompanied by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, George Conway, made the remarks in a joint media encounter with Puntland's President Said Abdullahi Deni, along with members of his cabinet and advisors.

Puntland Development Programme

Speaking of the discussions, the UN official said the first topic was around Puntland's development programme.

"I've seen the outline summary that the government has put together with the various pillars, which is very clear," said the UN official. 

Ms. Laing reaffirmed the United Nations' commitment to working with and in support of the government and people of Puntland.

"I reassured the president that he has the support and the full commitment of the full UN family," said Ms. Laing.

She said the presence of Mr. Conway who leads on UN’s development and humanitarian efforts in Somalia was a demonstration of that commitment. 

During the discussions on development, the focus was also on the potential of fisheries, considering that Puntland has the longest coastline within Somalia.

"If Puntland can get to the point where it can meet international standards, fisheries could be a great export opportunity as well as of course a source of nutrition and livelihoods domestically for the population," said Ms. Laing. 

Nevertheless, she mentioned that despite the numerous development opportunities in Puntland, there are also several challenges to overcome. 

"One of the challenges we've discussed is the recent cholera outbreak, which is very serious here in Puntland and the UN is scaling up our support to help the government tackle the cholera problem," said the UN Official.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Puntland State, reported the highest cases numbering 351 with 23 deaths in the last four weeks, a spike attributed to limited access to safe water and open defecation especially in displacement sites, as well as resistance to common antibiotics.

UN partners - WHO, UNICEF and the Health and WASH Cluster, are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other government departments to address the situation.

FGS and Puntland relations

In their meeting prior to the media encounter, the UN Special Representative and President Deni also discussed ways to reduce recent political tensions due to the ongoing amendments to the Constitution, between the Federal Government of Somalia and the country's FMSs.

Referring to the vote by the Federal parliament and the statement issued by the government of Puntland, she took note of the concerns of both sides on some substantive elements and also around the process. 

"I was very pleased to hear from the president that he is committed to try and find a way through this to ensure that dialogue can continue with the federal government to ensure that there is an inclusive process and the whole country can come together to ensure that eventually the constitution at the federal level defines and ensures that the individual federal member states have their autonomy within that and can play their part,” said the UN official

Ms. Laing thanked President Deni for being open to find solutions to the current impasse. 

"The future of Somalia is at stake. The country, which has so much potential and can't move forward without the full and inclusive participation of Puntland," said Ms. Laing.

Ms. Laing also reaffirmed the United Nations' commitment to working with and in support of the government and people of Puntland.

"And we, the UN, through my good offices, we are here to help find a way through this, "said the UN official.

During her visit, the fourth to Puntland since she took office in 2023, Ms. Laing also met with UN staff working in Puntland to discuss the humanitarian and development-related support activities being carried out by the UN agencies, funds, and programmes.