The political climate in Somalia is now more conducive to addressing key national priorities following the end of the “contentious” electoral process in May, UN Special Representative James Swan told the Security Council on Wednesday.
“To capitalise on this opportunity, federal and state authorities must collaborate closely to achieve progress on the new government’s goals, including improving governance and justice, effectively countering Al-Shabaab, and responding urgently to the worsening humanitarian crisis,” he said.
Somalia’s electoral process concluded on 15 May after Parliament voted in Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as President. The Prime Minister and Cabinet were endorsed in June and August, respectively.
Where are the women?
Mr. Swan said the new government moved swiftly to outline a four-year work programme that covers goals and activities across six pillars: security, justice, reconciliation, economic development, social development and foreign relations.
However, he pointed to areas that still need to be addressed.
“Unfortunately, women remain under-represented in cabinet positions and parliamentary committees. Just 13 per cent of cabinet members are women, and 21 per cent of parliamentary committee members,” he reported.
“I call again for Somali leaders to take further measures to ensure women’s meaningful participation across institutions of government, as well as the inclusion of youth and historically marginalised groups.”
Insecurity a priority
Mr. Swan said the new administration has identified security as its top national priority, which “comes at a time when Al-Shabaab has demonstrated increased boldness.”
The insurgents have recently carried out targeted assassinations, complex attacks, and large-scale military actions along the border with Ethiopia, which he condemned.
The Special Envoy commended the Security Forces and their counterparts from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) “who at great cost in lives continue to fight to defend the population against Al-Shabaab.”
UN Photo / Fardosa Hussein
Somalia is facing the risk of an unprecedented famine
Spectre of famine
Somalia currently is facing a humanitarian crisis, brought on by the worst drought in at least 40 years. Some 7.8 million people, nearly half the population, are affected, and some areas are already at risk of famine.
Although the number of people reached by humanitarians has quadrupled since January to 5.3 million, a further scale-up in aid is needed.
Mr. Swan called for all parties in Somalia to facilitate humanitarian access, and for donors to increase funding.
Women and children vulnerable
“The ongoing humanitarian crisis has especially contributed to the vulnerability of displaced women and children, who historically have faced discrimination and exclusion from service,” he said.
“I urge the Somali authorities to increase prevention measures for the risk of sexual violence particularly against women and girls, including by strengthening security at water points and at food distribution sites.”
Addressing longer-term development, Mr. Swan highlighted progress on debt relief.
In June, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released $350 million in development funding for Somalia. Other donors also have resumed budgetary support so the country can sustain required reform efforts to complete the debt relief process.
The Special Envoy concluded his remarks by reiterating the UN’s commitment to continue supporting the Somali government and people in achieving their national goals.