COPENHAGEN, Denmark, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Check against delivery
Mr President, Excellencies,
Thank you for bringing us together here today, and for setting the agenda through your opening statements.
Twenty years ago, I read an article in my local newspaper about eight refugee boys, orphans, from Somalia, arriving in my small town. I called the municipality and offered to be a contact family. Young Mohammed became our third boy in the family. We learned something about his sorrows and frustrations, his longing and hopes and love for his country. We also had an exotic exchange of experiences – of camels and skiing respectively.
No one describes the challenges Somalia faces better than you, President Mohamud. It is first and foremost the daily life of your citizens and the future of your country that are at stake. When we talk about the forming of a stable federal state, poverty reduction and social services delivery, it is the key tasks for you and your government that we are talking about. You have formulated your Vision 2016. We, as international partners, have provided sustained support and cooperation.
It is sometimes said that “the meeting is the message”. This is a meeting with a very clear message.
I have three points to make.
First: there is a need for clear, brave and determined political leadership, in order not to halt or reverse progress made. As in any country, political leadership is about listening, finding compromises and working together. It is about mobilising political will and rising above politics of personalities and advancing the interest of the citizens. No one can have their way in every single detail. But everyone can – and must – play their part in shaping a long-term political solution that ensures the unity, stability and prosperity of the country. We all know how difficult this can be. I hope that we can be of help to each other, and share each other’s experiences.
This is important for Somalia, but also for how we as partners engage with, and support, the Somali government’s priorities.
Time is not really on our side. The pace needs to accelerate if Vision 2016 is to be realised. The most critical laws must be passed and vital commissions set up. Schools, roads and hospitals must be built. Employment opportunities for Somali young people must be identified.
And – this is my second message – the voice of Somali women must be strengthened.
Women make up some 60 per cent of the population, but less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians at national and regional levels in Somalia. A young girl in Somalia today is less likely to go to school than her brother. Even if she – and not her brother – is the one with the better business skills or more talent, her capacity is less likely to be utilised to its full potential. This is a waste of human resources that no society can afford. And it is a matter of fundamental human rights that no country can ignore. I am encouraged by all the work that has already started.
We need to see an end to women and girls in Somalia being socially, economically and politically discriminated against. We need an enhanced legal and social framework to tackle gender inequality. And we need to pay attention to the fight against gender-based violence.
There is no magic solution for tackling gender inequality. But it is my firm belief that without gender equality there is no sustainable solution to the long-term challenges in Somalia.
In other words: nothing about them without them. No women, no peace.
The third message I’d like to convey is one of support, and of cooperation.
Partners stand ready to continue to assist in building a sovereign and secure Somalia with democratic and inclusive political institutions. Coordination is, as always, key – and always complicated. The dialogue between all donors could be so much stronger. The international support to the Somali security sector and AMISOM needs to be sustained. Our development cooperation has to work faster and with more flexibility and creativity than usual. It needs to link in with humanitarian assistance and security and stabilisation efforts, and ensure that tangible support quickly reaches the population also outside Mogadishu, especially in newly recovered areas. In all of this, the UN is a key partner and we commend the leadership of the SRSG and the work of the integrated UN mission.
Sweden is ready to continue its substantial partnership with Somalia. It is a partnership of political engagement, development and security. The Swedish development cooperation in Somalia is long-term. Our support of USD 45 million per year is aimed at peace-building, job-creation, the strengthening of democratic institutions, health and private sector development. It focuses in particular on the needs of women and children. We have a substantial humanitarian assistance – USD 23 million last year.
And Sweden is supporting the strengthening of the Somali security sector, primarily through the EU missions on the ground and at sea. We are currently preparing for our fourth contribution to Operation Atalanta.
It is also a partnership of people. We have a significant Somali diaspora – nearly 60 000 people – in Sweden. They are an asset to us. Thank you, Mr President, for letting us benefit from the talent and experience of your citizens. And they are, of course, an asset to you. There ought to be more effective ways of harnessing their strong capacity and willingness to engage.
And it is a partnership for seeing opportunities. In June, we held a Somali trade and investment conference in Stockholm on the role of private actors in state-building and job-creation. Some 150 participants came to explore the emerging business opportunities. We are now looking into ways of supporting diaspora investments in Somalia.
My message has been threefold: political leadership, a stronger voice for the women of Somalia, and coordinated and long-term international support.
What is at stake here is – of course – the future of Somalia, but also the possibility of being a shining international example. Strong national institutions, determined people and a committed international community have pushed Somalia forward in a way few believed to be possible only a few years ago. A failed state with the potential of becoming a great success story and a source of inspiration and hope for many societies affected by conflict and crisis.
So let’s make sure – through brave and determined efforts – that this is the story of Somalia that will be remembered.