New Deal for Somalia is an important deal

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Somalia’s New Deal is the first of its kind in the world and is a more ambitious initiative than a classic development tool, write Villy Søvndal and Christian Friis Bach.

Villy Søvndal is Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Christian Friis Bach is Danish Minister for Development Cooperation and Co-Chair for the International Dialogue on Peace-building and State-building.

The international community turned a blind eye to the Horn of Africa for far too long – and not without consequences. Piracy flourished along the Somali coast, the longest in all of Africa. Terrorism gained a foothold. And the population was extremely vulnerable to drought and famine, as we witnessed in 2011.

Despite renewed attacks and bombings carried out by the al Shabab terrorist network, there is an emerging hope in the Horn of Africa. The land attacks of recent months cannot dim the progress achieved in the wake of two decades of conflict and chaos. One year ago, a new federal government was established in Somalia that can represent the population across geographical regions and family clans. A fragile yet important foundation has been established for creating peace and progress.

In a global world, we cannot forget a country like Somalia. More than 1 million Somali refugees reside in the neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa. This combined with the threat of terrorism causes instability and danger along the borders, hindering trade that is so essential to economic growth and combating poverty in Africa.

Denmark is a seafaring nation and we have an interest in ensuring that our ships can sail safely. Danish ships have been hijacked by Somali pirates, with Danish seamen and families taken as hostage. Obviously, this is an untenable situation.

The positive results we have already achieved are deserving of praise and celebration. Piracy is down to a very low level. This is a direct result of wide-ranging efforts including international naval operations, the shipping companies’ own measures and efforts in Puntland, which serves as the base for the majority of Somali pirates, to do something about the problem.

We have seen uplifting results on the ground. For example, the first new Somali schools in 20 years have opened their doors to nearly 100,000 students. Hospitals, health clinics, roads and bus stops are being restored. Prisons, police stations, courts and legal aid centres have receiving vital funding, improving access to justice for the Somali people. But we must not rest on our laurels. Rebuilding Somalia will take a long time. Setbacks are inevitable. But we must not give up.

Today, the Somali government made a “New Deal” contract with the country’s citizens to establish greater security, greater respect for rights, and greater economic progress. Somalia must take responsibility for the country’s development as its international partners pledge to continue providing support and avoiding mistakes of the past.

Somalia’s New Deal is based on strong support from the international community, with the EU leading the way. At a conference in Brussels today, the numerous invited countries resolved to support Somalia’s New Deal, both politically and economically.

Somalia’s New Deal is the first of its kind in the world and is a more ambitious initiative than a classic “development tool”. It is a roadmap for promoting statebuilding and peacebuilding over the next three years by focusing on the country’s political processes, security, legal system and economic foundation.

Somalia’s New Deal is not perfect, but it is likely the best available recipe for progress and tackling the many serious threats that Somalia has created for itself, the region and the world in recent years. We must not let this opportunity go to waste.

Denmark advocates this approach to development in fragile states through the Danish Co-Chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, working closely with the group of fragile states in the g7+, which includes a number of African countries.

Positive development in Somalia through the New Deal approach can set new standards for global cooperation and for how we think about peace, security and development. More than 1.5 billion people currently live in countries in very fragile situations – many of these countries are in Africa. Their opportunities for achieving the universal development goals are inextricably linked to increased peace, security and stability. 

By fulfilling its promise in what may be the most fragile state of them all, Somalia, New Deal will ignite the hopes of people around the world. This is why positive development in Somalia is important. And this is why the international community’s continuing support of Somalia and the New Deal efforts is important. The tangible results achieved through the New Deal approach will also serve as the best argument for putting the challenges of fragile states at the top of the global development agenda post-2015.

Denmark recognises the importance of a strong international cooperation on Somalia. The support and commitment of the EU and its member states to this cooperation represents a vital contribution towards fulfilling our shared responsibility for Somalia and the international New Deal efforts.

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