After 20 years of civil war, there are signs of hope for Somalia. The timing of a Conference of 55 delegations at Lancaster House in London last week to discuss the way ahead seemed to embody the growing international consensus – not just among the countries of the region but much more widely – that “something must be done” to resolve the problem of Somalia. And quickly.
From the perspective of an involved spectator – which is what I was – the Conference itself went as well as it could have done. This reflected a great deal of hard work done in advance by many people from many governments and organisations – it helped tremendously, for instance, that the members of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development in Eastern Africa (IGAD) came to the Conference with an agreed position on many of the issues at stake.
This, together with discussions on the day, resulted in a meaty Communiqué (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=727627582) which sets out a wide-ranging agreement on the way ahead. Governments and the media across the board evaluated the London Conference very positively (I have seen very few gripes and a huge amount of upbeat commentary).
Of course there is much more work to be done. The London Conference was part of a process that will involve much more hard effort and political will before Somalia is transformed into a modern nation and the terrorists threatening the people of Somalia are defeated.
But the signs are good and there is a great deal more optimism than there was just a few months ago. The terrorism and piracy emanating from Somalia of course impact on many other countries. But even without these external threats, the humanitarian imperative to help the people of this troubled country would be clear. And at last they can begin to hope.