With 2011 drawing to a close, let’s take a moment to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the next. 2011 has been a particularly tragic year for Somalia and, most importantly Somalis. Despite a great deal of effort and goodwill by many people both outside and inside of Somalia, the country remains mired in conflict and in a humanitarian disaster of almost unimaginable proportions. And, once again, the vast majority of victims have been the most vulnerable in society.
The first officially declared famine of the 21st century has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people – we may never know exactly how many. More than a quarter of the population is displaced, either internally or in neighbouring countries. Yet another generation of Somali children is growing up surrounded by violence, lawlessness, insecurity, and for many a complete lack of formal education or other basic services. It is difficult to imagine the impact that this is having. The UK has responded to the situation with other international partners, as best we could: the work by humanitarian agencies has undoubtedly saved the lives of many, many Somalis and we pay tribute to their bravery and commitment. But the crisis is far from over – so this vital work will continue in 2012.
Terrorists and pirates continue to use Somalia as their safe haven. These criminals are undermining the prospects for peace and prosperity inside Somalia; they also pose a threat to the stability and prosperity of the region and the wider international community.
But there are also reasons for modest optimism. The Roadmap agreed in Mogadishu in September provides fresh political stimulus to build on this progress and successfully conclude the Transitional period in August 2012. Somaliland continues to develop as a relatively stable entity, with hope too for further economic progress in 2012, while Puntland looks ahead to elections planned for 2013. Areas of Mogadishu are beginning to return to life, as people begin to rebuild markets and businesses; Al Shabaab is clearly under pressure; and there are more and more Somalis that want change – more accountable, legitimate and inclusive government and an end to the years of predatory leadership that have denied so many Somalis the stability and access to basic services, like education, that we all take for granted.
Our response, therefore, is to continue to tackle the causes of instability in Somalia – and with renewed vigour. Our Prime Minister has announced that he will host a Conference on Somalia in London on 23 February (for Tweeters look for #LDNSomalia). The aim of this event will be to bring together leaders of key partner countries and organisations, both in Africa and beyond, to help galvanise a common approach to address the suffering of the Somali people and the problems and challenges that affect us all. We hope this will be the catalyst for a new approach to Somalia and strengthen the efforts to bring lasting peace and stability for the Somali people. Together, we hope we can make 2012 an opportunity to support a brighter future for Somalia.
Thank you for reading my blog, and I look forward to reading and responding to comments, on the London Somalia Conference or anything else relevant, below. And I truly wish you a very happy 2012.