So far, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the British Prime Minister’s announcement to host a Conference on Somalia in London next month. After 20 years of sliding backwards, it’s clear – and welcomed by many – that Somalia needs a step-change in effort, both from the international community, but also Somalia’s political leaders.

This is what the London Conference is about – bringing together in London senior representatives from over 40 governments, multilateral organisations and Somali authorities to agree how the international community can step-up its efforts to help tackle the root causes and effects of the problems in Somalia.

Twenty years of civil war in Somalia have had a dramatic effect on Somalis. Somalia is the most affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa – the UK estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 people may have died in Somalia, half of them children, since famine was declared almost six months ago. The UN estimates that 250,000 Somalis remain at risk and almost 2.5 million Somalis are displaced in the country and across the region. And if that wasn’t reason enough to act, an entire generation of children – Somalia’s future – has grown up with guns, not school books. Somalia is one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. And while some Somalis are thriving financially, not enough is being invested in Somalia’s future.

And it’s clear from my meetings with many Somalis, that the people of Somalia want change. So the London Conference is about making the most of the opportunities in front of us:

  • The opportunity to support a more inclusive and representative political process when the Transitional Period ends in August 2012;
  • The opportunity to help people return to Mogadishu and rebuild their lives in that city;
  • The opportunity to take further action against Al Shabaab and piracy;
  • The opportunity to reinforce the relative stability in areas of Somalia, such as Somaliland and Puntland and in the south.

To realise these opportunities we need more effective international and Somali leadership and a more coordinated approach focused on actions. The UK aims to act as a catalyst for this new approach.

Together with colleagues in London and in British Missions around the world, we continue to consult widely with our Somali and international partners. These consultations will continue over the next weeks.

From these early discussions, there’s growing agreement on a series of measures to support Somalia, including: providing sustainable funding for AMISOM; support for Somali security and justice sectors; agreement to what should succeed the transitional institutions in August 2012; a package of support to Somalia’s regions; a renewed commitment to collectively tackle the terrorist threat emanating from Somalia; breaking the piracy business model; a renewed commitment to tackling Somalia’s humanitarian crisis; and improved international handling of Somalia issues.

So, the momentum towards the Conference is building. We’re realistic enough to know these are complex issues that will not be solved overnight. We will need to build on and support the work of the UN, AU, NGOs and the vital role of civil society in Somali and we will require sustained political commitment and concrete action, including from Somalia’s political leaders. But what’s agreed in London will be an important step.

Please let me know what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with this emerging agenda – your comments are always welcome, either below or on Twitter using #LDNSomalia.

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