What More Could Finland Do to Assist Somalia, Somalia-seminar, 25.1.2012, Helsinki

Distinguished speakers, representatives of Somali organizations in Finland, non-governmental organizations working with Somalia, media, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted for this opportunity to welcome you all to this brainstorming seminar aiming at sharing views and experiences on working with Somalia. We also hope to get fresh ideas what more could Finland do to assist Somalia. The situation in the country is complex and contains a plethora of different issues. We cannot deal with all of them in one afternoon. Today we will focus on three areas the first of which is peace mediation and peace-building. I am especially happy that Mrs. Sedef Yavuzalp, Deputy Director General for East Africa from the Turkish Foreign Ministry has been willing to travel all the way from Ankara to Helsinki and will address us about ”Peace building in Somalia. A Turkish contribution”. Having a functioning embassy in Mogadishu Turkey has up to date and direct experience on what is going on in Somalia. Turkish foreign policy vis-a-vis Somalia is also very active and Finland welcomes this. So we are exited to hear more about it soon. I believe that in addition to cooperating with individual countries in assisting peaceful developments in Somalia it would be interesting to know how Turkey views possible intensified cooperation with the EU in this context.

I would also like to recall that in September 2010 Finland and Turkey took the initiative to create a Friends of Mediation Group at the United Nations to bring together various actors involved in mediation and to push for enhanced use of mediation. The group now comprises of 25 Member States and 8 regional organizations. It is positive that civil society players also actively participate in this work. The group presented a resolution to the UN General Assembly entitled ”Strengthening the role of mediation in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution” which was adopted by consensus in June last year. The UN Secretary-General has described the resolution as ”groundbreaking development that positions the Organization as a standard setter for mediation”.

Finland wants to reinforce its participation in international peace mediation and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs launched an Action Plan for Peace Mediation mid December last year. Lots of comments to the Plan were received also from Finnish civil society organizations welcoming such activities as increased training and research in peace mediation and agreeing to that women’s role in peace processes should be strengthened. Finland has supported in various ways the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security.  A recent successful example is twinning cooperation between Finland and Kenya that will produce a National Action Plan for Kenya.  

The second theme for our seminar is security and further capacity building of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Finland has been participating in the European Union Training Mission, EUTM that trains security personnel for the TFG.  So far 2000 soldiers have completed their training. Finland provided 4 trainers during that phase. For the second intake which is at present carried out in Uganda Finland has provided 7 trainers. I see the training and gradual building up of Somali security forces as an important component in rebuilding Somalia as a nation after two decades of nonfunctioning state structures. Helena Partanen from the Ministry of Defense will speak more about this theme and I thank her already now for her contribution.

The third theme is development cooperation and Somalis in Finland as a resource and an asset. Introduction and presentation of it will be done by my good colleague Heidi Hautala.  Ms. Saido Mohamed, the new Chairperson of the Finnish Somalia Network will focus especially on Somalis in Finland as a resource.

The situation in Somalia has changed clearly since summer last year. First the TFG troops assisted by AMISOM were able to clear most parts of Mogadishu from al-Shabaab fighters. In mid October the Government of Kenya decided to start fighting against al-Shabaab troops in Southern Somalia aiming at stopping kidnappings and killings of tourists, aid workers and Kenyan citizens and to create a buffer zone around its Somali boarders. Both TFG and AMISOM troops have been able to give some support to the Kenyan military, but not as much as would be needed to successfully eliminate al-Shabaab from these areas. Finland emphasizes the close cooperation between Kenya, AMISOM and TFG particularly also in the areas in Southern Somalia that are liberated from al-Shabaab rule with assistance provided by Kenya. 

Al-Shabaab has suffered losses and become weaker.  It is important to support all efforts to weaken it further and therefore the proposal to increase the strength of AMISOM from current 12 000 to nearly 18 000 is called for. International actors have to seize this opportunity to improve the security situation in Somalia and therefore we should give our full support to strengthening AMISOM. Improved security is the necessary prerequisite for normalization of living conditions and for further development in Somalia.

Somalia and its international partners have agreed on an ambitious Road Map in order to bring to an end by August this year the transition that has lasted far too long. This ambitious time schedule should be kept. Key elements of the Road Map are the elaboration of a new Constitution as well as reaching results in the formation of a smaller parliament that also genuinely represents the interests of different groups of Somali people.

Encouraging results in this work were reached in the first national Constitutional Conference held in Garowe end of December last year. The Garowe principles shall guide and direct finalization of the draft constitution and the process of ending the transition. The principles underline the role of the recognized traditional elders in the process towards a post

-transition parliamentary structure. In fact, through tripartite arrangements involving UN Political Office for Somalia, UNPOS, and the Finnish Foreign Ministry, the Finn Church Aid has already been actively involved in finding ways on how to utilize Somali Elders and Religious Leaders as constructive contributors in furthering peace in Somalia. Another positive element of the Garowe principles  underline that in the process for provisional adoption of the constitution 30 % of the Somalis adopting it should be women.

However, when moving towards a post-transition political system in Somalia, patience and constructive flexibility will be required from all actors, including the traditional clans. Peace should not be allowed to become the business of a few. It calls for a broad base: all those who want to build Somalia and distance themselves from terrorism should be welcomed to contribute in this process. In sum, all relevant actors should be brought to the table, in particular those such as discriminated minorities or women who have been excluded from decision making before. Leaving part of country’s population outside the spheres of influence will not a successful option in peace processes.

I am looking forward to fruitful discussion today.

Thank you.