OpEd by Hassan Sheikh Moahmud & Catherine Ashton: A New Deal for Somalia

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Nobody can deny it. Somalia has come a long way. The tremendous changes the country has been through in recent months demonstrates the power of commitment to move a country away from civil war and destitution; a commitment by Somali leaders to meet their people’s aspirations for a better future, and by the European Union and other international partners to support them on their path to reconstruction and stability.

A military campaign, led by AMISOM, the African Union Mission to Somalia, and the Somali national forces has driven Al-Shabab from large parts of the country. Pirate attacks have declined by 93% over the last two years, and there has not been a single successful one in 2013. Terrorist attacks are still taking place on land, and the threat to life, security and stability remains real. But Somalis are returning from exile, investing and helping build a new state. The EU and others must support them in this task of reconstruction, so that the new Federal Institutions can establish a viable federal state and hold elections as planned in 2016.

To mark the progress made and to support the reconstruction effort, we are hosting a conference in Brussels on 16 September to launch a “New Deal for Somalia”. This event will endorse a Compact between Somalia and the international community that will enable the country to move faster down the path towards peace and prosperity – in line with the “New Deal” approach to help countries in fragile and post-conflict situations.

The event will set out a clear political vision for Somalia’s future, set agreed development priorities, and establish financing mechanisms and ways to ensure the aid is delivered effectively and held accountable. In this way it will support the political process among Somalis to finalise their constitution and define the federal state they want.

The partnership between Somalis and Europeans has helped lay the foundation for this progress. Throughout Somalia’s most difficult moments in the last twenty years, the EU never stopped providing support. When starvation has haunted the country, European humanitarian assistance was there. When terrorism threatened chaos, the EU and its partners supported AMISOM’s campaign to drive it back and provided an EU Training Mission to help the Somali National Armed Forces restore its effectiveness. When piracy threatened the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean, the European Union Naval Force played a key role in containing the pirates and the EUCAP Nestor mission was created to reinforce maritime security. Wherever the opportunity for longer term development work was possible, the EU Development Fund invested there.

Still, there is no room for complacency. We need to keep up the momentum of change. The struggle against Al-Shabab must be completed. Political aspirations must be turned into a stable reality. The country needs institutions that work and are trusted by the people; the rule of law, security and honest financial administration need to be put in place. And the country’s neighbours need to be assured that Somalia will be a force for regional stability, not instability.

But we must act now and we must act together. Success will lie in a partnership between Somalia and the international community – a genuine partnership in which Somalis assume the rights and obligations of a sovereign state, taking both ownership and responsibility for their future. The “New Deal for Somalia Conference” provides this chance to seize the momentum, to give Somalia the support it needs, and to give the Somalis the future they deserve.

The authors are Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, and H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.