Somalia’s population, international partners must be energized to sustain country’s ‘upward trajectory,’ says senior UN official

Despite Somalia’s persistent security threats, recurrent political crises, capacity constraints and the difficulties in navigating political obstacles to its reform agenda, the Horn of Africa country remains on a “positive trajectory,” the UN Security Council was told on Wednesday.

22 May 2019

Briefing the Council, Raisedon Zenenga, Deputy Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that the country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms. There had also been progress on the inclusive politics agenda as well, including the constitutional review process and preparations for universal suffrage elections.

“The Federal Government has decided to apply the same rigorous approach to bring accountability and transparency to the security sector,” he said, noting, among other recent steps, the completion in March of biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers. All 16,000 soldiers registered were now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts.

“This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption, and ensures regular payment of salaries to military personnel. It also paves the way for rightsizing the National Army,” said Mr. Zenenga.

In parallel with these security sector reforms, the Federal Governments had launched military operations in Lower Shabelle region to advance the Transition Plan, degrade Al Shabaab in strongholds that are contiguous to Mogadishu and thereby halt the recent increase in Al Shabaab attacks in the capital.

Yet, Somalia continued to grapple with significant challenges, he said, explaining that the Federal Government’s reform efforts have encountered “inevitable” resistance. The economic reforms and security sector reforms entail dismantling a war economy that had flourished for decades.

“There are many vested interests which pose obstacles to increased accountability. Taking on these vested interests requires not only the determination, which the Federal Government has shown, but an inclusive approach of building relationships with all stakeholders to demonstrate that the reforms will yield benefits for the whole nation,” Mr. Zenenga stressed.

He also noted that the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland, which also has implications for the completion of the constitutional review process, remains stalled. “We are, however, encouraged by ‘Somaliland’ President Muse Bihi’s remarks on 18 May expressing his readiness to promote peace with Puntland, including through the exchange of prisoners, and to cooperate with Somalia on issues related to security, trade and education.”

Recalling that UNSOM began the new year facing a security crisis as a result of the mortar attack on the UN compound on 1 January, and a political crisis as a result of the expulsion of the Special representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom on the same day, Mr. Zenenga said the two incidents had severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Federal Government of Somalia and had also elevated the security risk level for UN personnel and left our staff deeply demoralized.

While the Mission had immediately prioritized the safety and security of its staff while concentrating political efforts on mending relations with the Federal Government, Mr. Zenenga underscored that a lasting solution to the continuing security threat “will come from denying Al Shabaab the space and opportunities to prepare and launch attacks.”

Despite such challenges, he said Somalia has “immense opportunities” to make further progress in the coming months. He set out the following prescription for making headway:

  • The federal and sub-federal levels must agree to work together in a spirit of consensus.
  • Parliament must focus on passing priority legislation in a timely manner;
  • All national stakeholders need to collaborate effectively in responding to the imminent drought and avert a famine; and
  • Key relationships, including with national stakeholders, international partners and regional powers, both in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf should be nurtured.

“The trajectory is upward, and we can all work together to energize Somalia’s population and their international partners towards reform and progress,” he concluded.

Somalia’s humanitarian situation ‘among the most protracted in the world’

Also briefing the Council, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller, said that ongoing armed conflict and violence, as well as recurrent climatic shocks continue to drive humanitarian needs in Somalia. Governance challenges and underdevelopment compound fragility and make it difficult for communities to develop robust coping mechanisms.

She said that the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January, identified 4.2 million Somalis – one third of the population – in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This shows a decline in needs from 2017, when famine was averted, raising hope that resilience activities led by the Government and development partners could make further gains.

“However, current humanitarian indicators across the country are showing a deterioration,” said Ms. Mueller, spotlighting three areas of concern: the severe drought conditions that have spread from northern and central areas throughout the country following two failed rainy seasons; the situation of internally displaced persons; and protection concerns.

“We must act now to avert a major humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian partners stand ready to deliver aid to those most in need and are capable of rapidly scaling up response, as was proven during famine prevention efforts in 2017,” said, but cautioned that significant funding shortfalls are constraining response and leading to a reduction in assistance in critical areas, including health, nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

“I believe I was invited to brief you today to draw attention to the elevated risk of a major humanitarian crisis unfolding on the horizon. The immediate scale up of humanitarian response is essential to mitigate the impact of the drought and to prevent further breaking up of communities that continue to be fragile from the drought in 2017,” she said.

She encouraged the international community to urgently increase support for life-saving drought response efforts and to protect gains made in 2018, and added that it was here hope that immediate resources will be received to help us prevent a dramatic crisis from escalating.

UN highlights need to solve growing burden of forcibly displaced Africans

With 24.2 million Africans forced from their homes in 2017  ̶  4.6 million more than the previous year  ̶  the UN is hosting a three-day event at UN headquarters, focusing on finding durable solutions to the problem, which is a growing burden on the continent’s economy, environment and communities which host those displaced.

21 May 2019

The 2019 Africa Dialogue Series, (ADS) which began on Monday under the theme “Towards durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons in Africa,” brings together a wide range of actors with a stake in finding ways to deal with the issue, including representatives of national governments, the African Union, civil society, the private sector and the United Nations.

Speaking at the opening session, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, commended the contribution African countries are making to strengthen multilateralism.

Ms. Espinosa said that she resolved to make Africa the focus of her activities at the outset of her GA Presidency, adding that she believes Africa’s contribution to the UN is under-appreciated, and that the region’s voice remains under-represented in the international system.

Ms. Espinosa stressed that African leadership “time and time again, has led the way, be it through expanding the definition of ‘refugee’ in 1969, or through the Kampala Convention, the first legally-binding framework to address internal displacement, which was adopted in 2009.”

Africa sets ‘gold standard’ of solidarity and hospitality

In his opening remarks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said that by building strong coalitions of stakeholders, the series was an important element in the effort to boost international cooperation. With regard to the 2019 ADS theme, the UN chief paid tribute to the solidarity and hospitality of African countries, many of whom continue to set the global standard:

“Countries like Uganda, Djibouti, Rwanda and Ethiopia are taking innovative action to recognize and promote the rights of refugees. And African countries played a key role in securing the approval of the Global Compact on Refugees last year,” he said.

Mr. Guterres urged delegates to “consider the issue of displacement in the broadest context, in your search for sustainable and durable solutions,” taking into consideration international issues such as the global emergency of climate change, financing for development and universal health coverage.

Deputy Secretary-General and former Nigerian Government minister, Amina Mohammed, told delegates: “You can count on the United Nations to be a strong partner for Africa…ensuring the involvement of youth as agents of change in all conflict resolution and political processes.”

She praised the recent Joint UN-African Union (AU) Frameworks on Peace and Security and Sustainable Development, noting they would “contribute to strengthening our shared efforts to promote inclusive sustainable development and tackle many of the drivers of conflict and forced displacement.”

Ms. Mohammed called for all to “pledge today to keep working together to transform the narrative and transform the future for Africa, its young people and our world.”

Displacement a ‘significant loss of human potential’

Bience Gawanas, the UN’s Special Adviser on Africa, whose office was instrumental in setting up the Africa Dialogue Series, echoed the UN chief’s recognition of African solidarity, in personal testimony shared during her opening remarks: “I, myself, am a product of African solidarity. Having left home in my teens during the war of liberation against apartheid in Namibia, I spent years in refugee camps in Angola and Zambia and benefitted immensely from the generosity of the Angolan and Zambian people. I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your big heart.”

Ms. Gawanas said that the ADS is just one of several activities being organized throughout 2019 to raise global awareness of the challenge of forced displacement: “Africa is home to over 24 million forcibly displaced persons, representing one-third of the world’s total. Forced displacement is not only a tale of human tragedy, it also poses a real threat to achieving peace, prosperity and development.”

Forced displacement is not only a tale of human tragedy, it also poses a real threat to achieving peace, prosperity and development – Bience Gawanas, UN Special Adviser

This, explained Ms. Bience, is because the vast amount of resources spent on forced displacement, which is caused mainly by conflict and natural disasters, divert vital funds away from critical areas with potentially greater impact for sustainable development in Africa; and because it contributes to a significant loss of human potential, with highly skilled and educated people unable to use their skills in meaningful ways: “These are brainpowers that could be harnessed in service of Africa to address some of the intractable problems facing the continent. This is a loss to society.”

A platform for innovative solutions to Africa’s problems

The Africa Dialogue Series was launched in 2018, to promote topics of importance to the continent, such as peace, humanitarian assistance and human rights. This year, participants will discuss innovative ways to enable countries hosting displaced people and refugees, to reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid, and boost their economic development. An expected outcome is an increased awareness of the solutions to forced displacement currently implemented in African countries, showcasing best practice, and giving a voice to displaced people.

Another key aim of the series of discussions, is to secure support from African leaders for the ratification and adoption of major multinational agreements, such as the Kampala Convention, an Africa-wide treaty – the world’s first – that protects people displaced within their own countries by violence, natural disasters or large-scale development projects.

More information about the Africa Dialogue Series, including the programme and side events, can be found here.

On World Bee day, human activity blamed for falling pollinator numbers

If you think you’re busy, then spare a thought for the world’s bees; for they, along with other insects and animals, are responsible for pollinating more than 75 per cent of the planet’s favourite food crops.

20 May 2019

The problem is, pollinators are under threat, and their numbers are falling because of human impact. We are likely losing some species forever, FAObelieves, based on available data in the U.S and Europe.

It’s a warning that the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, highlighted on World Bee Day, which is observed on Monday 20 May.

“It’s really a culmination of factors kind of all coming together, all of which are driven by human activity,” said FAO agriculture officer Abram Bicksler. “So climate change is a factor, habitat loss is a factor, the overuse of pesticides is a big factor, but also there are many diseases and pests that are affecting our pollinators and so when those are taken together, yes, pollinators are really facing a hard time.”

 

FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico
A participant at World Bee Day, held at FAO headquarters in Rome to raise awareness on the role of bees and pollinators in food and agriculture, captures a photo of a bee observation hive. (20 May 2019)

According to FAO, the most popular pollinators are bees, and there are between 25,000 to 30,000 species.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, gave the keynote address at UN Headquarters in New York, as part of a celebratory event marking the Day.

 

Wild bees are more prolific pollinators than the domestic species, owing to the fact that they have more fur for pollen particles to cling to when they go in search of it.

Without bees and other pollinators – butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and even monkeys, among others – FAO says that we wouldn’t have coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa, among many other fruit and seed-producing crops.

In a call to protect bees and other pollinators, the FAO underscored their key role in keeping the planet healthy by conserving biodiversity – a cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a key element in building resilience in farming ecosystems to climate change.

“World Bee Day presents an opportunity to recognize the role of beekeeping, bees and other pollinators in increasing food security, improving nutrition and fighting hunger, as well as in providing key ecosystem services for agriculture,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.

In an appeal to members of the public to help tackle the threat to bees and other pollinators posed by invasive insects, pesticides, land-use change and monocropping practices – which may reduce available nutrients for bee colonies – FAO recommends planting a variety of bee-friendly flowers.

It also encourages people to create their very own insect hotel – a hollow-ended tree trunk or branch, for instance – which is an ideal shelter for insect pollinators.

“The big thing is promoting their habitat,” said FAO’s Mr. Bicksler. “You can also talk to your policy-makers and share about the importance of these in pollinators for food security, for reducing poverty, and also for the production the things you love, like beeswax and honey.”

Celebrated for the first time in 2018, the date chosen for World Bee Day – 20 May – is no accident; it was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Anton Janša, a pioneer of modern apiculture from Slovenia.

Mr. Janša came from a family of beekeepers in a country where beekeeping is an important agricultural activity with a long-standing tradition, FAO said in a press release.

The idea for World Bee Day was promoted by the Republic of Slovenia, with the support of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations and FAO.

World Bee Day was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2017 and celebrated for the first time last year. Here’s a look back at the piece our UN Video team made a year ago for UN News.

 

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed Addresses GMU’s Graduating Class of 2019

Amina J. Mohammed delivered the commencement address to
George Mason University’s graduating class of 2019.

(Source: GMU) —

Watch the video of the UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Commencement Address HERE:

Read her speech (as-prepared) HERE (or below)

 

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed gives the keynote address during 2019 Spring Commencement at George Mason University. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Strategic Communications

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Good morning everybody!

It’s a great honor to be here with you all to congratulate and celebrate with you.

My thanks to President Ángel Cabrera and Rector Tom Davis for inviting me here today, to the distinguished faculty and administrators, and to all the graduates and your families here today.

This is truly a proud day for all of you. You’ve worked really hard to get here. It takes commitment, energy, aspiration and resilience to stand where you do today and I applaud each and every one of you and your families that have supported you through this journey seeking knowledge. You now have the wings to fly.

Today, you’re joining the ranks of George Mason University Alumni! And that is illustrious company. From journalists and sports stars to the first Muslim woman in space! Yes, Anousheh Ansari, who graduated in Electrical Engineering in 1989, beat me to it! – but I haven’t given up hope.

And to all the women in STEM here today: you are not only fulfilling your dreams, you’re breaking gender stereotypes and creating a better and more equal world for all of us, and I congratulate you on that.

We should all reach for the stars like Anousheh Ansari. That’s something I want to talk about today.

First, I would like to say a few words about the organization I work for, the United Nations.

I know many of you are already familiar with us, through your studies, the Model UN program, or because of George Mason’s membership of our UN Academic Impact initiative.

But we’re now 74 years old, so you may not be aware of how we came to be, and what the United Nations did in its youth.

We were founded at the end of the Second World War in 1945, the deadliest war ever, in which some 70-80 million people were killed – including 6 million European Jews murdered in the horror of the Holocaust. This came just 20 years after the First World War, in which 16 million people were killed.

I know some of you have seen war. I myself have. It is difficult to describe its devastation. It destroys lives and hopes, it uproots families and communities, it sets societies back decades.

So in 1945, people all over the world were absolutely desperate to avoid a Third World War.

That is the reason we exist.

That is our first, most important job: to prevent war and to make peace.

That is why our founding Charter, our constitution, opens with these words:

“We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”

The United Nations is the first, and so far only, organization that tries to bring peace and order to our whole world, in all its complexity.

That is our greatest strength, and our greatest challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear graduates, all the work of the United Nations is based on seeking to prevent war and promote peace. And we have learned a lot about this mission over the past 74 years.

We know peace doesn’t happen by accident. It is a choice, and it is based on fundamental principles: democracy, equality, freedom of thought, speech and religion, and respect for human rights and human dignity.

Diplomacy is essential. But once a conflict requires peace negotiations, it’s far too late.

That is why so much of the United Nations’ energy is devoted to preventing conflict, by supporting sustainable development and promoting human rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear graduates, my own path to the United Nations started in the private sector in my country, Nigeria, where I worked for architects and engineers designing schools and hospitals. I became convinced of the need for governments and institutions to be organized to deliver for the people they are supposed to serve, especially the poor and vulnerable. I became an activist for quality education, and accepted a role in government, working on reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development.

I joined the United Nations to work on our global development program, which became the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our globally-agreed plan for peace, prosperity, people, planet and partnerships.

The 2030 Agenda is based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs – and is our best effort to create the conditions for peace over the next 11 years.

And let’s face it, we need a plan. Our world is facing many extremely challenging and intractable situations. The climate crisis is upon us and its impacts are becoming more widespread and severe; conflicts are dragging on for years and even decades; we have record numbers of people on the move to escape violence.

Inequality is growing both within and between countries, and the global economy and trading regime are unbalanced. Youth unemployment is at alarming levels, and intolerance, extremism, nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise.

Amid all this, the commodity the United Nations sells is hope.

In these troubled times, we are trying to turn challenges into opportunities.

Every day, around the world, we are saving lives, helping to lift people out of poverty, fighting climate change, providing food, education and shelter to the most vulnerable, and promoting the rights of girls and women.

The United States has always been a leader at the United Nations. From humanitarian aid to support for democracy around the world, from combating terrorism to providing so many talented and committed members of staff, the United States improves the United Nations in many ways.

We hear a lot of talk about reduced engagement by the United States in international affairs. This worries me. Because I know that less United States means a less effective United Nations.

That means more conflict around the world, more refugees and displaced people, greater human suffering, less help for the most vulnerable, less education and fewer opportunities for young women and girls.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear graduates, let me give you three examples of how the United Nations is working to create a more peaceful and prosperous world.

First, human rights – our most powerful tool to prevent and end conflict and ensure lives of security and dignity.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which the United States played such an important role, sets out norms and standards against which we measure governments and institutions. But rights are not just abstract ideas or aspirations. They call for extremely specific and concrete actions.

For example, the evidence in country after country over many years shows that repressive policies against violent extremism and terrorism make nobody safe. When counter-terrorist policies disregard human rights, they can reinforce feelings of exclusion and grievance, increase resentment and fuel extremism and terrorism.

This is why the United Nations puts inclusivity, diversity and respect for the rule of law at the heart of all our work. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is based on fulfilling the rights of all to adequate housing, clean water, health care, education and food, as well as their right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Second, climate change. The science is there, and it is time to act.

Climate change is a global threat, and a massive multiplier of other threats – poverty, humanitarian needs, and conflict.

And climate change is moving faster than we are. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for 800,000 years.

We in the developing world have as much right as anyone to live our lives in peace and to pursue economic growth. But if our emissions are threatening lives and livelihoods in poorer countries, we have a responsibility to act.

No one thinks it’s OK to smoke in a room where a sick child is struggling to breathe. But that’s what the developed world is doing – causing irreparable damage to people from the South Pacific to West Africa, who have contributed nothing to climate change but are suffering its worst effects.

The good news is that technology is on our side. Clean, green energy is more affordable than ever.

And around the world, cities, regions, states and private corporations, including major oil and gas companies, are taking climate action and setting their own ambitious targets. But it needs to go further.

In September, the Secretary-General has invited world leaders to the United Nations for a Climate Action Summit, where they will spell out their plans to bring emissions under control, to mitigate them, and to adapt to the reality of climate change.

Climate action is not only for governments; it goes far beyond that. Everywhere, we see the private sector, local authorities, young people and non-governmental organizations, stepping up to lead.

That’s what we need, if we are to safeguard our precious planet and its resources for future generations.

My third example involves you – young people. You are the leaders and torchbearers our world so desperately needs. You know that we need to embrace green and sustainable production and consumption, for your sake and the sake of your children. The United Nations is totally committed to working with you to safeguard your future.

Last year, we launched a new strategy, Youth 2030, to engage with young people and bring you into our decision-making processes. It includes programs on climate action, education and health.

Young people are under unprecedented pressure, due to globalization, new technologies, displacement, changing labor markets and climate impacts. Around the world, more than one-fifth of young people are not in employment, education or training; a quarter are affected by violence or armed conflict; and your voices are often ignored in the decisions that affect you.

But young people are a vast source of innovation, ideas and solutions. You are change agents, pushing for progress in technology, inclusivity and social justice.

The United Nations has always worked for young people. The difference is that we are now working with you.

We hope young people everywhere will join us in working for a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world.

There are so many ways to contribute.

The engineers among you can help to build climate-resilient infrastructure based on renewable energy. The academics and researchers can choose projects that improve people’s lives while safeguarding resources. We need business people who understand that unless we invest in the green economy, we will have a grey future.

Whether you go to work for the private sector, a think-tank, a non-profit, the government, academia or a multilateral organization like the United Nations, I hope you find a way to make our world a little better.

Beyond working life, there are many ways to make a difference: from giving your time and energy to causes that matter to you, to advocating and standing up for what you know is right.

As His Holiness the Pope has said, one of the biggest challenges we face is the globalization of indifference.

What we need instead is the globalization of goodwill.

Social media offers opportunities to reach across borders and to join our efforts through campaigns and online communities. The United Nations is there with you, on all the social platforms, and the Secretary-General has just opened an Instagram account. Please follow us!

In our connected world, the United Nations is the virtual Town Hall: a safe space where we look for solutions and reach a better understanding of each other.

But too often, people retreat into their safe zones, rather than reaching out to others. Too often, people dehumanize their enemies when they could be building bridges.

Finding solutions to the global challenges we face requires us to find common ground. That means looking for similarities, not differences. It means looking for solutions, not problems.

As you leave the university gates, I hope you will think of this as the first day of the rest of your lives.

What’s your role? How will you contribute? What kind of world is coming around the corner?

Are people going to become closed off from each other?  Or are they going to work together for peace, prosperity and justice on a healthy planet?

The United Nations offers hope for a better future.

Please join us in working for humanity.

Thank you.