The February 23 “London Conference”—with representatives from over 50 countries, the U.N., key regional organizations, the Somali Transitional Federal Government, and most of the largest Somali regional administrations and movements—is the subject of considerable anxiety, skepticism, and hope among Somalis. It is widely seen as a critical moment in Somalia’s long 20-year crisis, a meeting that could shape the direction of the country in the coming years, for better or for worse.
There will be few surprises emerging from the meeting itself. Leaks of draft documents for the
conference have been widely circulated and give a good idea of what the conveners hope to accomplish. These outcomes have already been the subject of considerable pre-conference diplomacy. The meeting will produce general agreements on a wide range of topics, from humanitarian relief to piracy to counter-terrorism, but the core objectives are threefold: (1) to broaden and deepen a consensus among external actors on Somalia policy in general and especially on the position that Somalia’s political transition must be concluded by August 2012. This includes bringing important new actors such as Turkey and Qatar into the fold; (2) to establish or reaffirm general principles about the process by which the transition will end in coming months; and (3) to drum up external financial support for the post-transition administration and the expanded African Union peacekeeping force.