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Donors, U.N. Renew Efforts to Address Somalia’s Ills

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Donors, U.N. Renew Efforts to Address Somalia’s Ills

Posted by Laura Heaton on May 2, 2009

Speaking to VOA this week, Enough’s Colin Thomas-Jensen reflected on decisions made at an international donors’ conference to support humanitarian and security efforts in Somalia. Donors pledged more than $200 million, with the largest portion allocated to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. As Thomas-Jensen pointed out, the remaining funds must be distributed carefully to ensure they are used effectively:

The issue of simply providing money to the greatest strongman in Somalia in the hopes that he will exert control militarily over the country has failed miserably time and time again.  And so direct support to this government ought to be conditioned very heavily on the behavior of security forces and the political moves that Sheikh Sharif makes to make his government a more inclusive body.

Click here to listen to Thomas-Jensen discuss the challenges of aid to Somalia, where newly-elected President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed struggles to exert authority over the whole of the country, which has lacked a functioning national government since 1991.

The U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia called the donors’ conference a "turning point" for Somalia and urged donors to quickly mobilize resources. The envoy also emphasized the integral role Somali leaders must  play to establish a more inclusive government and ensure that the funding supports lasting improvements in security and humanitarian conditions.

Now is the time for Somalis to show their people, their region and the international community that they are finally serious about peace and leaving behind the culture of ‘winner takes all’ and the ever-shifting alliances that are still devastating their nation.

Following up on the donors’ meeting, the United Nations refugee agency began talks yesterday with the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab to negotiate the U.N.’s return to areas controlled by the group. The U.N. was forced to withdraw from the town of Baidoa in January when al-Shabab seized control. "We hope to be able to return [to Baidoa] when our safety is guaranteed," UNHCR representative Guillermo Bettochi told the BBC. The U.N. estimates that three million people are in need of food.