x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Donors must invest in Somalia's future

Somalia needs foreign support and money, but too much cash now is not the solution to the country's problems.

Somalia has long been synonymous with suffering. A combination of civil war and famine has, over the last few decades, displaced more than a million people and robbed generations of a healthy future. Women have paid a disproportionate price - sexually assaulted in horrific numbers. But there have been many other victims as well.

Finally, after being seemingly forgotten by the international community, Somalia is once again at the top of the global development agenda. And the UAE is helping to keep it there.

The UAE is among the 50 countries and organisations that gathered in Somalia Conference 2013 held in London in support for the government as it works to reform and build political stability. Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, the UAE Minister of Development and International Co-operation, announced the country's pledge of Dh183 million for peacekeeping missions. This came after a recent agreement with the UK to provide Dh11.6 million in funding to help Somalia fight sexual violence.

There are many questions that need to be asked here. For one, how well equipped is the Somali government to administer this tranche of cash? Can the administration of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud efficiently use it to improve security, bolster the economy, get people working, protect women and rebuild a shattered nation?

The issue of sexual violence is a fine example of the challenges Somalia faces. The United Nations recorded 1,700 cases of rape in camps last year - many of them believed to have been committed by the Somali security forces. According to the UN special envoy on sexual violence in armed conflict, 70 per cent of such violence is committed by men in uniform, including militia, police or soldiers.

The ball is now in the government's court. Aid is certainly needed to fund programmes to help victims, but assistance is also critical to help reform security services, and build a strong judicial system able to investigate and prosecute perpetrators. The UAE has helped in this regard, with money to train judges. Other nations should take a similarly long-term view on building the country's capacity.

Somalia needs aid, support, and lots of both. To build a strong and secure Somalia, donors must treat Somalia as a viable and developing state, not as a charity case.