Speech by Prime Minister Theresa May at the London Somalia Conference
11 May 2017
Good morning, everybody.
Presidents, Prime Ministers, Secretary-General Guterres, I am delighted to welcome you all to London as we come together today to support President Farmajo in building a more secure, stable and prosperous future for all the people of Somalia.
As an international community, our commitment to Somalia matters.
Not just because it is right to help Somalia to overcome the threat of terrorism and the devastating effects of years of famine and bloodshed; but also because these challenges that face Somalia affect us all.
If Somalia is a foothold for terrorist groups like Al Shabaab and Daesh, if global trade is hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, or if millions are continually displaced in a desperate bid to escape poverty and drought, the impact of instability in Somalia is felt across the whole region and the wider world.
But what we have seen over the last five years is that when we work together on these issues, we can make progress.
That progress has required exceptionally hard work and great sacrifice, not least from the Troop Contributing Countries to the AMISOM mission – from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti – from Somalis themselves, and from a broad coalition of other partners including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the EU, America and the United Nations. But because of these efforts, Al Shabaab has been pushed back, piracy largely contained, and new momentum brought to the political process.
And I am proud of the role that Britain has played in this work.
As a global Britain, we will continue to drive coordinated international efforts that increase global security and protect our values around the world.
And as we are demonstrating with our third London Conference, Britain’s commitment to Somalia’s future remains steadfast.
As we meet today, Somalia has a critical window of opportunity. The election of President Farmajo and his mandate for reform provides a unique chance for Somalia to take control of its security and to build an inclusive political settlement with new economic development that can help to create more jobs and livelihoods for its people.
So our task today is not to tell Somalia what to do – nor to impose our own solutions on this country from afar; but rather to get behind the new President’s efforts and to support the Somali people as they work to build this new future for their country.
President Farmajo, you have already shown great leadership in forging an historic agreement between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States over the future of Somalia’s army and police. You have a mandate to shape a new future for your country. And we are here today, first and foremost, to support your efforts.
So I am delighted to invite you to make your opening address.
Introduction to UN Secretary-General
Thank you very much, President Farmajo, for setting out such a compelling vision for the future of your country. And your leadership and your commitment to the reforms that you have described will be crucial in building the security, stability and prosperity that you seek – and that we all want to see.
In return, I hope that today you will see a renewed international commitment to support you in this mission. And there is no greater sign of this international support than the ongoing commitment of the United Nations.
This is my first opportunity to share a platform with Secretary-General Guterres – and I am delighted that it is here at this conference on Somalia. And welcome.
And the fact, Secretary-General, you have chosen to attend in person today, I think, shows the significance of the United Nation’s commitment to continue prioritising Somalia.
First, I am very pleased to be able to welcome you here to London – and invite you to address the conference.
Al Shabaab and humanitarian assistance
Thank you, thank you very much, Secretary-General, for those powerful remarks and for your insight, and for the continued support of the United Nations at this important moment in Somalia’s future.
And as we look to that future, it is worth taking a moment to remember how far we have come. Just five years ago, Al Shabaab controlled large parts of Somalia; piracy was costing global trade $7 billion a year and the country was recovering from a famine the previous year which had killed a quarter of a million people, half of whom were under five years old.
But today, Al Shabaab have been driven back across Somalia, such that they no longer pose an existential threat to the country. International efforts to tackle piracy have helped to ensure that until March this year, there had been no attacks at sea for five years. And while the London Conferences in 2012 and 2013 brought new momentum to the political process, supporting the work of the nascent Federal Government.
None of this could have been achieved without the vital contributions of a broad international coalition, especially the African Union and its members.
I know that Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti have taken heavy casualties in the fight against Al Shabaab, as indeed have Somali security forces. But your commitment to the AMISOM mission has been fundamental to the progress that has been made.
So too has the enormous contributions of countries like Turkey and the UAE, America, and the European Union.
Yet despite this progress, deep challenges remain.
Al Shabaab has tripled its attacks on Mogadishu, and Somali forces do not yet have the capability to take over control of their own security.
The political process still has a way to go, with Somalia once again ranked the most fragile state in the world. While the drought has left more than 6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and almost 1 million children acutely malnourished, with 2 million refugees living in camps in neighbouring countries and more than a million displaced people within Somalia.
Of course, we must continue to respond urgently to the need for humanitarian assistance. I am proud that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of these efforts, providing £110 million over two years for emergency food assistance, life-saving nutrition, safe drinking water and emergency healthcare.
Other donors have stepped up, and I welcome generous contributions from Sweden, Norway, Japan and Germany, as well as the important work of the UN in coordinating international efforts.
But more is needed so that everything possible can be done to help those in the hardest to reach areas.
So we will look closely at needs of the revised UN appeal and we urge others to continue to step up in the months ahead.
But if we are to support President Farmajo in building a better long-term future for his country, we must do more than tackle the consequences of this crisis, as vital as that is. We must also address its causes by building Somalia’s resilience and helping to develop the security and stability that can provide the best hope of preventing similar crises in the future.