Compact based on Busan principles greeted with cautious optimism as donors seek to consolidate tentative security gains
Moment Media Ethics – Tuesday 17 September 2013 – International donors have pledged €1.8bn (£1.5bn) in aid to Somalia to support a three-year “new deal” plan designed to help the country rebuild following two decades of conflict.
With officials hoping to build on tentative security gains, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, said the funds, promised at a conference in Brussels on Monday, would bolster a “new phase in the life of Somalia”. The pledge includes £50m from Britain, which is in addition to the UK’s existing Somalia budget.
“This new roadmap for reconstruction is a once in a generation opportunity to support Somalia’s plans for a safer and more prosperous future,” Justine Greening, Britain’s international development secretary, said in a statement.
Conference delegates – from the international community, the Somali federal government, regions and civil society – also endorsed a “new deal compact” outlining development priorities for the next three years.
The arrangement, outlined in a detailed document, is based on principles agreed at a 2011 international forum on aid effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. It follows years of donor-driven initiatives.
“It is the right time to say that this [process] is Somali-led, based on the priorities that we’ve identified,” Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, told the Guardian before the conference. “I can say that it’s Somali-owned and Somali-led.”
Goals include the promotion of inclusive political dialogue – Somalia has several breakaway regions – as well as the reform of the security sector and judiciary, and improved public service delivery.
But despite the positive fanfare in Brussels, sceptics point out the conference was the third major international meeting about Somalia this year, including one co-hosted by British prime minister David Cameron in London in May.
It is also unclear whether pledges made on Monday are entirely new commitments or if previous pledges have been repackaged.
“There are several reasons why this conference might be different, including the new deal approach, the sovereign government and the international community’s commitment,” said Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, a civil society activist and conference delegate.
“But the people have seen the meetings and the pledges and have seen that they do not come through to the Somali government and the Somali people.”
Writing on Twitter, the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab likened the conference to “Belgian waffles; sweet on the outside” but without “much substance”.
Al-Shabaab still controls much of southern Somalia and pose a major threat to the year-old federal government, the first to be internationally recognised in 20 years.
Despite al-Shabaab’s military withdrawal from the capital following an African Union offensive, the militants have launched a series of attacks in Mogadishu in recent months. With several delegates having survived assassination attempts, security at the conference was tight.
Somalia is serving as a test case for the application of the principles developed in Busan, which Nicholas Westcott, the EU’s chief diplomat forAfrica, hailed as “sufficiently flexible and well-focused” to provide a useful framework.
“The process of popular consultation on the new deal was not comprehensive, but it might not have happened at all without the Busan principles,” said Westcott.
Somalia’s public financial institutions have been all but destroyed by war, and donors are reluctant to hand cash directly to the Somali government. Earlier this year, a UN monitoring group report described the central bank as a “slush fund” for private payments, a charge the government denies.
A Somalia Development and Reconstruction Facility, designed to help in the management of donor money, will be created under the new deal. The UN, World Bank and African Development Bank are all set to be involved in the financing mechanisms.
“We do not deny that our public financial institutions are very weak or that a level of corruption is possible, but we have had nothing to practice with,” said President Mohamud.
“An outcome of Brussels will be Somali public financial management – our people and institutions will be used. We’ll co-manage with the international community, but will gradually take over.”
In August, the Somali government paid the salaries of more than 400 civil servants through its public accounts for the first time, using test-case funds provided by Norway. The Somali foreign minister confirmed at the conference that a new central bank governor, previously a Citibank vice-president, had been appointed.
“After 20 years of dictating the terms, international donors are now getting used to the process being Somali-led,” said Nicholas Kay, the UN’s special representative of the secretary-general. “It’s important to convince donors that this process is not open-ended.”
The conference was attended by delegates from countries across Africa, Europe and the Gulf, as well as from global financial institutions and aid agencies. Several Somali regional leaders were present, but the self-declared independent state of Somaliland was notable for its absence. Explaining the decision, Somaliland’s foreign minister, Mohamed Yonis, said the state was not invited “on an equal footing”.
Wrangling over the compact – particularly the section on Somaliland – is understood to have continued until the 11th hour before agreement was reached.
Looking ahead, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative, said: “It’s our responsibility to turn pledges into practice.”
Moment Media Ethics
The best style is the style you don’t notice.Prof.Ibrahim