By Ambassador Ufuk Gokcen, The Huffington Post – 26 Nov 2012
Last Tuesday, the new cabinet of Somalia was endorsed by the Parliament. The new and lean 10 Minister cabinet includes Somalia's first-ever woman Foreign Minister, Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Adan. In addition to this novelty, it should be noted that she is from Somaliland. After officially being endorsed, the new Foreign Minister travelled to Djibouti to attend the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. There, she was congratulated wholeheartedly by and got the full support of the participating Ministers and the OIC Secretary General.
Another woman, Maryam Qasim Ahmed is the new Minister of Development and Social Affairs. She previously served as minister for women's development and family affairs. She has been an advocate for improving Somalia's notoriously poor maternal healthcare conditions and championed the struggle against female genital mutilation, which darkens the lives of almost all girls in Somalia.
As Somalia moves into a new and promising era, its long-term future can best be secured through an enduring international partnership. In this regard, support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its members will be crucial.
Somalia has passed through some unprecedented positive developments on several fronts. It has surmounted one of its worst famine and drought in decades. Politically, the country has recorded historic achievements in its transitional journey toward a more durable and representative governance.
The challenging phases of stabilization, reconstruction, recovery and development now lie ahead. Some daunting objectives can best be accomplished by the new leaders and institutions maintaining cohesion and unity by providing security and effective governance, particularly in the recently recovered areas. They will have to intensify the process of outreach and national reconciliation, deepen democracy, finalize the constitution and prepare speedily for elections on the basis of universal suffrage. All this should contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the country. Resurgence of the largely defeated militancy and piracy should really not be allowed. Empowerment and strengthening of the security sector will be among the international community's primary expectations of the new Somali Government. There must be renewed focus on the interests and rights of women and children and programs for women and youth should be encouraged.
In 2011, Somalia suffered the worst draught it has seen in the last 60 years, which brought famine and death to a large number of Somalis. For many of those who survived, home was one of the multiple IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps, which lacked the resources and infrastructure to support the basic needs of the people living there.
Many national and international humanitarian organizations, including the OIC, acted quickly and rendered technical assistance, manpower, and funding toward Somalia's recovery. The country was in the midst of a very difficult political transition where different groups controlled different areas of the land.
The OIC focused much of its efforts on coordinating aid from its member states and facilitating cooperation between local and international organizations, and establishing an alliance of 40 different humanitarian organizations from 13 countries that helped to provide first aid, food, clean water, education facilities, and social welfare. The OIC also took the lead in obtaining humanitarian access, almost on a daily basis, to fortified areas under control of different factions. This ensured that humanitarian aid organizations could distribute supplies to otherwise isolated communities.
Since the implementation of these recovery efforts, the focus has shifted to a new chapter in the OIC-Somalia relations in the areas of strategic reconstruction, capacity building and continued national reconciliation. In October 2012, the OIC Secretary General Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu visited Somalia and met with President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, the new Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, the Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari, and a number of political leaders. Representatives from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF) accompanied the Secretary General in the hope of utilizing their expertise in Somalia's reconstruction efforts. The OIC General Secretariat is in the final stages of planning with the United Nations Development Programme's Special Unit for South South Cooperation, a long-term joint project focused on capacity building in livelihood, healthcare and education support. The purpose of this project is to bring sustainable socio-economic opportunities to Somalia and to institute policies and procedures to increase Somalia's resilience against drastic climate changes, which have led to the severe humanitarian crisis.
By visiting Somalia at this crucial moment of transition and rebuilding, Professor Ihsanoglu exhibited a commitment to Somalia and support for the new government. He pinpointed that the key to continued progress in democracy and stability was a renewed emphasis on unity, security, governance and universal suffrage. Most importantly, he underlined that continued efforts toward national reconciliation were essential to building a sustainable and lasting peace.
High on the Secretary General's agenda was the encouragement of Somali leaders not to lose ground, but maintain the thrust in their progress towards democracy. Somalia needs support to develop its capacities in health, social development, education, communication and transport, human capacity development and the building of government institutions.
Children and youth of today's Somalia have never known what it would be like living in a safe, stable and self-sufficient country. The social fabric of the society has been torn apart by years of endless fighting and collapse of traditional production patterns.
The recent meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held in Djibouti on Nov. 15-16, while commending his visit to Somalia, requested Secretary General Ihsanoglu to continue his efforts on supporting Somalia's reconstruction and assisting the country's Federal Government to develop its security institutions, particularly the Somali police and the National Security Forces. In this vein, the Foreign Ministers requested the Secretary General to support the Federal Government to develop a security strategy that would include disarmament plans, rehabilitation of militias for their reintegration into the society and the strengthening of capacities in the administration of justice.
The coordinated work being done in Somalia provides hope that development and democracy will prevail over the voices of extremism and that international cooperation will help guide the way to stability, moderation, modernization and progress.