Council holds standalone dialogue on Somalia
Thursday, 07 October 2010 14:06


During its 15th session the Human Rights Council (the Council) held a special debate on Somalia, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia. The special debate took the form of a panel discussion with high level officials and experts, and was noteworthy as being the first time the Council has addressed a country situation in this format.


The panellists included two members of civil society (the Chairman of Somali Peace Line and a member of the National Union for Somali Journalists), sitting alongside the Independent Expert on Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Somalia, the deputy Prime Minister from the Transitional Federal Government and the Special Representative of the Chair of the African Union, who also heads the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


In her introductory statement the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Navanethem Pillay, was pleased to announce that, for the first time, the humanitarian and human rights situation would be addressed by all stakeholders working on and in the country.


Since March of this year, when the Independent Expert presented his last report to the Council, intensified fighting between armed militant groups and Government forces led to a serious worsening of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Somalia. The grave situation concerning recruitment of youth for involvement in armed conflict, killings and injury on a daily basis, the high rate of child deaths, violence and discrimination against women and girls, and malnourishment, all added up to make Somalia one of the worst humanitarian crises of the world today.


Despite these grim realities, the Independent Expert announced some recent developments in Somalia were cause for optimism and could be built upon to turn the situation around. He cited the Transitional Federal Government's (TFG) resilience in the face of continuous attacks by insurgents as one of these reasons. Other developments, such as the strengthening of the Somali Security Forces and AMISOM troops, have laid the foundation for a more stable government and serve to enhance the confidence of its citizens. However, he mentioned the need for the TFG to become more unified as a team. Criticism was expressed over the lack of coordination on the ground between the UN agencies in Somalia (Australia, Brazil, Djibouti, Somalia, Thailand). The Independent Expert expressed hope this situation might be improved by the moving of the UN offices on Somalia into the country, which have so far been based in Kenya. This move was also welcomed by Egypt, Syria and the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia.


The special debate presented an opportunity to identify areas in which technical assistance is required and to develop concrete solutions to address those problems. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Somalia identified the building and strengthening of legal institutions as the first step, in order to end impunity, and called on the international community to provide the necessary resources to enable this. His points about the need to end impunity were reiterated by Switzerland, Japan, Somalia, Djibouti and the EU. However there was disagreement about whether the establishment of a commission of inquiry, as recommended by the Independent Expert, would be the best way to address the problem. Somalia itself believed such a commission would not solve the problem of impunity. Egypt said a commission of inquiry would be divisive, and a more effective response would be to address the root causes of the conflict. Switzerland noted that, if developed, it must be ensured that real prosecutions take place.


The head of AMISOM called for countries to allocate more troops to AMISOM and to provide funds so the salaries of the Ugandan and Burundian soldiers could be increased. He also called for funds to enable the payment of outstanding salaries to members of government and parliamentarians. The Independent Expert echoed this point, calling for the payment of the salaries of soldiers and police to be included within a roadmap for the country, and flagging this as an area where assistance from the international community would be especially needed and productive.


Italy's call for the strengthening of civil society was echoed by the Independent Expert, who said civil society should be included in any roadmap developed for Somalia, in particular to provide health and education.


Despite these suggestions from States no clear strategy emerged from the debate. No State followed-up with specific pledges of funding or other resources. Some made general commitments to continue providing support through contributions to the UN (Spain, UK), while others called on the international community in general to provide financial or logistical support (Japan, Ghana, Egypt, Brazil, Syria). Kenya stood as a lone voice, saying as long as the conflict continued it was the wrong time to call for technical assistance. Instead, it said, priority should be given to ending the conflict by addressing root causes such as poverty.


A number of other issues were given particular attention throughout the discussions, such as the growing number of attacks on media workers (or civil society activists and journalists), from both law enforcement personnel and opposition groups seeking to restrict media freedom (Ghana, EU, US, Somalia, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sweden, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister of the TFG).


Amongst those who raised the issue (Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Israel, Sweden, Sudan [on condition that this is the wish of the country concerned], Thailand, Canada, China, Kuwait, Somalia) there was consensus that the mandate of the Independent Expert on Somalia should be renewed. Egypt requested OHCHR ensure the Independent Expert has the resources needed to effectively carry out his mandate. The delegation of Somalia said it wished the Independent Expert to be included in all future meetings regarding Somalia.


On 2 October, the Council decided by consensus to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert for another year.


Last Updated on Thursday, 07 October 2010 14:50
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