Statement by SRSG Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah to the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center

10 Dec 2009

Statement by SRSG Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah to the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center

Hiroshima, 30 November 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be with you here this evening with my colleagues I would like to extend my thanks to the Japanese Government for inviting me here to your fascinating country and to the renowned Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center.

I spent a fascinating afternoon here in Hiroshima. While it is most moving to hear the terrible trauma the city experienced on August 1945, it is also encouraging to learn that out of the ashes of this, the city and its people have not only rebuilt their lives. Hiroshima is a living example of the success of peacebuilding – and I am most impressed by the positive contribution this institution and the city are making to peace and peacebuilding worldwide. Anyone who has come here to Hiroshima has seen something extraordinary – and those who have yet to visit have missed something extraordinary.

As is clear from the example of Hiroshima, post war reconstruction, stabilization and peacebuilding are fundamental to the renewal of states and lives destroyed by violence.

It is most fitting I should come to you to talk about Peacebuilding – particularly in relation to one of the world's most intractable problems – that of Somalia. In Somalia there has been nearly two decades of fighting. A whole generation has grown up knowing nothing but violence. A small elite has made huge profits from this war while the majority of Somalis have suffered.

Conflicts and disputes are a normal part of life – they can even be healthy. However, killing and violence show a breakdown in the normal patterns of behaviour. The causes of conflict are multiple but in my view, bad leadership is a major factor. This can be due to many factors – ambitions being thwarted due to injustice and exclusion, corruption, lack of tolerance, greed etc.

Stopping violence equally brings out the importance of local leadership. In Somalia, we have a several individuals who are simply not prepared to compromise and wish to continue enriching themselves. Somalia still has a useful network of clan elders and religious leaders who can be brought in to help and use their influence to mediate. The answers must ultimately come from the country itself. In Somalia's case, we have called a halt to the international conferences for reconciliation – Somalis speak the same language and share the same religion. They do not need to be flown, business class, to meetings with daily allowances to speak to their cousins. In Somaliland, the differences were solved, we are told, after long negotiations under an acacia tree.

At the same time, we need a coherent approach from the international community. The international community is beginning to realize that there are no isolated wars. We are now all interlinked – for the ordinary American, or European the conflict in Somalia may seem far away, but there is a growing radicalization among the Somali Diaspora in Minnesota, in the EU and Australia, which could be turned on their home countries. When the international community does take an interest, it spends too much time, not on trying to solve the conflict, but on case studies. Somalia with its complex make up of clans, sub and sub sub clans lends itself to a lifetime of study – while useful, I wonder if that is the best way to return to peace.

We need to act on many fronts simultaneously – political, security, humanitarian and development. However, in a protracted conflict, such as Somalia, there are a number of questions that need to be asked.

We need to look at the nature of the conflict and its economic and financial dimension. The end of the Cold War has led to more internal conflicts especially along fault lines dividing those supporting each side in Africa and the Balkans. Many are little more than resource wars, for minerals, diamonds etc. which are exacerbated by the millions if not billions poured in by the international community.

In Somalia piracy is a prime example of opportunists taking advantage of the anarchy to profit, While the focus is on the reckless young men attacking boats far from their homeland, the real money goes to a very few Somali businessmen who are funding the operations in return for a large slice of the profit. The international maritime effort has helped immensely to limit their actions and Japan's contribution is extremely welcome in this and should be encouraged and sustained as it is part of the solution.

Another cause of the continuing war is impunity. No Somali has been prosecuted for the murders, rapes, looting, force displacement of people and other devastating crimes. The same is true of human rights, which have been long ignored. This lack of justice has encouraged the criminals to continue with their activities while signalling to the ordinary people that the world is indifferent to their suffering. The same is true for human rights, long ignored in Somalia.

On post conflict situations there are at least three conditions needed for success of reconstruction and state building:
a. A nation state
b. One main powerful international actor

c. One objective to achieve

Today places such as Somalia are far from being nation states. There are too many external actors and no objective for an exit strategy. There are also too many distractions from the main objective such as demands for immediate full democracy, transparency and Rule of Law, These are all worthy ultimate goals but distract from the one primary goal which is peace.

We need to revisit the old approach to Overseas Development Aid. There is a need for development. Continuing humanitarian aid, while essential for keeping the population alive, must be complemented by more concrete development. I was told by an experienced journalist that in Afghanistan there is little in Kabul to show for all the money poured into the country over the past eight years. He said the most hopeful sign of normality returning to the city was the construction of a gaudy glass shopping centre with glittering elevators and escalators built by an Afghan, which he said delighted Afghans, and made them feel part of the 21st century they saw on satellite television.

The international community, if it is to get involved, also needs exit strategy. For example in Somalia, the UN and international countries have pledged to move to Somalia as soon as possible. Once there we must ensure we do not make matters worse, particularly by hiring warlords and thugs as security guards. And we must make sure we know how and when we are to get out again.