Donors Offer Somalia Aid for Better Security

Somalia's call for help was more than heard. International donors pledged more than $250 million at a meeting held in Brussels. European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel said the sum greatly exceeded United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's request of $166 million.

Somalia is a country where 43 percent of its people remain in need of emergency assistance, acute malnutrition rate is exceeding the U.N.'s 15 percent emergency threshold, and only 29 percent of residents have access to clean drinking water.

However, most of the funding pledge will be used to expand the African Union‘s forces from 4,300 to 8,000, and build a stronger local police force. Security matters, especially the piracy threat, were the main reasons for such a collective effort from the donors. Only this past month, pirates hijacked nine vessels and sought ransoms. Obviously, by doing so, they have deeply disturbed the use of one of the most important waterways in the world and have deprived Somalia of the full benefits offered by such a natural asset.

Such attacks also prevent aid delivery. Two weeks ago, the Sea Horse, a boat sent by the World Food Program was seized, and 7,000 tons of food was lost. It is a real problem as 90 percent of WFP's assistance going to Somalia needs to pass through the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, the country is considered as one of the most dangerous places to be for aid workers.

"The situation continues to be very difficult, but with this financial help … I sincerely hope we will be able to control the situation there," Ban said in a news conference.

"Piracy is a symptom of anarchy and insecurity on the ground," he added. "More security on the ground will make less piracy on the seas."

Indeed it is obvious for donors that a sustainable strategy at sea will only be possible through a durable solution on land. It explains the objective of expanding the security forces in Somalia and providing them with new equipment and material.

Such a focus on security forces is worrying many non-governmental organizations delivering aid on the field. They share concerns about the countereffects such a policy might have. According to Robert Maletta, policy advisor for Oxfam, donors should rather try to find solutions to the humanitarian crisis plaguing a country where basic needs are rarely met.

"The piracy issue that has grabbed international headlines is a symptom of deeper issues that have gone unaddressed ever since the collapse of the national government in 1991," Maletta said. "Without economic opportunities offering alternatives to criminality and without law and order to curb these activities, then the massive economic returns of hijacking ships will continue to drive piracy."

Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch, also raised another issue, which seemed not to have been taken in consideration by the international community.

"Since Somalia's security forces have committed so many violent abuses against civilians, efforts to strengthen them also need to make them more accountable" she said.

About the author

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    Antoine Remise

    Antoine is a former international development correspondent for Devex, based in Paris. He holds a bachelor's in political science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques of Lille and a master's in development administration and planning from the University College in London. Antoine has conducted researche for development projects in Chile, Senegal and Uganda, notably on education, health, local saving systems and housing issues. He is fluent in French, English and Spanish.