Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak before you on the endless possibilities on the strengthening of bilateral relations between Canada and Somalia.
I am very pleased to know that your colleague, the honourable Borys Wrzesnewskyj, had in the past visited Somalia and is well aware of and well acquainted with the challenges and prospects of the country.
On behalf of the Federal Government of Somalia, it is both a pleasure and an honour to address this esteemed Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the most recent developments that we have achieved in Somalia, and some of the challenges that remain, while expressing our hopes on advancing the special friendship between Somalia and Canada.
Canada has historically contributed to Somalia's pursuit of stability by providing thousands of Somalis with the opportunity to live in peace, receive valuable education and pursue their dreams. Today, Somali Canadians have significantly contributed to both the social and the economic recovery in Somalia through their active contributions to the process of rebuilding the country.
Two former Somali prime ministers, a number of MPs and eight cabinet ministers in the current government, constituting some 30% of the government, call Canada their home and contribute to the special bond between our two countries.
We recognize and appreciate Canada's continued support for multilateral peace operations in Somalia, as well as efforts spent in numerous crucial areas, including women's empowerment, conflict prevention and assistance with refugees and internally displaced persons.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, diplomatic relations between Canada and Somalia date back to 1968. More recently, since the first post-transition Government of Somalia came into power in 2012, we have had the pleasure of welcoming two Canadian ambassadors to Somalia: Ambassador David Angell, who presented his letters of credence to former Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on June 15, 2014, and Ambassador Sara Hradecky, who presented her letters of credence to His Excellency President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, “Farmajo”, on June 7, 2017.
We are also expecting the new Canadian ambassador designate to Somalia, Ms. Lisa Stadelbauer, to present her credentials to President Mohamed very soon.
We are grateful to these ambassadors for their relentless efforts in strengthening the friendship between our two countries.
In January 2018, the Prime Minister of Somalia, His Excellency Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During this historic encounter, both leaders acknowledged the importance of further strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries by recognizing the pressing need to bolster support for Somalia's development and reconstruction efforts.
It is our hope that this committee and its leadership will take these discussions further and foster practical avenues to realizing lasting peace and sustainable development in Somalia.
Ladies and gentlemen, the election of His Excellency President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and the appointment of His Excellency Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in February 2017 ushered in a new era for Somalia. Their vision of a reconciled and stable country led by accountable institutions that are able to deliver services to their citizens has met with wide support, both nationally and internationally.
Over the last 19 months, the government has worked tirelessly to rebuild public trust in government by delivering tangible results on key national priorities, including national security, inclusive politics, economic growth and social development, among other demands.
Constitutional reform processes, the strengthening of the country's federal system and holding free and fair elections are also some of the government's priority areas of development.
The National Independent Election Commission has so far registered 22 political associations for multi-party elections scheduled for the year 2020. We anticipate that the 2020 election—the first universal suffrage election in Somalia in 50 years—will further contribute to Somalia's full recovery and political stability.
We are also working on establishing independent judiciary services, and we are in the process of completing the review of a draft constitution. At the same time, many key bills have been passed by the cabinet and are being considered by the respective parliamentary committees.
Furthermore, with the support of international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, our government is currently pursuing prudent financial and revenue management processes in a quest for debt relief, which has entered its third and hopefully last IMF staff-monitored program. By strengthening our financial institutions and reforming our economic and trade policies, we hope to foster closer economic ties with our neighbouring countries in order to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the region.
Somalia is blessed with having a multitude of resources, including the longest coastline on the continent, stretching 3,300 kilometres from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. These strategic advantages pose endless potential that could positively contribute to regional development and stability. This potential, however, can only be realized through collective efforts to address our challenges and build on our strengths. We strongly believe that with the support of your government, by pooling together our collective strengths in terms of human and natural resources, coupled with our shared values of inclusive and accountable governance, Somalia will be able to stride faster and stronger towards lasting peace and sustainable development.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, Somalia has made visible progress in a number of critical areas, despite extraordinary challenges. We will continue to pursue reconciliation among Somalis, and stability, security, economic growth and equitable representation in all areas of government. However, to achieve these goals, Somalia is in need of stronger international support. Canada's leading role in humanitarian relief and your continued support for political process, security and peace-building as well as social development in Somalia, through multilateral agencies, has been instrumental to our recovery. Such support was and still is very much needed. However, as we strive to sustain the progress made so far and continue on the path of reconstruction, Somalia needs more direct assistance to reach standards of full recovery. We believe that strengthening our bilateral ties and increasing development assistance for Somalia can significantly increase our chance of achieving lasting peace and sustainable development sooner rather than later.
Our government is intent on achieving lasting progress in key areas, including, number one, inclusive politics, and by completing the process of federalism as well as completing the review of the draft constitution and preparing for 2020 elections, while putting in place an independent judicial model to boost good governance.
Number two is social development. Our government, along with our international partners, is having challenges in finding durable solutions for the more than 2.6 million internally displaced persons in Somalia and for the one million Somali refugees across the region. We have put together a recovery and resiliency framework that outlines feasible steps for finding durable solutions to these crises. The Canadian government has been a key supporter in these efforts, and we continue to be grateful.
The security sector is number three. The Federal Government of Somalia, in consultation with international partners, has adopted a transitional plan to replace troops from the African Union with Somali security forces in a gradual manner. We owe a debt of gratitude to the African Union mission in Somalia, which has made huge sacrifices in helping us stabilize the country and fight extremist groups and insurgents such as al Shabaab. However, in order for the country to reach a status of full recovery, our own security institutions must be strengthened and empowered to take charge of the country's security. Therefore, the implementation of a transition plan and a strengthened capacity of the Somali security institutions are of the utmost importance in achieving lasting peace and security in the country.
Last but not least is our aim for economic development. The federal government is pursuing economic development and macroeconomic stability through the introduction of economic policy reforms, thus improving governance, fighting corruption, and strengthening financial institutions. Socio-economic development is key in achieving lasting stability and is one of our government's most fundamental priorities.
The federal government of Somalia is doing all it can to achieve the above-mentioned priorities among others, and has so far been able to reach tangible results that have been witnessed and praised both nationally and internationally. However, given our limited resources and the limitations of being in the early stages of recovery, more support is needed to maintain and build on the gains made so far. Hence, we ask the Canadian government to continue to look at Somalia with renewed focus, to increase your development support and to prioritize our co-operative relationship in order to yield substantial results and achieve sustainable development, lasting peace and long-term stability in the Horn of Africa.
Thank you very much for your attention.