Awards honor achievements of worldwide Somali community

At the International Somali Awards, UNHCR Special Envoy Ambassador Affey praises the strength of the "the Somali spirit", joining in the celebration of Somali people around the world.

Somali-Swedish singer Cherrie (left) poses for a selfie at the International Somali Awards. Cherrie was a nominee for the Best Entertainment Award, and also performed during the ceremony.   © ISA/Shayez Ali

LONDON –  On Wednesday evening the 2018 International Somali Awards (ISA) were held in London to honour the achievements of the Somali diaspora around the world. The ISA ceremony shone a light on the successes of Somalis in the field of sports, entertainment, education, innovation and business, as well as Somali organisations which are making important contributions to their own communities.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was supporting this year’s awards, which took place in the historic Church House in Westminster, home to the United Nation’s first Security Council meeting in 1946. UNHCR’s Special Envoy on the Somali Refugee Situation, Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey was also in London to present an award at this year’s ceremony.

"It is important for you to know and take pride in your Somali origins”

Although an evening of celebration, the International Somali Awards also stood as a reminder of the challenges which lay ahead for Somalia, a country that has been wrought by decades of conflict, famine and instability.

At present, 5.4 million Somalis are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, 1.5 million Somalis are displaced within the country, and over 800,000 Somalis have been forced to flee to countries in the surrounding region. People attending the ceremony wore red badges with the word nabad (meaning ‘peace’) to commemorate the October bombing in Mogadishu, which killed over 300 people.

Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, the first Somali to become president of the International Court of Justice, at the ISA reception.  © ISA/Shayez Ali

Opening the ceremony, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, the first Somali to become president of the International Court of Justice, spoke about his country’s recent history.

“Over the past 30 years the Somali people have suffered all kinds of indignities,” Yusuf said. “It is as if the Somalia has been visited by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: war, famine, disease, and death.”

“As we envision the bright future of Somali people and put behind us the recent past, it is important for you to know and take pride in your Somali origins”

The 2018 International Somali Awards was held at Church House in Westminster, home to the United Nation's first Security Council meeting in 1946.   © ISA/Shayez Ali

From BAFTA-winning actors to American politicians, Somali refugees and migrants around the world continue to make a lasting impact on their communities, at home and abroad.

One shining example was the winner of Outstanding Educational Achievement, Mubarik Mahmoud, a young Somali refugee who had won an international scholarship to study at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

UNHCR’s Ambassador Affey, presented this year’s ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ Award to Abaarso School, a non-profit school changing the lives of children in Somaliland.

"Evenings like these where we lay foundations, cultivate new ideas and bring together a new generation of Somalis"

Addressing the audience, Affey praised the ISA for rewarding “individuals and entities that have changed lives and illuminated the Somali spirit.”

“It is evenings like these where we lay foundations, cultivate new ideas and bring together a new generation of Somalis who are keen to impact lives abroad and back home," Affey said.

UNHCR's Special Envoy on the Somali Refugee Situation, Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey, presented the 'Outstanding Contribution to the Community' Award to founder of Abaarso School, Jonathan Starr.  © ISA/Shayez Ali

In his speech Affey also emphasised the continuing need to protect vulnerable Somali refugees.

“It is equally important to recognise that the majority of Somali refugees in the region continue to require asylum space and protection of the countries that are hosting them.”

Ambassador Affey will be delivering a keynote speech this Friday at SOAS University. If you would like to attend please register here.