Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Opening remarks at the Ministerial Meeting of the
Global Initiative on Somali Refugees. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Addis Ababa, 20 August 2014

Speeches and statements

Opening remarks at the Ministerial Meeting of the
Global Initiative on Somali Refugees. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Addis Ababa, 20 August 2014

20 August 2014

Honorable Prime Minister,

Honorable Ministers and Commissioner,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

When we have a protracted refugee situation that runs for more than two decades, when more than two million Somalis are displaced inside and outside the country, when we see babies being born in Dadaab whose parents were already born in Dadaab, and when at the same time we see the focus of the international media moving from Africa in general and from the Somalia situation in particular, to concentrate more and more on the Middle East and on Ukraine, and when the global media and political attention of the international community is being diverted from this crisis, then I believe the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees is more necessary than ever. And I believe that this meeting, an essential pillar in the development of the Initiative, is an absolutely crucial one.

I think that this is an opportunity for a core group of countries to find common ground for a strategy, a solutions strategy, for Somali refugees. It is also an occasion to express common commitments in relation to those Somali refugees. But it must be a first step in mobilizing the international community for much stronger support - not to the refugees, but to Somalia, to strengthen its capacity to overcome its difficulties, and to the host countries and communities facing such a strong impact on their economies and their societies.

And I think the international community needs to recognize that, without the generosity and the hospitality of Ethiopia, of Kenya, of Djibouti, of Yemen, and of Uganda, the tragedy of the Somali refugees would become a total catastrophe. Although the leadership lies with Somalia and the host countries, we should not forget that there is a common responsibility of the international community in relation to Somali refugees. And assuming these responsibilities becomes more necessary than ever, when we try and move from a care and maintenance situation to a solutions strategy approach for Somalis.

When we discuss solutions, we know that the preferred solution for refugees everywhere is voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity where adequate conditions are met for that to be possible.

We are aware of the very important progress that is being made in Somalia; with the new government, on the way towards elections in 2016, with the New Deal Somalia Compact, with the efforts of AMISOM and of the National Somali Army to create more secure conditions in the country; and I think we should praise those efforts. But we are also aware of the fragilities that the process still has, like the insecurity that still exists in large parts of the country and of the enormous difficulties in relation to providing conditions for normal economic and social activities. This creates a situation in which I would say we do not yet have the conditions for a massive movement of return to Somalia, but at the same time we should be open to look into opportunities, and to take profit of those opportunities when adequate conditions are met.

In relation to this there are two absolutely key aspects. The first (and I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister this morning), is the very strong engagement that has been made by the Government of Somalia - in the context of their efforts for the build-up of institutions, and for the pacification of the country, and for the New Deal Compact to create conditions for harmonious development - to consider sustainable voluntary repatriation to be a national priority, to bring all Somalis together. No Government can ignore the conditions of 20% of its population. So this engagement is a very important guarantee for us all. But we also need the international community to fully support this engagement, to fully support the efforts that are being made in creating the conditions for Somalia to overcome its security problems, for Somalia to stabilize its political process and to create the conditions for the development of the country.

At the same time, knowing that massive voluntary repatriation is not possible today, the other aspect I would like to underline as an extremely positive development is the clear engagement of the neighbouring countries to go on providing asylum to Somalis in need. And allow me, because that's my job as High Commissioner, I need to push for the rights and interests of refugees, and for hopefully also creating conditions to improve those asylum situations whenever possible. We are not discussing local integration here, that is of course a matter of national sovereignty which we fully respect, but we are discussing the improvements that can be done for a more dignified life for refugees, and for a better welfare for them, and for the communities in which they live. I would like to underline that everything that can be done for self-reliance, for more mobility wherever possible, for better cooperation with local communities, is extremely positive.

Some positive experiences with this need to be mentioned here. For instance the out-of-camp policy that Ethiopia adopts, the scholarships the Honorable Minister just mentioned for Ethiopian universities, the experience in Dollo Ado, where refugees and local communities are working together in new farming projects - a lot can be done. I will always advocate with all of you for possible improvements in the conditions of Somali refugees. But I do so knowing that our objective, our goal, is for conditions to be created so that one day, Somalis are able to go back and contribute to the reconstruction of their own country.

In this context, I think it is very important that the international community also assumes much stronger responsibilities. Somalia cannot do it without financial support, and the neighbouring countries struggle with the huge impact on their economies, their societies, and with the global impact of the Somali crisis on their security that needs much stronger international solidarity. This includes solidarity supporting the projects of the Somali government, solidarity supporting the refugees and supporting the host communities, solidarity supporting the host countries in relation to their security concerns, and solidarity in resettlement opportunities for Somalis. We need an international community much more engaged both in the political process and in the humanitarian process in order to create the conditions for the solutions strategy to be successful. This, as I said, is an area where the leadership will lie with Somalia, the host countries, and regional organisations like IGAD and the African Union. But the responsibility is a common responsibility of the international community.

And let's be clear. We live in a world where everything has become globalized. The last thing that became global was terror. And to work together for peace and security in Somalia is to work together for peace and security at the global level in our troubled world.

Thank you very much.