I am so pleased to be back in Somalia, where I spent several years in the early 1980s, and just a few months after USAID Administrator Green’s visit to Mogadishu to reopen the USAID Mission and swear-in our first Mission Director since 1991, Jeffrey Bakken, who all of you in the room know.
The re-establishment of the USAID Mission, along with the five-year, $300 million bilateral agreement signed at this very Forum almost two years ago, signals a deepening of the U.S. Government’s partnership with Somalia in support of its journey to self-reliance.
The potential for debt relief and the normalization of Somalia’s relationship with the international financial institutions associated with it are absolutely key to Somalia’s journey. We join others who over the course of the day have congratulated the authorities on the progress made to date toward HIPC decision point.
We know continued progress will be hard. Reaching agreement, particularly between the Federal Government and Federal Member States, on SMP IV benchmarks has become urgent if the debt relief timetable is to be maintained.
As the largest humanitarian donor to Somalia, we also remain extremely concerned about the current drought and humanitarian conditions following the worst gu harvest in Southern Somalia since 1995.
I am therefore pleased to announce an additional U.S. Government commitment of nearly $257 million – over a quarter of a billion dollars – to address life-threatening hunger and acute malnutrition, and to provide safe water and emergency health care to Somalis. This brings our total contribution to nearly $498 million – nearly half a billion dollars – for fiscal year 2019.
This additional financial commitment is representative of our resolve to support the Somali people in their time of need, and we strongly encourage other donors to increase their contributions to address Somalia’s critical humanitarian needs.
At the same time, we must all step up our investments to help the most vulnerable build resilience to withstand future shocks in order to eventually reduce Somalia’s humanitarian caseload. By building resilience, we are not only equipping people with the tools they need to realize their potential, but we are also enabling more resources to be directed toward other critical priorities in Somalia, as outlined in NDP-9.
Of course, the really challenging work will begin after the Somalia Partnership Forum. Reaching political agreement and implementing the reforms that are key to Somalia’s future stability and development will be the most substantial challenge faced by Somalia to date.
As the U.S. Government, we join the rest of the international community in readiness to support the Somali government and people as they chart their own path to recovery and self-reliance, and I look forward to the opportunity to return to Somalia when it is the stable, peaceful place I remember from the past.