February 22, 2012 – Oxfam today called on governments meeting at the London Somalia conference to shift their emphasis from short-term security and anti-terror concerns to a long-term engagement that prioritizes the interests of ordinary Somalis. Access to humanitarian assistance must be ensured.
“It is time for a new vision of engagement that meets Somalis’ immediate needs, while providing the space for a negotiated peace process, so that Somalia can get onto the road to recovery. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his colleagues attending the London Somalia conference must put the interests and aspirations of the Somali people centre stage,” said Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada.
Oxfam said that the success of the London Somalia conference will be judged on whether:
- Governments from the region, the West and the Islamic world use their influence with the various parties to the conflict to enable civilians to have greater access to humanitarian assistance
- Action is taken to ensure political and security strategies do not undermine humanitarian assistance
- Priority is given to non-military steps, in particular ensuring that a wide section of the Somali population is engaged in a process to resolve the conflict.
In the briefing note “A Shift in Focus – putting the interests of Somali people first”, Oxfam said that although responsibility for Somalia’s decades-long crisis lies first and foremost with factions inside the country, international engagement in the conflict has at times undermined relief efforts.
While many governments see current military action as improving security and stability, reports from inside the country show that nearly half the people displaced in January were fleeing areas where armed conflict has resumed.
Camps where civilians have sought refuge have been struck by warring factions on opposing sides, along with hospitals, a feeding centre and more than one aid agency compound. Aid agencies have also faced obstructions from warring factions on both sides.
“The London Somalia conference is an opportunity to take practical steps to ensure the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and to move towards an inclusive political solution,” Fox said.
Read the Oxfam briefing note.