Unity, regional cooperation and international support needed for Horn of Africa to develop sustainably

UNSOM/John Arigi UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in Mogadishu with female peacekeepers of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).(23 October 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The road ahead “will not be easy” for the Horn of Africa, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said on Monday, briefing the Security Council on her Joint Solidarity Mission with the African Union (AU) at the end of October.

“The foundations have been laid for a transition from peace to sustainable development”, she said, but building on these “will require unity and cooperation across the region and common ground internationally”.

This is particularly the case surround the issue of tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons, many vulnerable to trafficking, along with finding regional solutions to protection challenges, including sexual violence, in areas where conflict is still ongoing.

After visiting Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia from 21 to 26 October, she observed, “it was clear from our travels that this region is cut from the same fabric”.

“Each country is its own shade, but they are interwoven”, the deputy UN chief asserted. “What happens in one country will impact the others, and so a regional approach and genuine collaboration is paramount”.

She was encouraged by signs of the revitalization of the regional body of Member States, known as the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), saying the platform “will be essential to providing the necessary pathways we can all support”.

She underscored the importance of doing a joint mission with the AU, saying “we can achieve so much more” when working together.

“What is needed now is to maintain and deepen that dialogue and partnership, and to use this to encourage regional solutions and unity”, Ms. Mohammed flagged.

Women peacekeepers

In paying tribute to UN peacekeepers, Ms. Mohammed noted that in each country visited, the “critical importance” of women serving in security forces, the police, military, and peacekeeping “was starkly clear”.

“These women, against all odds, strengthen our protection efforts, increase the credibility of our efforts, engage in local level mediation, and make communities feel more at ease”, she spelled out.

And yet less than four per cent of UN peacekeepers are women: “Much more can and should be done”, including addressing their practical challenges, such as providing the opportunities they need to be deployed, stressed the deputy UN chief.

Women on frontline of transformation

Having accompanied the Deputy Secretary-General, the AU’s Ambassador to the UN, Fatima K. Mohammed, informed the Council that women are on the frontline addressing climate insecurity, radicalization and violent extremism.

“We witnessed first-hand that peace, security and development had little chance to stand without the full and effective participation of women and youth”, she argued.

And yet, despite women and girls continuing to suffer from exclusion, communal conflicts, internal displacements and unregulated migrations, the delegation observed their resilience, commitment and determination to effect real change.

“In all the countries we visited, the delegation witnessed the creativity and innovation of women in the political and socio-economic spheres of their societies”, Ms. Mohammed said. “The laudable and courageous initiatives of these women need to be bolstered by all of us”.

Noting a “new era of peace in the Horn of Africa” she advocated for enhanced regional cooperation and solidarity and called on the UN and AU “to be at the vanguard of this solidarity and respond to the aspirations of the people…for a peaceful, stable and integrated region”.

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