Despite progress on the political and security fronts in Somalia over the past year, the recent tragic events in Kenya underline the complexity of the challenges facing the people and Governments of the Horn of Africa region. I visited the area in July 2012 to see at first hand the situation on the ground, and I have worked to ensure that it remains high on the EU and UN agendas. Current estimates suggest close to 2.5 million people in Ethiopia, 1.1 million people in Kenya, 1.05 million people in Somalia, and over 200,000 people in Djibouti remain vulnerable to food insecurity and require humanitarian assistance. While the influx of Somalis fleeing into the Dadaab refugee camp in north-east Kenya has decreased, it remains the largest refugee camp in the world with some 425,000 refugees.
There are over one million Somali refugees across the region, who depend entirely on humanitarian aid. Continuing instability in parts of southern Somalia remains a major obstacle to the delivery of aid and has serious implications for border regions and nearby refugee camps. We are following the political and humanitarian situation closely, through our Embassies in the region, notably in Addis Ababa, and in close coordination with our international and NGO partners. Together with other donor countries, we have worked particularly closely with the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to put in place new systems to improve the way in which aid is delivered and to ensure that coordination on the ground is improved through enhanced monitoring systems.
Ireland’s direct engagement in the region has demonstrated that emergency assistance can effectively address health, nutrition, and water and sanitation needs, but cannot prevent future crises. Ireland will therefore continue to work on long-term programmes to build resilience and address the needs of the most vulnerable across the region. Ireland has provided over €290 million in development and humanitarian funding to the Horn of Africa since 2007. We will continue to engage actively at EU and international level in pushing for a strongly coordinated approach to the humanitarian situation in the Horn.
The situation in the region is reviewed regularly at meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which I attend. The EU is continuing to implement vigorously its Comprehensive Strategy for the Horn of Africa which was adopted in 2011 and which covers the entire region including the situations in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Kenya. It addresses all dimensions on the different crises in the region including conflict, underdevelopment, and issues related to governance and human rights. An over-arching role in implementation of the strategic approach is given to the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Alex Rondos, who reports regularly to Ministers.
Progress has been made on regional security with the support of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions, including the EU Training Mission in Somalia, the EU anti-piracy naval mission, and the regional maritime capacity-building mission, EUCAP Nestor. Ireland is making an important contribution to these EU efforts by providing the Commander and a significant contingent of personnel for the EU Training Mission in Somalia, which is building the capacity of the Somali National Security Forces to enable them to take over responsibility for security and law and order.
The EU also provides very significant humanitarian, development and economic support across the Horn of Africa, in close cooperation with regional bodies, including the African Union. The EU SHARE initiative (Supporting the Horn of Africa’s Resilience) has been developed in light of the 2011 crisis as a result of food shortages and conflict, and promotes a strongly integrated approach to vulnerable communities in the region.
Last week, Ireland participated in the debate at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation Somalia and Sudan, and highlighted concerns about human right violations in both countries, while welcoming the significant progress which has been made in Somalia in particular in the past twelve months. It is clear that progress in the Horn of Africa will require a strong focus on human rights and an enabling environment for civil society. This will remain a priority area for Ireland’s engagement with the countries of the region, and internationally.