On 10-11 October 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Somaliland hosted a high-level international conference on the theme ‘Somaliland’s Achievements and Challenges Ahead 27 Years Later.’
The conference, the first of its kind to be held in Somaliland, aimed to take stock of how far Somaliland has come in translating its domestic successes in peacebuilding, democracy, development and responsible regional cooperation into momentum for the countries quest for recognition and international economic cooperation, while also debating and discussing the challenges that the country continues to face in reaching its foreign policy ambitions.
The conference brought together an impressive array of over 250 distinguished guests from 28 countries around the world, alongside members of Somaliland society ranging from government officials, members of all political parties, businesspeople, intellectuals, academicians, journalists and representatives of civil society. Among the countries from which these international friends of Somaliland hailed included Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, South Africa, the US, Finland, the UK, Kenya, Algeria, Brussels, Guinea-Bissau, France, Holland, Uganda, Djibouti and IGAD. This included diplomats, members of parliament, officials from regional bodies, well-known businessmen and businesswomen, founders of international organisations, academics and others.
The event was opened by H.E. Musa Bihi Abdi, President of the Republic of Somaliland, who praised the role of Somaliland’s international friends and partners in building the strong relations Somaliland shares with nations in the region, Africa and the rest of the world. Echoing a theme that would pervade the conference, he highlighted the historic opportunity that the redevelopment of the Berbera Port can bring to Somaliland’s economic transformation and strategic geopolitical importance in a more integrated and prosperous Horn of Africa region.
The conference also heard from representatives from all political parties, who both praised past successes in building diplomatic support for Somaliland’s cause in the past, especially through the 2005 AU fact-finding mission on the country’s unique case, but also lamented missed opportunities to build on these successes. However, they shared the common view that Somaliland’s recognition and international standing was an issue that transcends any social differences, and that all sectors and stakeholders must be united in taking these international efforts forward.
Four separate panels were organised across the two days, which covered topics extending from the impact of non-recognition on Somaliland and the challenges and prospects for attaining recognition, to ongoing regional changes and maritime competition, and the economic foundations necessary to further elevate Somaliland’s global stature. Speakers included Somaliland ministers, academics and civil society actors, as well as international participants from the business community, international development agencies, global think tanks, African regional governance bodies, academic institutions and the diplomatic community.
At the conclusion of the conference, the participants agreed to a number of resolutions, to be championed in both the individual capacities and collective cooperation of everyone involved. The conference firmly agreed:
That Somaliland fulfils all the international legal, political and moral conditions for statehood, and that it is the duty of the international community to honour Somaliland’s right to self-determination.
That Somaliland’s lack of recognition imposes an unconscionable hardship and burden on the Somaliland people, who have struggled to rebuild a democratic, peaceful and secure country from the ravages of war and mass atrocity, including by placing limits on levels of foreign aid and international financial institution support.
That the international community’s approach to the region, in which Somaliland is overlooked in the areas of diplomatic recognition and international support while areas of dysfunction are bestowed with abundant funding, dangerously incentivizes bad governance instead of rewarding areas that work.
That ‘Somaliland works’. That Somaliland’s government was built through painstaking local processes, and functions to provide order, justice, services, protection and well-being to its citizens, while offering cooperation in maintaining security, border control, maritime security and economic opportunities to its regional partners.
That for Somaliland to continue to work and prosper, the international community should support and work with the Somaliland government to implement the National Development Plan II (2017-2021), which is a vital policy and vision for developing the country over the next four years.
That Somaliland’s foreign policy, and its quest for recognition, is an issue that transcends political and social differences and borders, and is instead is a matter of universal notions of justice, fairness and self-determination. As such, all Somaliland citizens and their foreign partners must work together in a united, cooperative and integrated fashion to develop and implement a strategy for recognition.
That Somaliland’s international friends and supporters will take the lessons learned at this conference home with them, and support Somaliland in knocking on the doors of foreign governments, diplomatic offices, investors, companies, civil society groups and academic institutions to raise awareness and support for Somaliland and its cause.
That all Somaliland stakeholders prioritise efforts to agree to a common vision and strategy for where Somaliland wants to go in its foreign policy, and how its plans to get there. This common vision and strategy will be informed by the fruitful and timely discussions and analyses coming out of the two-day conference.
That the Somaliland government and people thank its international partners, both its development partners and those that came from far and wide to participate in this conference, for their continued solidarity and support for Somaliland’s development, social improvement and campaign for recognition.