Address by Minister Baird at the London Conference on Somalia

February 23, 2012 - London, United Kingdom

Check Against Delivery

Canada is part of the international effort represented by this conference because of the promise that we see for the people of Somalia. This imminent prospect challenges us all to align with those who are committed to advancing accountable governance for and delivering services to Somalis.

In particular, Canada wants to condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the terrorist group Al Shabaab, including the suicide bombings and car bombings that have claimed the lives of many Somalis, and the deliberate and despicable refusal to allow delivery of humanitarian assistance to those Somalis affected by drought in areas under the group’s control. Canada is encouraged by recent gains made by troops from Somalia and other African nations, who have pushed Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other areas in south-central Somalia.

There is a sense of urgency to complete work by the end of August to secure gains and to advance representative government. Progress has been made to craft a constitution that sets out a framework with both representation and responsibility. Respect for Somali tradition is informing selection of the representatives, who will have the duty to confirm, through the constitution, the rights and liberties of the people of Somalia, as well as the rule of law.

This is a time to choose leadership wisely. Able leaders, motivated by public service, can achieve much for their communities, and there is a lot at stake. The performance of these leaders will be critical to the future of Somalia and the future support of the international community.

Canada, late last year, committed $1 million to the UN Trust Fund for the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM]. We appreciate the contribution made by the African Union and individual African countries to fight those who would instill fear and would block efforts to distribute food, to improve food security, to provide medical help and to vaccinate children.

Furthermore, Canada, in collaboration with the Netherlands, is pleased to announce that support previously intended for deployment of a formed police unit (FPU) from Uganda to Darfur will be redirected to allow deployment of the FPU to Somalia to assist AMISOM.

We also stand ready to explore further cooperation with governments and civil society to reinforce partnerships for stabilization and recovery and to counter terrorism, including through the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.

Individual Canadians, including as many as 170,000 Somali Canadians, want to see peace in Somalia. Canadians have acted to care for those in need in Somalia, donating $70.5 million to Canadian-registered charities working in the region. This contribution was matched by the Government of Canada through the East Africa Drought Relief Fund.

We hope to see new parliamentarians, including a sizable contingent of women leaders, exercising their authority locally and working to benefit all Somalis. Canada, along with partners, will be actively engaged.

Thank you.