I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the continuation of our testimony on the situations in Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We are joined today by two witnesses from the Federal Government of Somalia. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
We have the Honourable Gamal Hassan, Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Development. Welcome.
We also have Abdigani Jama, senior adviser, policy and strategy, from the Office of the Prime Minister.
I want to thank you both for being here with us today. This is important testimony, and we are very pleased to have you before us with your insights.
As is the normal process, you can each speak for five to eight minutes, after which we're going to open up the floor to colleagues to ask a number of questions.
With that, Minister Hassan, would you like to begin?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak before you on the endless possibilities on the strengthening of bilateral relations between Canada and Somalia.
I am very pleased to know that your colleague, the honourable Borys Wrzesnewskyj, had in the past visited Somalia and is well aware of and well acquainted with the challenges and prospects of the country.
On behalf of the Federal Government of Somalia, it is both a pleasure and an honour to address this esteemed Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the most recent developments that we have achieved in Somalia, and some of the challenges that remain, while expressing our hopes on advancing the special friendship between Somalia and Canada.
Canada has historically contributed to Somalia's pursuit of stability by providing thousands of Somalis with the opportunity to live in peace, receive valuable education and pursue their dreams. Today, Somali Canadians have significantly contributed to both the social and the economic recovery in Somalia through their active contributions to the process of rebuilding the country.
Two former Somali prime ministers, a number of MPs and eight cabinet ministers in the current government, constituting some 30% of the government, call Canada their home and contribute to the special bond between our two countries.
We recognize and appreciate Canada's continued support for multilateral peace operations in Somalia, as well as efforts spent in numerous crucial areas, including women's empowerment, conflict prevention and assistance with refugees and internally displaced persons.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, diplomatic relations between Canada and Somalia date back to 1968. More recently, since the first post-transition Government of Somalia came into power in 2012, we have had the pleasure of welcoming two Canadian ambassadors to Somalia: Ambassador David Angell, who presented his letters of credence to former Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on June 15, 2014, and Ambassador Sara Hradecky, who presented her letters of credence to His Excellency President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, “Farmajo”, on June 7, 2017.
We are also expecting the new Canadian ambassador designate to Somalia, Ms. Lisa Stadelbauer, to present her credentials to President Mohamed very soon.
We are grateful to these ambassadors for their relentless efforts in strengthening the friendship between our two countries.
In January 2018, the Prime Minister of Somalia, His Excellency Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During this historic encounter, both leaders acknowledged the importance of further strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries by recognizing the pressing need to bolster support for Somalia's development and reconstruction efforts.
It is our hope that this committee and its leadership will take these discussions further and foster practical avenues to realizing lasting peace and sustainable development in Somalia.
Ladies and gentlemen, the election of His Excellency President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and the appointment of His Excellency Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in February 2017 ushered in a new era for Somalia. Their vision of a reconciled and stable country led by accountable institutions that are able to deliver services to their citizens has met with wide support, both nationally and internationally.
Over the last 19 months, the government has worked tirelessly to rebuild public trust in government by delivering tangible results on key national priorities, including national security, inclusive politics, economic growth and social development, among other demands.
Constitutional reform processes, the strengthening of the country's federal system and holding free and fair elections are also some of the government's priority areas of development.
The National Independent Election Commission has so far registered 22 political associations for multi-party elections scheduled for the year 2020. We anticipate that the 2020 election—the first universal suffrage election in Somalia in 50 years—will further contribute to Somalia's full recovery and political stability.
We are also working on establishing independent judiciary services, and we are in the process of completing the review of a draft constitution. At the same time, many key bills have been passed by the cabinet and are being considered by the respective parliamentary committees.
Furthermore, with the support of international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, our government is currently pursuing prudent financial and revenue management processes in a quest for debt relief, which has entered its third and hopefully last IMF staff-monitored program. By strengthening our financial institutions and reforming our economic and trade policies, we hope to foster closer economic ties with our neighbouring countries in order to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the region.
Somalia is blessed with having a multitude of resources, including the longest coastline on the continent, stretching 3,300 kilometres from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. These strategic advantages pose endless potential that could positively contribute to regional development and stability. This potential, however, can only be realized through collective efforts to address our challenges and build on our strengths. We strongly believe that with the support of your government, by pooling together our collective strengths in terms of human and natural resources, coupled with our shared values of inclusive and accountable governance, Somalia will be able to stride faster and stronger towards lasting peace and sustainable development.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee, Somalia has made visible progress in a number of critical areas, despite extraordinary challenges. We will continue to pursue reconciliation among Somalis, and stability, security, economic growth and equitable representation in all areas of government. However, to achieve these goals, Somalia is in need of stronger international support. Canada's leading role in humanitarian relief and your continued support for political process, security and peace-building as well as social development in Somalia, through multilateral agencies, has been instrumental to our recovery. Such support was and still is very much needed. However, as we strive to sustain the progress made so far and continue on the path of reconstruction, Somalia needs more direct assistance to reach standards of full recovery. We believe that strengthening our bilateral ties and increasing development assistance for Somalia can significantly increase our chance of achieving lasting peace and sustainable development sooner rather than later.
Our government is intent on achieving lasting progress in key areas, including, number one, inclusive politics, and by completing the process of federalism as well as completing the review of the draft constitution and preparing for 2020 elections, while putting in place an independent judicial model to boost good governance.
Number two is social development. Our government, along with our international partners, is having challenges in finding durable solutions for the more than 2.6 million internally displaced persons in Somalia and for the one million Somali refugees across the region. We have put together a recovery and resiliency framework that outlines feasible steps for finding durable solutions to these crises. The Canadian government has been a key supporter in these efforts, and we continue to be grateful.
The security sector is number three. The Federal Government of Somalia, in consultation with international partners, has adopted a transitional plan to replace troops from the African Union with Somali security forces in a gradual manner. We owe a debt of gratitude to the African Union mission in Somalia, which has made huge sacrifices in helping us stabilize the country and fight extremist groups and insurgents such as al Shabaab. However, in order for the country to reach a status of full recovery, our own security institutions must be strengthened and empowered to take charge of the country's security. Therefore, the implementation of a transition plan and a strengthened capacity of the Somali security institutions are of the utmost importance in achieving lasting peace and security in the country.
Last but not least is our aim for economic development. The federal government is pursuing economic development and macroeconomic stability through the introduction of economic policy reforms, thus improving governance, fighting corruption, and strengthening financial institutions. Socio-economic development is key in achieving lasting stability and is one of our government's most fundamental priorities.
The federal government of Somalia is doing all it can to achieve the above-mentioned priorities among others, and has so far been able to reach tangible results that have been witnessed and praised both nationally and internationally. However, given our limited resources and the limitations of being in the early stages of recovery, more support is needed to maintain and build on the gains made so far. Hence, we ask the Canadian government to continue to look at Somalia with renewed focus, to increase your development support and to prioritize our co-operative relationship in order to yield substantial results and achieve sustainable development, lasting peace and long-term stability in the Horn of Africa.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Thank you very much, honourable members.
Thank you for your support for Somalia. In 2016 and 2017, as you rightly said, we had an election process, which resulted in the election of the Parliament, the lower house. For the first time we have put together an upper house, which is the equivalent of the Senate here. We had the election of a president, the appointment of the Prime Minister and the approval of the cabinet. It has been a long process.
Going forward, we have decided to move beyond the process we chose the last time and go for “one person, one vote” in 2020. If you look at 2016-17, you see that we used a system called “4.5”, whereby we shared the parliamentary seats based on clan constituents from different regions of the country, with different groups appointing or selecting their members of Parliament through a clan balance. We had 135 clan elders who were selected based on their leadership within their communities. Those 135 elders then selected the 275 members of Parliament who elected the Speaker and then the President. It was a traditional system that we used to elect our leadership.
Going forward, we're going to go for universal suffrage: one person, one vote. We have put together a national independent electoral committee, which is now in the process of finalizing the electoral law. There are more than 20 associations, which, as soon as we have this bill passed by Parliament, will qualify to register as political parties. We're in the process. We have two years to go, but we feel we're in the right place to make sure that by 2020 we have the systems in place to go for one-person, one-vote elections.
I will answer in two parts.
First, we have a draft constitution, which is undergoing a review process. We have to review 15 chapters before 2020. We have already finalized 10 chapters. We are on the last five chapters and we hope to finalize those in the next few months. Once we do that, then we will send the 15 chapters to the Parliament for ratification.
We have three layers there. We have the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, we have an independent commission for the constitution, and we have a joint committee made up of two houses of Parliament, so we have three groups looking at the constitution thoroughly, in addition to civil society and other parts of the Somali people.
That's the constitution. It's almost final.
On human rights, we are the only country in the region that has a dedicated human rights ministry, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development. As well we have, for the first time in our national development plan, one pillar—we have nine altogether—that is fully dedicated to gender and human rights. This pillar's entire work is to mainstream gender issues to make sure that human rights are observed in every department of the government, that all our programs are gender sensitive, and that human rights practices are upheld and good governance is observed.
These two areas, human rights and the constitution, are key priorities for us. If we don't deliver the constitution next year, in 2020, it will be difficult to hold elections, and given that our country has a history of conflict and civil war, human rights is a big issue for us. We have to make sure that what has happened in the past doesn't come back.
Thank you, honourable member.
I think part one is generally that when you look at the statistics, you see that 91% of the Somalian population is under the age of 40, and 75% of the population is under the age of 30 years old. We can safely say around half of the Somalian population is under the age of 15, so you can imagine the number of children.
Our society is recovering from a protracted civil war. The victims of the conflict, this civil war, were primarily women and children. As you said, the statistics are huge, and the numbers we've seen when it comes to women or girls and education are not comparable to those of men in the country.
One of the things we would like to see happening, particularly with Canada's leadership, is to help us educate more girls and to help us send girls to schools. From what we know, if you educate a girl, you educate an entire village or a community, as they say. It is an area that is a top priority for us in terms of human capital development, in terms of social development, and in terms of reconciling the communities, because we need more girls in school. The enrolment rates are still at the lowest, very low, even at elementary schools.
We would like to build on Canada's recent success at the conference on girls' education in Vancouver. We would also like to praise Canada's feminist foreign policy, in which gender and women's empowerment are a priority. We would like your support to help us develop education and other services for our women and girls.
When you look at the situation in Somalia, you see it's quite a bit different from the situations of some of our African brothers and sisters, and it is the same when it comes to challenges.
We have a culture of bringing up and nurturing and supporting our girls and women, but because of the situation on the ground, because of what happened in the civil war and the civil conflict, the biggest impact was on women and girls. Now we have dedicated an entire pillar in our national development plan for women, gender and human rights, because we realize some of the basics are not met when we look at their representation in the schools, in the marketplace and in politics. Although we tried recently to implement a quota of 30% of women members of Parliament, we achieved around 25%, which is 5% short. We aim to reach 30% or more in the next election.
When you consider empowering women in their level of education or in other areas, because of our culture, which empowers women despite the challenges we have, hopefully in the next few years we will be able to achieve great success, but we cannot do it alone. We don't have the resources to do everything we have put together in the plans. We don't have the resources in place to achieve the goals and priorities we set out, so we are looking at places like Canada and other friendly countries to help us realize those plans, to realize implementation of those policies and help us to move Somalia forward.
If we empower and invest in our girls and our women in every sector, actually it is a no-brainer that the country will go further and will achieve success.
Yes, it definitely does, and beyond that, in the regions surrounding Mogadishu.
Most of the country is free of al Shabaab. There are pockets outside in the rural areas where they do hit and run and pockets where they are in control. Compared to a few years ago, you see, by and large, that Somalia is now almost out of the hands of al Shabaab. They don't control any significant city or port, or any major infrastructure. Security is improving with the support of AMISOM and through contributing countries.
Our friends and international partners will also help us in other areas. We're doing a lot in the security sector. Let me give you a few examples.
As soon as this government came into power, we did something called ORA, operational readiness assessment. We make sure every soldier is counted with biometrics. We make sure every soldier on the government payroll is on active duty. We have a bill in Parliament that's going to help put all those soldiers who have reached the age of retirement into a pension system for the first time. We have a transition plan, which we negotiated and agreed upon with international partners, that will allow the transfer of security from AMISOM to Somalia security forces in a gradual manner. That has already started. They handed over the first base to the Somalia police force. We have a security architecture, which was agreed to in London with our international partners, that is covering all sectors of security—police, military, intelligence, you name it. We have a system called the comprehensive approach to security, the CAS system, in which we have partners.
Somalia is co-chairing meetings on the security sector. For example, you have Somali National Army issues, co-chaired by a donor and the Somalia government. You have the police. You also have countering violent extremism; there is an entire strand, or pillar, dedicated to that, co-chaired by a Somalia minister and the partner country.
We have all those systems in place and things are improving on a daily basis, but we're not 100% out of the woods yet. That's why we will appreciate having support from Canada in the security sector.
For instance, we adopted a federal structure in Somalia, with three layers of government, as in Canada. Sometimes it's difficult to know exactly where one's power ends and where the other one's starts. You have the RCMP, for example; in Ontario, you have the OPP; and you have city police. We have similar things, but we will need your expertise in helping us identify the relationship between these forces in terms of resources, structure, power sharing and all that stuff.
It's still in the early stages, but we're making huge progress.
I'm really glad to hear that, because if the internal security situation has improved, then there can be an attempt to really strengthen the economy. When you look at the economy right now, you see that you have almost 2.5 or 2.6 million people who are internally displaced, as well as 800,000 refugees who are living outside the country.
The biggest question right now for Somalia, if you look at the GDP and the economy, is that you see that almost 65% is in an agriculture-based economy, and the rest is supported either by telecommunications or by foreign remittances.
My question is, if Somalia is going to really advance itself.... One of the good things or one of the really confidence-building measures is that the U.S. has decided to reopen some diplomatic presence in Mogadishu, which I think is a very positive step.
Sticking to the economy for a second, right now the biggest issue that I think Somalia is facing is the inability to mobilize tax revenue at the local, state or national level. If Somalia is going to progress, if the internal security situation is improving, then the economy has to be the next step, because if they don't go hand in hand, the security situation will not be good and nobody will invest. If the economy is not improving, then people will be unable to meet their daily needs, which will lead to other situations.
What is happening in terms of the economy right now? What kinds of improvements are you making? I know the Chinese have done a lot of infrastructure, but what is Somalia doing to take control of its own economic destiny going forward?
There's also a potential for renewable energy in the country. Throughout the year, there's strong radiation, strong solar, a strong sun that we can utilize to produce energy. The resources are endless. What we need is the capacity to utilize these resources.
If we focus on the fisheries sector, for example, I know that Canada's maritime regions can help us develop our capacity in the fisheries sector. That alone, if utilized properly, could yield over $1 billion a year in income for the government.
On agriculture, if we take advantage of the remaining eight million hectares, for example, you can imagine what we could produce. We have two major rivers in the country, and we barely use them for agriculture. We need the expertise and technical know-how to utilize and take advantage of these resources.
On livestock, instead of exporting live animals, we are thinking about setting up slaughterhouses, for instance, to ensure we also create jobs by setting up tanning factories that create jobs for youth, and then exporting shoes and other products as a result of that.
We know we have the resources. What we need is the technical know-how. We have identified key priority areas, as I mentioned, key productive sectors—