Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

© Caroline Gluck/Oxfam 2011. New arrivals at Badbaado, the biggest IDP camp in Mogadishu housing over 5,000 people.

For the EU, piracy is the most visible symptom of instability in Somalia. But for over two million Somali people who are in need of urgent humanitarian aid, instability means a daily struggle to provide food, water and safety to their families. As it stands, 2.4 million people remain in need of urgent aid while 325,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.

In advance of today’s international conference on Somalia in London and the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting on the 27th, the EU reaffirmed that stabilising and developing Somalia together with the African Union and international partners is a top priority.

If European governments and EU institutions are serious about bringing long-term peace and security to the region, they must shift the emphasis away from security and anti-piracy concerns and take practical steps towards an inclusive political solution that prioritises the interests of ordinary Somali people.

For many governments involved in Somalia, current military action is seen as improving security and stability, both in neighbouring countries and in Somalia itself, but reports from inside the country tell a different story. Although the causes of the problems Somalia faces lie primarily in the country itself with warring factions accused of impeding and diverting aid flows, international engagement focusing more on security concerns than on the needs of the Somali people has also inadvertently fuelled both the conflict and the humanitarian crisis.

Aydrus Daar CEO of WASDA, a humanitarian NGO working in South Central Somalia, is in Brussels this week to give a voice to Somali people, who for too long have been silenced by fear and hunger or overshadowed by warring factions and competing international interests.

‘’Right now Somali people are just trying to survive each day. We must help to restore their hope in a bright future free of war, to help restore their dignity by supporting them in building back their livelihoods so they can provide for their families”, said Mr. Daar.

‘’I don’t want to talk about politics and war, I want to talk about the people; but we must talk about ending war, because it’s destroying more lives by distracting attention from the humanitarian issues,’’ he added.

EU representatives attending the conference on Somalia in London must seize the opportunity and help kick start a process that will address the root causes of the conflict in Somalia and put the interests and aspirations of the Somali people at the centre stage. Oxfam’s new paper A Shift in Focus – putting the interests of Somali people firstsets out an agenda for the conference which moves away from anti-piracy and security concerns towards a long term engagement for an inclusive political solution to the conflict and crisis that puts the needs of Somalis first.

‘’I urge the international community to focus as much attention and investment as it gives to its counter terrorism and security interests on addressing the immediate needs of Somali people and supporting them to build up their resilience’’ stressed Mr Daar. ‘’A hungry person is an angry person, if we can dispel that anger by providing people with the opportunity to go to school, to access health care, to earn an income, then we can end the cycle of violence’’.

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