Transcript of Press Conference by Judy Cheng-Hopkins and Nick Kay
Mareeg.com-SRSG Kay: It is a great pleasure today to welcome Assistant Secretary-General Judy Cheng-Hopkins, who is responsible for peacebuilding in the United Nations in New York. Judy has long experience – 36 years – working in the United Nations. She has worked in humanitarian, development, disaster management positions in UNDP, UNHCR and WFP. And now the Assistant Secretary-General will explain a little about her mission and peacebuilding and then we will open it for your questions.
ASG Cheng-Hopkins: Salaam Alaykum. I am very happy to be here; I am here with my colleague from HQ, Patrice [Chiwota, Senior Programme Advisor for the UN Peacebuilding Support Office]. As the SRSG has said, I’ve had a long, long experience with the UN; in fact I have been to Somalia in my previous role with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but now here looking at the peace-building prospects to see what the UN Peacebuilding Fund can do for Somalia in this country. This is my fifth day here, it is a five day mission basically; I have had meetings with the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Interior, with the Deputy Minister of Finance, the Speaker of Parliament. But I also wanted to see for myself away from Mogadishu what’s happening on the ground in the field, especially in the Shabaab-cleared areas, so I spent a day in Kismayo; I also spent the day yesterday in Hudur.
The Peacebuilding Fund was set up by the UN Security Council & UN General Assembly about nine years ago because it was felt there wasn’t sufficient attention, sufficient funding for peacebuilding opportunities as countries emerged from war. So while Somalia still has internal conflict, and still has a problem with Al Shabaab and with other groups, the feeling is that there are sufficient windows of opportunity in certain parts of the country where we should invest now in peacebuilding so that the sustainability of that peace can be preserved and not wait for the entire country to go into peace before we invest.
As I said, this Peacebuilding Fund is a relatively new fund. It is not huge but it is not little either; we are talking about some $100 million for about twenty-something countries around the world in a similar situation with you, emerging from war. The whole philosophy behind this Peacebuilding Fund is to invest in areas where there are windows of opportunity so that we can stop the relapse of violence, we can target the various triggers of conflict and hopefully that way sustain the peace.
We are not to be confused with humanitarian aid; we are not a fund for humanitarian activities, nor are we a development fund. We are the fund for peace-building and our philosophy is, as I said, there are certain windows, certain opportunities in peacebuilding and we have to move fast, because those opportunities may not be there forever. We have to move fast, and we have a facility called the Immediate Response Facility – I’m here now in Somalia trying to see what is the best way to use this Immediate Response Facility.
One of the first projects that we have identified so far – and my colleague Patrice is here from New York working with UNSOM and with UNDP and the others on this whole project – is this $3 million dollar project to build up the local administration in the cleared areas. I believe they have identified some 25 districts that are now relatively secure where local government is still weak so the whole idea of this project is to build up the capacity of local government as well as to – in every sense, in the sense of equipping them, providing salaries for a short-term, bringing in the trainers from the federal government to come and boost and train up this local administration – but also very much, I would say half of the budget, is to reach out to civil society, to the activities for reconciliation of the civil society as well as for the outreach of local government, so that they are very well aware that they are there to serve the civil society and be very conscious of that. So this is very much the strategy of this project – as I said, to boost the capacity of local government but to also make them very cognizant of their role vis-à-vis civil society.
So when I’m talking about reaching out to civil society, obviously I’m talking about basically three or four groups: a very important element, as you are aware, is the clan leadership – I think to do any project of this nature, of this sort, without reaching out and having the clan leadership involved would be a mistake. By the same token, because of the situation of women and youth in this country, the project will also reach out and take the opinions and take into consideration what ought to be done for women and the youth as well.
Lastly, just to say that this project has, as I said, been discussed with government – with the Federal Government as well as with the local officials – but also with the donor community. The whole idea is to be well coordinated; whatever we are doing at this level of boosting the capacity, we are also making sure that donors are in the same areas providing basic services, infrastructure, needs of the local population so that everybody is moving in harmony and everybody can see what the whole strategy is. The last thing we want is donors to be working at cross purposes – somebody doing something here or duplicating each other, just as bad. We have learnt a lot of lessons now and I think hopefully these will be well applied in a case like Somalia that really needs well-coordinated, smart kind of interventions.
Besides this $3 million, we have also been entertaining ideas and proposals on how we spend another $7 million – I think I can already announce it now that we are committed to spending $10 million very fast under the Immediate Response Facility – and so we are entertaining ideas for the other $7 million. I just had a long meeting with civil society organizations, an excellent meeting because they are so well informed, so articulate in identifying the needs of Somalia today in peacebuilding. Some ideas have come forward, and including when I was in Hudur and Kismayo talking to local officials, to the Governor, the DC, as well as civil society. I think obviously one project that comes to mind is what we can do for the defectors, the so-called disengaged combatants, from Al Shabaab and other militias, how we can reintegrate these youth back into society by giving them skills, by giving them an opportunity for a livelihood, so that they don’t fall back into these activities that are the root of the instability of Somalia.
I think maybe this is sufficient in terms of a brief overview and I’ll hand it back to SRSG Kay or [addressing the media] do you want to ask any questions?
SRSG KAY: Thank you very much Judy, thank you very much Abdullahi [interpreter], let’s have some questions from the ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Q: For SRSG Kay, we hear rumors or information that SRSG Kay is meeting this afternoon with MPs who are preparing a motion against the President – if you can tell us more about that.
SRSG Kay: Thank you very much. Yes, this afternoon I believe some of the representatives of the signatories of a petition want to deliver the petition to me and I have accepted to receive them and to receive the petition from them. Until I meet them I don’t know what the subject really is but my door is always open and I’m here to interact and listen and work with all Somalis.
Q: We hear reports that the international community has asked President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to resign. Can you tell us more about that?
SRSG Kay: Not true at all. I have no understanding that that is the case. In my conversations with international partners, we all agree on the very strong need for continuity and stability at this time in Somalia.
I hope there will be some questions also for ASG Cheng-Hopkins about building peace, particularly in Qoryooley, Hudur and other recovered areas.
Q: I would like to ask the ASG a question on her visit. She told us that she visited Kismayo and Hudur; I’d like to ask her about the security situation on the ground as you saw it.
ASG Cheng-Hopkins: Let’s be very clear that this is a one-day visit, so from a one-day visit I can give you my impressions, but obviously it is a lot more complicated than that, a lot more complex and obviously more in-depth analysis is needed. Just from my very short visit, I can tell you that I was actually quite pleasantly surprised in Hudur that despite the UN – which has strict restrictions on where we can go and wander off to – it was a pleasant surprise that in Hudur we were walking around the market pretty freely, having a chance to speak to the women who are traders, their children, selling some rice, some vegetables. I wanted to go to the market because a lot of times that’s a very good indication, a good microcosm of society, especially of village life, because everything happens at the market – what foods are available, what are the people selling, how do they feel, are they pessimistic or optimistic – so it’s a very good place to get a lot of information in a short time, that’s why I wanted to go. As I said, I managed to have little conversations with the ladies and also got the sense that you could walk around quite freely in Hudur.
Kismayo was, I guess because it is a bigger city, it is a bit more controlled in terms of my ability to move around, but also the fact that we could go and we could have all these meetings with civil society is already a very big development from probably some months or a year ago or two years ago.
Q: Two questions. ASG Cheng Hopkins, the project that you highlighted – the $3million dollars that the Peacebuilding Office is funding in 25 districts; the implementation of this project, will it be in the hands of Somali partners or will it be implemented by the Peacebuilding Office itself?
Second question: Your visit, you told us, covered Kismayo and Hudur. Why didn’t you visit during your five days here, other recovered areas like Bulo-Burte and Qoryooley? These are also recovered areas – why didn’t you visit?
ASG Cheng-Hopkins: Well, to answer the last one first, I actually insisted that I go out in the field and not stay in Mogadishu. You are well aware of the logistics constraints here; it was already a challenge to go to Kismayo and Hudur and I am so grateful to the UNSOM office for arranging that – I don’t know, maybe we could have squeezed in another site, but to be honest about my position, I cannot come to a country without also talking to the leaders, this is after all the UN, I have to make my calls, so the time was just limited. I wish I could stay another week…maybe I will, maybe I’ll change my ticket now. Because it was so fascinating, it was just so interesting to go out there, far away from Mogadishu, to listen to their perspectives, not just of these very strong elders, the very strong opinions of youth, of governors, the Governor of Hudur as you know, he’s known by reputation to be a very strong person with strong views, but also to listen to civil society – the youth and the women, and hearing a whole different perspective I think is so important and that’s why I always insist on that…to see life from the capital is not a full picture.
Your first question, on implementation. We are still working out the details of implementation but we have no presence on the ground, we are a fund and I manage the fund. We work with implementing partners, so as I said, in this project of local administration and reaching out to civil society and reconciliation, the major implementing partner would be UNSOM and UNDP, but obviously the whole capacity development I was talking about – remember I used the word caretaker – the whole idea of the strategy behind this is that the government does have a small group of Somalis that I assume have long experience in civil service but they are limited in number. They will be sent out to these local administrations and doing the job, starting up the job, but also training and building up the capacity of the new recruits – people joining local government or who need further training – they will stay for several months and then they will move on to the next district and do the same thing and move on. This is the strategy – not to bring a bunch of expatriates or outsiders who have no clue about how Somali society functions, how Somali local government functions, what the challenges are. This way I think we can get the maximum out of it by involving the local knowledge and local expertise in doing this activity.
Q: Two Questions. In Somalia, conflict is not only Al Shabaab; there are conflicts among clans, there is also conflict between different administrations, like the one in the Sool and Sanaag area between Somaliland and Puntland. Are you just focusing on areas recovered from Al Shabaab or can these other types of conflict also be paid attention to?
Second question: these UN warnings coming up about the humanitarian disaster looming in terms of food and things like that, is this also something that you will be paying attention to?
ASG Cheng-Hopkins: On the first question, on why only Shabaab-cleared areas, as I said, the challenges are so great in this country in terms of, in every field, including in conflict resolution and what one does in the peacebuilding efforts. So yes, we are starting with Shabaab-cleared areas, we have identified these with the government, with the local officials and with civil society and with the donors, so that’s the first phase. Later on, once we have the experience, what works, what doesn’t, there’s no prevention for us to go into other areas. But as I said, the needs are so huge you’ve got to start with a clear strategy of what you want to do as opposed to being pulled in a thousand different directions and not doing it well. So to answer your question, for the moment yes, it is the Shabaab-cleared areas and then eventually obviously it can be expanded to other areas in need of this kind of activity.
Your second question. When I went to Hudur I really got a mouthful, I got very strong comments from civil society, the elders, from the Governor, of the acute shortage of food in that region, in that area, so I am well aware of it, but as I said earlier on, we are peacebuilding, and I’m not saying that in a bureaucratic way, that I can only do this and not that. We have to be aware that the way the international division of labour within the UN works is we have to stick to our areas otherwise the donors will turn away from us to say that there are others doing this work and you should be, then you start losing any kind of competitive edge you had in that area, so we have to be very mindful of that. It’s not to be bureaucratic or anything, but to stick to our mandate…I think it’s very important to do it well so that we can have the donor confidence, because we raised the money; we work hard in raising the money, there is nothing that comes free. I work very hard to raise money and to prove that we can do what we do well, and our area is peacebuilding. But it doesn’t mean that I close my eyes to what’s going on in that humanitarian field, so definitely we are going to be having a meeting this afternoon with a lot of our sister agencies in the UN, in the humanitarian field, and we will have a good discussion over what I heard and what their response is.
SRSG Kay: Shall I just answer on the humanitarian situation, just to complement ASG Cheng-Hopkins. It is true that there is a very serious, continued humanitarian crisis in Somalia, and it is true that there is an urgent need for extra funding for supporting humanitarian work. The Consolidated Appeal for humanitarian work has only been funded 12 percent by the international donor community. Without additional funding, I am afraid that women and children and vulnerable people will begin to suffer both from food and medical…inadequate treatment. This is an urgent and serious situation and we are watching very, very carefully the potential for food insecurity in the next months on Somalia – the climatic conditions, the conditions on the ground resulting from the offensive and resulting from Al Shabaab’s action to cut food supplies to towns – all of these give us some serious concerns.
Q: To SRSG Kay – my question is, this repeated dispute among Somali leaders, we want to know the views of the United Nations. You told us today you are meeting some MPs who have signed a petition against the President. Those MPs, do you agree with them? How does the UN view this ongoing conflict among the Somali leaders?
SRSG Kay: Somali people have decided that you want to build a new Somalia, you want to build a new Federal Somalia with a new Constitution and with democratic elections in 2016. You have chosen that as your agenda and your objectives.
The international community, through the United Nations Security Council, has asked me, told me, to come to Somalia and to help you to achieve those objectives. You have a plan, your government has a vision for 2016, which means this year in 2014 you will agree which are the interim regional administrations for future federal states, next year in 2015 you will agree a new Constitution, and in 2016 you will have elections. That is an ambitious but possible plan.
To achieve that, there is a lot of work that has to be done – in the Parliament, passing laws, in the country, discussions between the Federal Government and the regions – there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I have to say frankly, if there is to be any change of government or any change of leadership here, I think that would have a severe effect on the chances of achieving your targets by 2016.
Q: Seeking clarification on the peacebuilding fund – is it $3 million or $7 million. She is also asking what is the aim or the target of the project – is it the district administrations or something else?
ASG Cheng-Hopkins: The $3 million is a project that is about to be approved very soon, and this $3 million is to try and boost the local administrations of some 25 districts, build up the capacity and also reach out to civil society in terms of reconciliation, in terms of how they work together with local government so local government meets their needs. This is the $3 million.
There is another $7 million that we are looking to approve for Somalia, always under the Immediate Response [Facility], we want to do things faster, we don’t want to drag on for months and months and months. So this other $7 million we are in the process of talking to many interlocutors, to local officials, NGOs – we just had a meeting with NGOs – in order to try to get some more new ideas of peacebuilding, using the $7 million. So yes, we expect to have $10 million approved for Somalia in the next few months, very quickly. Of course there is other funding available, but I want to focus on this $10 million first.
SRSG Kay: Thank you very much for all your questions, thank you Judy for your answers and thank you Abdullahi for all your interpreting.