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STAMPING A PRESENCE: FGS unveils its first foreign policy

With stability in Somalia now in the horizon, the present government has laid out its strategy on ties with other nations

Egal Abdiwali

The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) has outlined its first foreign policy since assuming control of the state about four years ago.

Two decades of civil war before then had deprived Somalia of an organised government, leaving it without a recognised foreign relations plan. With stability now in the horizon, the present government has laid out its strategy on ties with other nations.

The foreign policy is anchored on five interlinked areas of diplomacy: Peace and Security, Diaspora, Socioeco­nomic Development, Sustainable Environment and Cul­tural Promotion and Preservation.

The President of the Federal republic of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud describes the policy as people-focused, saying it is aimed at creating economic empowerment and nurturing peaceful coexistence to promote national ambitions. “Due to increased levels of poverty, social isola­tion and lack of political representation during our difficult recent history, the Somali people, particularly the youth, who are two thirds of our population, became vulnerable to political and religious manipulation and even misguid­edly accepted policies and practices that were harmful to their long-term interests. Improving security, creating eco­nomic opportunities and opening the political and social space for the inclusion of the people in the decisions that will determine their future is the surest way of empowering our people to be responsible for their own destiny,” he said.

The government plans to create an enabling environ­ment to encourage domestic, diaspora and foreign in­vestors, who will be closely involved in the creation of a “best possible investment en­vironment”. The government also hopes to create a closer partnerships with the Somali Diaspora in order to draw on their skills and expertise for national socio-economic devel­opment.

Lack of access to foreign capital limits So­malia’s current account financing options, mostly to foreign direct investment (FDI), heightening exposure to unpredictable pro­ject finance.

The current account deficit was 7.2 per cent of GDP in 2013 and 6.6 per cent in 2014. It comprised a trade deficit of 38.7 per cent of GDP, net income of –8.9 per cent of GDP, and net current transfers (including remittances, off-budget grants, and direct donor support) of 40 per cent of GDP.

The size of the current account deficit is associated with the external vulnerability So­malia faces in the very short to medium term. Long-term flows, including FDI of 4.2 per cent of GDP and capital flows of 3.0 per cent, financed the current account deficit in 2013.

The Diaspora have been playing an equally crucial role in Somalia with remittances. They are estimated to have sent more than US$1.3 billion home in 2014—nearly twice the level of development aid (US$642 million) and five times the humanitarian support (US$253 million).

Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Shar­marke said the new foreign policy provided a broad-based framework for Somalia’s foreign relations and diplomatic engagements within a globalised environment.

“Through our foreign policy, Somalia seeks to safeguard and promote regional and international peace and secu­rity, and protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Somalia will promote sub-regional and regional integra­tion in pursuit of socio-economic and political interest, as well as emphasise intra-African trade as the cornerstone of Africa’s political and social-economic unity for mutual pro­gress,” Mr Sharmake said in a statement.

The development of the new foreign policy was led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion.Somalia hopes to use the foreign policy to entrench its independence among the partners it engages with in trade and other bilateral relationships.

“As an independent and sovereign nation, Somalia wish­es to be an equal partner with its neigh­bours and seeks to be a catalyst for regional cooperation. Somalia attaches great importance to good relations with its neighbours, in particular immedi­ate neighbours Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as other IGAD member states,” the policy states.

Decades of armed conflict and war undermined Somalia’s ability to have constructive relations with its neigh­bours. This is meant to change as peace continues to thrive and stability slowly returns.

Somalia sees regional cooperation and economic integration as the best means to reduce tension, resolve con­flict and succeed in the competitive markets of the global village. The policy emphasises the country’s commitment to join the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). It also outlines the countries plan to strengthen ties with the Islamic states and the European Union in the fight for peace.

“Strengthening relations with the Is­lamic states constitutes a priority for Somalia’s Foreign Policy. As a Muslim country, Somalia places special impor­tance on its relations with all other Is­lamic countries.

Somalia views the Organisation of Is­lamic Cooperation (OIC) as one of the best venues for pursuing solutions to many challenges, including underdevelopment (in particular, in the fields of research and education), inter-and intra-state-conflicts, fa­naticism and Islamophobia,” the policy document outlines.

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