The famine put 13 million people into a humanitarian crisis with no quick fix in sight. Often we see shocking images of hunger in Somalia and misery of people in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The EU is already the biggest donor for the Horn region (ca. 700 million Euro of humanitarian assistance and 600 million Euro of long-term aid) but we also have to think how to spend it in the best possible way. During the last meeting of Foreign Affairs and Development Councils, the HR/VP Cathy Ashton, Commissioner Georgieva, myself and EU ministers, we discussed to find ways to further improve the situation and help avoiding such crisis happening again.
I’m happy to tell you that the Council adopted a comprehensive Strategic Framework to guide EU’s engagement in the region. This will leverage on the already existing actions from the EU in the region and defines a common approach including the political, economic, development and humanitarian dimensions.
Taxpayers’ funds have already brought results and saved lives. Thanks to EuropeAid’s assistance, more than 750 thousand Somali households benefit from the increase access to the improved drinking water and water for agricultural purposes; more than 50 thousand Somali households benefit from the support to livestock production, processing and trade; and more than 50 thousand Somalis benefit from the support to agricultural production.
However, the scale of the challenge is enormous. It’s not only drought and hunger that led to famine. Pirates make it difficult to ship food. Political instability and lack of security for the last two decades push many people into poverty and terrorism and made any development difficult. We are well aware that these problems interact with each other therefore our strategy tackles all the issues that affect the region at the same time.
Our objectives are ambitious, that’s true, but I am glad to see that we are ready to have an ambitious response to the suffering of millions. First of all, we want to provide a long-term perspective of all our actions. Secondly, we will focus on increasing food security by building on agricultural national plans and supporting national investments and policy measures in the Horn states. This will involve, among others, establishing an integrated strategy between humanitarian assistance and development cooperation to better link relief to rehabilitation and long-term development. Finally, we will work on increasing security on the ground and preventing potential conflicts.
All of this should be supported with actions that would stimulate inclusive economic growth. Only by giving people hope for better future, we can convince them not to engage in risky and illegal piracy and terrorism. People must have an alternative!
I see the implementation of this strategy as a two step approach. Our first priority today is to save lives therefore the first step would involve a focus on recovery assistance in the most drought-affected areas – Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. During the second step we will widen our actions to the entire Greater Horn region.
We will also work with countries in the region. I recently met with President Museveni from Uganda, whose country largely contributes to the African Peace corps (AMISOM) deployed in Somalia.
We like to say here in Brussels that if we all work together we can achieve more. There is no doubt that in such a complex region like the Horn, this is more valid than ever before.