It is both a pleasure and an honour for me to be addressing you today. The fact that I am standing in front of an elected assembly here in Somaliland is in itself testimony to the strides you have made towards stability and democracy.
National and regional issues
For two decades now Somaliland has maintained its stability, despite considerable threats in the form of jihadist terrorism, piracy and the continuing civil war in neighbouring South-Central Somalia. Last June's presidential elections saw the then opposition leader, President Silanyo – whom I have just had the pleasure of meeting – win by a wide margin. His predecessor, President Rayale, conceded defeat and handed over power in an orderly and peaceful manner. I applaud you for securing such a smooth transition after democratic elections. However, it is something of a first for this troubled region. As such, it must not be taken for granted.
That is why the international community – and in particular the European Union – welcomes the contribution that Somaliland is making to peace and good governance in the IGAD region. And that is why it is so important that Somaliland pursues this course as a standard-bearer for the IGAD region. To that end, we call on you to build on these successes by holding the long overdue elections to local councils and to both Houses of Parliament as soon as possible. You will further enhance Somaliland's democratic credentials if you manage to make electoral delays and extended mandates a thing of the past. Last not least, also allow me to ask: After all that you have accomplished already, is it not the appropriate time for you to consider how to involve fundamental constituents of society, like women and young people, more closely in politics? Many of you have also advocated for this during the election campaign last year. We sincerely hope that you will pay great attention to this important question when reviewing the electoral laws.
As the largest contributor of development assistance, the European Union has been a steadfast partner in Somaliland's reconstruction and development process. Since 1995 we have been the only international donor organisation with a permanent presence here. The combined volume of our ongoing assistance to Somaliland currently amounts to approximately 62 million euro.
Up to now our development assistance for Somaliland has centred on support for the public sector, police, courts, democratic institutions, electoral processes and civil society. I was pleased to learn about the recent reform conventions for the civil service, the judiciary and the police force. As the main donor in the major UN programmes assisting you in the area of governance, we strongly appreciate the clear political commitment that Somaliland has displayed here. The government's efforts to increase domestic revenue collection and initial steps taken by the Civil Service Commission to re-assess government staff have clearly demonstrated that words can be followed by deeds.
We warmly welcome the establishment of the Anti-Corruption and Good Governance Commission and the legislation for the National Human Rights Commission. These are encouraging developments which confirm that our support to Somaliland yields the fruits we had hoped for! The abolition of the "security committees", a stronger role for the office of the Attorney General and the commitment to increase the number of qualified professionals in the legal sector are further encouraging signs. In particular, I commend your commitment to public finance management reforms. The EU and other international donors stand ready to support you in this difficult and long-term process.
This Parliament has a crucial role to play in good governance, not only by legislating on reforms. As the elected representatives of the people, you are called on to act as pioneers and champions of good governance, integrity and democratic practice, accountable only to your conscience and to your electorate. This is particularly important in a context where under-funded public institutions are struggling to assert their authority vis-à-vis vested business interests and other powerful influences.
The prime importance of governance to any country's development efforts is clear. For instance, to reduce poverty for good, a country needs robust and honest state institutions that are both able and willing to help poor people improve their standards of living and to provide them with public services, rights and security. Likewise, democratic processes make the state accountable to its people, encourage transparency and guard against corruption. In short, they allow for constructive relations between government and the people.
It is heartening to see that Somaliland is on the right track towards instituting a culture of good governance. However, tough economic and social challenges remain, especially the alarmingly high unemployment rate. We want to see Somaliland's economic and social development proceed apace. Let me illustrate my point with just a few examples of areas in which the EU is assisting Somaliland on its development path.
Economic and social development examples
EU investment in your education systems forms a second major area of our support. As a result of our combined efforts, school gross enrolment has grown from 38.6 percent in 2006 to an estimated 60 percent in 2010. For girls – to whose education we attach particular importance – enrolment rates have increased from 31 to about 44 percent over the same period. In this context, your government's decision to introduce free primary education is laudable. Although Somaliland has more than doubled its education budget, we know that free primary education remains a tough challenge from both a financial and an institutional perspective. I am glad to see that your education ministry, also supported by technical experts provided by the EU, is working hard to develop a sustainable solution for this.
Rural development and social services have formed the economic pillar of our assistance in Somaliland for almost five years. At the beginning of last year we promised to return to the infrastructure sector if Somaliland managed to hold peaceful elections. We are living up to this promise. We have recently allocated 19 million euro to rehabilitate and expand urban water infrastructure in several cities across Somaliland. I would simply add here that efficient public-private partnerships will be essential to make these investments sustainable.
While infrastructure support in the water sector is already underway, we plan to do more. The European Union is looking into supporting the feasibility and design study for the rehabilitation of the so-called "Corridor" between the port of Berbera and the Ethiopian border. This study –to be implemented by IGAD and worth 3.8 million euro – should provide us with a final blueprint for strengthening the connection between Ethiopia's growing markets and Berbera. This important part of the regional infrastructure is further proof that Somaliland has a role to play in facilitating economic integration and development in the Horn of Africa.
And that's not all: we are about to conclude a review of our five-year cooperation programme for Somalia, including our cooperation with Somaliland. I anticipate that the EU will soon take a decision on a substantial increase of the ongoing support package. This would add 175 million euro to the ongoing programme of 212 million euro. We expect that up to 70 percent of this additional sum will be committed in Somaliland and Puntland, allowing us to continue and step up our efforts here.
With this in mind, I would like to emphasise today that progress towards political stability and security are crucial to obtaining further development assistance from the EU. It follows, then, that these additional development funds will be invested in regions committed to peace, democracy and stability where security and socio-political conditions are favourable.
In this regard, let me say that we were relieved to learn that the acute tensions that existed between Somaliland and Puntland a few months ago have been overcome. We are counting on your commitment to dialogue and the peaceful resolution of differences, with the well-being of your people always foremost in your minds. Cooperative relations between neighbours will benefit all. We therefore appreciate the repeated calls for dialogue and cooperation issued by members of both administrations and reiterate our hope of seeing constructive relations between you flourish.
Mr Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the problems with which you still have to contend, I believe that the prospects for Somaliland are very good. As the people's elected representatives, you have a key role to play in securing a bright future for all of your fellow countrymen and women. I believe in your commitment to fulfil that role. So it is pleasing to see that our funding for the recent construction of this beautiful assembly hall – along with training and other capacity-building support – has been money well spent. I trust you will consider our contribution as an encouragement to carry out the duties entrusted to you by the electorate, namely: to represent your constituents; to thoroughly and responsibly debate key issues; to legislate; and to hold the executive accountable.
I thank you for your warm reception and I look forward to pursuing our joint efforts with you to further Somaliland's economic, social, political and democratic development.