The world will “pay a price” if it ignores the plight of Somalia, British Prime Minister David Cameron said today.
Opening an international conference in London on the crisis-stricken east African state, the Prime Minister said that it was in the interests of the international community to help restore stability after two decades of turmoil.
“These problems in Somalia don’t just affect Somalia. They affect us all,” he said.
“In a country where there is no hope, chaos, violence and terrorism thrive. Pirates are disrupting vital trade routes and kidnapping tourists.
“Young minds are being poisoned by radicalism, breeding terrorism that is threatening the security of the whole world.
“If the rest of us just sit back and look on, we will pay a price for doing so.”
Representatives of more than 50 countries and international organisations are attending the high-level event at Lancaster House, including United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and the leaders of neighbouring African nations.
Mr Cameron said he hoped the conference would mark a “turning point” for Somalia and put in place the “building blocks” of a more stable nation.
He welcomed the decision by the UN Security Council to increase the strength of the African Union force in the country (Amisom) – which succeeded last year in driving the extremist al Shabaab group from the capital Mogadishu – from 12,000 to 17,700 troops.
He said Amisom needed to be able to put the al Qaida-linked al Shabaab “permanently into retreat”.
Mr Cameron also called for further action against the Somali pirates, calling for the creation of an international taskforce on ransoms.
“Let’s set the ultimate ambition of stopping these payments because in the end they only ensure that crime pays,” he said.
Mr Cameron also stressed the importance of political progress, with the mandate of the existing transitional institutions due to expire in August.
“Somalia is within reach of a new political process that will involve all Somalis and ultimately a new government truly accountable to the demands of its people and properly representative of all Somalia’s regions,” he said.
He said that Britain, Denmark, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands were setting up a local stability fund to provide support from previously neglected regions – including those emerging from terrorist control.
At the same the UK was providing a further £51m (€60m) over the next three years to support Somalia refugees who fled the country for neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.
“This will facilitate local people building a network of safer, better governed areas that can gradually put the squeeze on areas still held by al Shabaab,” he said.
The Prime Minister added: “Today is the next stage of a long journey for Somalia and its people but our message to the people of Somalia is that we believe in them and we back them in trying to fix their problems.”