By Osman Hassan
Feb. 08, 2010
I would like to take this opportunity to present my warm greetings to you and your government and wish you all success in your noble but arduous task to bring peace and stability to Somalia and its long-suffering people- objectives which every reasonable Somali of goodwill would clearly embrace. While you are engaged in this daunting struggle at home, you should know that others, albeit a handful, have also been selflessly serving their nation on their own and without recompense from any Somali government since the collapse of the Somali State in 1991. Such people are our representatives at the Somali Permanent Mission accredited to the United Nations Organisations based here in Geneva. They have been diligently performing their duties during this whole period in the face of deprivations and hardships.
To cast our minds back, the Somali Mission was established in 1976 when the former attorney general, Mr. Abdullahi Said Osman, was posted here as its first ambassador. It was not long under his tenure when the Mission acquired such a high profile among other Missions here and the international organisations and he was chosen in 1977 as the Coordinator of Group 77 of developing countries. However, it is not so much the prestige and influence that this has given Somalia from the international community as much as the direct tangible benefits it brought the needy ordinary Somalis which ultimately counts more than anything else.
The value of the Somali Mission was realised from the outset when, after the disastrous 1977 war with Ethiopia, Somalia needed so much international help in order to cope with the flood of refugees from the Somali region of Ethiopia. It is not only the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), based here in Geneva, that has been providing assistance to refugees since 1977 but also all other Geneva-based organisations in their respective fields of operation.
It should be kept in mind that while New York hosts mainly the political organs of the United Nations system of organisations, such as the Security Council and the General Assembly, most of the technical organisations providing aid and technical assistance in areas such as health, humanitarian aid, economy, trade and development, human rights, commerce, migration, labour, water and telecommunications are all based here in Geneva. Examples are the World Health Organisations (WHO), Office of the United Nations for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UN Human Rights Council/UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Trade Organisation (ITO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), International Organisation for Migration (IMO), International Telecommunications Union, (ITU), just to name a few.
I should also mention that the Somali Mission in Geneva is accredited to the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. Furthermore, the Geneva Mission is also the focal point for the Common Fund for Commodities at Amsterdam, Holland. How much aid a specific Least Developed Country (LDC) like Somalia receives from the international organisations depends critically on whether it has a Mission here in Geneva and secondly on the effectiveness of its staff. This is precisely what the Somali Mission has been doing all these years with no support from a national government in Mogadishu since 1991. An indicative example of the Mission’s recent achievement is the adoption on 2 October 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution on technical assistance and capacity building which calls for the provision of assistance in the fields of legislative, judiciary, law enforcement, education and public awareness campaign inside the country. This resolution, co-sponsored by 138 countries, which is unprecedented in the UN history, was finally adopted by consensus.
Credit has to be given where it is due, and much of that goes to those who have been manning the Mission since 1991 and who stood by their responsibilities under the most trying circumstances when others might have deserted a sinking ship and look for more rewarding prospects elsewhere. Special mention should be made, first, of Mr. Mohamed Omar Dubad, a former deputy head of the Somali National Commission for Refugees, and who acted as Charge’d’Affaires from 1991; and secondly Mr. Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari who was appointed Ambassador two years ago. Under their dynamic and collaborative teamwork, the profile and work of the Somali Mission is once again the pride of the Somali community here in Switzerland though sadly that does not seem to be shared by some less informed members in your government who are contemplating its demise.
If budget constraints were the driving force behind the planned closure of the Mission, that would have been understandable. As it is, the Mission is at no cost to the Somali government. With zero cost and so many benefits from the international organisations that are headquartered in Geneva, one would have thought the Mission and its staff would be untouchable. But then there are those for whom these aspects are not as important as their own myopic, often clan or personal driven agendas. Not only that, but the Mission also serves the International Organisations for information about Somalia and issuance of visas. It also looks after the Somali Diaspora in Switzerland and beyond for all the documentation and attestations they badly need.
Given all the valuable contribution that the Somali Mission in Geneva is making to the national interest, it comes as a bombshell to hear the mind-boggling news from various sources that your Government is planning to close it notwithstanding the fact that it does not cost you a penny. It is quite obvious what Somalia is going to lose if the Mission is closed but one has to ask what Somalia will be gaining? The simple obvious answer is nothing. Unless national interest does not count, it is difficult to believe that it was taken into account in the proposed closure of the Mission. To close the Mission therefore amounts to Somalia shooting itself in the foot and that is the last thing your Government needs at a time when it could do with all the help it can get from the international community in order to achieve the goals it has set itself.
Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister
I would like to believe, unless I see it to the contrary, that the interest of our country is uppermost in your minds and that you will not countenance actions that are detrimental to that interest. The value of a Mission is not the building per se but the quality of its staff. Our Mission would not be what it is if it was not for our representatives. The experience and expertise they have gained over these long years about international diplomacy and the workings of the different international organisations are not easily replaceable or transferable. We therefore need them to remain here as much as we need a Mission here. Anyone else brought here as replacement under the infamous clan-based 4.5 clause would be a dead loss for the country. You owe it to your country as President to put the interest of the nation first and save the Mission and its staff.
I speak Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, not only for myself but for all those who care about the interest of our country. I hope you will heed these considerations in the face of those for whom self or clan interest are all that matters.
Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of my highest consideration.