The London Conference
With only two weeks to go before the London Conference, Matt Baugh, the British Ambassador to Somalia, has posted an update to his FCO blog site detailing his activities over the past fortnight.
Somalia: Two Weeks to Remember. Two Weeks to go.
February 10, 2012
It’s been quite a fortnight. At the end of January, I accompanied the UK Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, to the AU Summit in Addis Ababa and then to Somalia. In Dollow – the first time a British Minister has visited southern Somalia in recent years, Mr Mitchell saw for himself the huge difference that UKaid is making to the lives of thousands of Somali people in the south. Arriving in Garowe on Monday on the first-ever visit by a British Cabinet Minister to Puntland, the Minister received a warm welcome and was able to see for himself what’s possible with greater stability and security – in health care, rule of law, jobs and security. And in what was truly a ground-breaking visit, he was able to personally destroy over 45kg of unexploded ordnance – a further sign of the progress being made in helping to make Puntland safer, with the UK’s support.
36 hours in Nairobi and then it was back to Mogadishu on Thursday, this time accompanying the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague – the first visit by a British Foreign Secretary since Douglas Hurd in 1992. And it was of real significance for me personally, as I was able to present my credentials from Her Majesty the Queen as the first British Ambassador to Somalia since 1991, in front of both the Foreign Secretary, and the President of the TFG, Sheikh Sharif, as well as the assembled press corps.
I’m hugely proud to have been appointed as the UK’s first Ambassador to Somalia in twenty years. I’m also overwhelmed and hugely touched by the warm response from Somalis around the world. It’s more than a change of job title – to me, it’s about our commitment to Somalia; it’s about our unwavering desire to engage with the Somali people and help bring about change for the better. It’s about the long-term and, undoubtedly, the long-haul. Some of my predecessors saw Somalia at its very best; our job is to help Somalia recover that – focusing first on supporting greater stability in the country and ensuring we provide the best advice we can both to Somalia’s leaders and the UK Government and assure the UK tax-payer that we are delivering results on the ground, for Somalis and the UK. We’re in this together.
And so to last weekend. I wrote most of this on the flight back from Djibouti where I participated in the meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia. At the ICG, there was a real – and renewed – sense of urgency; unanimity that the Transition should end this summer; widespread agreement that we need to do more to support communities across Somalia and enhance security. Last year’s famine was catastrophic; last week the UN announced that while the famine may have passed, millions remain at risk. Progress in Mogadishu, Puntland and elsewhere – as we saw last week – mean we have to seize the moment. Cowardly and barbaric acts such as this week’s bombing in Mogadishu only strengthen our resolve.
And so attention now shifts to the London Conference. Two weeks from now, world leaders from some 50 countries and organisations will meet in London with the single aim of ensuring we can support Somalia and the Somali people better and more effectively. This high-level summit, unprecedented in recent years, will seek to galvanise a more effective joint approach that strengthens the crucial work of the Somali leadership and the UN, AU and IGAD.
Please do leave a comment. While we can’t respond to every comment, each is read. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. So, whether it’s online or in person, please do let me know what you think. Two weeks to go before London. As I said, we’re in this together.
Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3 small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May 2010, when he was appointed the UK’s Senior Representative and Head of the UK’s Somalia Office. On 2 February 2012 he was accredited as the first British Ambassador to Somalia for 21 years. Since taking up his Somalia appointment, he has been able to travel to Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Garowe, and has been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome he has received, but also the scale of the challenges that Somali people face every day.
Matt is a career civil servant and is currently on secondment to the Foreign Office from the UK Department for International Development. Now 37, he has spent much of his career to date dealing with conflict, security and humanitarian issues. Since 1999 he has worked in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as a number of major relief operations and protracted emergencies. He also helped to set up and lead the UK’s Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit, now the UK Stabilisation Unit. Matt is a graduate of the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College’s Higher Command and Staff Course (2010) and was previously Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for International Development (2008-9).
Away from work, Matt is an avid England rugby fan (although he refuses to admit his own playing days are long over). He is also a keen mountaineer and skier and, together with Caroline, was part of a team that raced to the Magnetic North Pole in 2005. These days he is more likely to be found teaching his children how to swim and build sandcastles.