The World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors today moved toward normalizing its relations with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) after thirty years. This will open up opportunities for Somalia to access concessional financing from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and to work closely with all arms of the World Bank Group to attract investment that will support the country’s stability and development.
“Today’s decision paves the way for full resumption of operations so the World Bank Group can provide the strongest possible support to Somalia’s efforts toward economic and social recovery,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director of Operations. “This milestone is the result of several years of close cooperation with the Federal Government, and we now look forward to taking our relationship to the next level with deeper and broader financial and technical support from across the Bank Group.”
The Board’s decision to reengage is based on the government’s strong record of fiscal, political, social and economic reforms in recent years. Somalia’s fiscal management agenda now covers revenue mobilization, budgeting, procurement, auditing, and cash management, as well as accountability over Public Financial Management. The country has also focused strong attention to building core monetary and financial sector governance institutions, establishing the basic legal foundations for a market economy, and introducing reforms in strategic sectors including telecommunications, banking, and energy. Economic policy reforms, such as the recently enacted Public Financial Management Law and the Company Law, have improved public financial management and revenue generation.
“Somalia has made important reforms and has demonstrated strong commitment to staying the course,” said Hafez Ghanem, Vice President for Africa, the World Bank. “These reforms lay the foundation for sustained poverty reduction and better lives for the Somali people, and open the door to private sector investment that can create jobs and drive the economy forward.”
Somalia’s reforms continue to strengthen the government’s capability to provide critically needed services in health and education to the Somali people, and build a framework for competitive private sector that can create jobs particularly for Somalia’s youth. The federal government has facilitated consultations on a new National Development Plan, outlining the country’s priorities so that investments can be made in the most critical areas.
“Today marks an important step towards full re-engagement of the World Bank Group in Somalia,” said H.E.M. Abdirahman D. Beileh, Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Somalia. “This is a recognition of the ambitious reforms to which this government remains committed, to bring transparency and accountability into Somali institutions and to revive the economy. We are grateful to the Bank for the support they have already provided to help the country reach this point and we look forward to planning a new phase of investments to deliver the poverty reduction goals of the National Development Plan.”
Today’s decision by the World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors lays the groundwork for Somalia to access World Bank Group financing for federal and state government projects under the International Development Association (IDA), private sector debt and equity investments through the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and political risk insurance provided by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) to facilitate foreign direct investments.
The World Bank has played a strong role in helping Somalia reach this point, including through over $250 million in IDA Pre-Arrears Clearance Grants to accelerate the country’s progress on key reforms and on delivering basic services and financial inclusion to its people. The Somalia Multi Partner Fund, which includes funding from Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, has been crucial in laying the foundations to re-establish basic country systems.
New IDA financing proposals are under preparation and should be ready in the coming months, aimed at providing rapid response to households impacted by recent droughts and flooding, reducing poverty by delivering social protection to over 200,000 women with children under 5, improving education and healthcare, boosting water and electricity supply, and investing in other critical infrastructure projects. With nearly 70 percent of Somalis living on less than $1.90 per day, these investments will help improve the lives of millions of the country’s most vulnerable people and strengthen the systems needed for better livelihoods and a more stable future.
The normalization of relations with the World Bank Group also paves the way for Somalia to receive debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) programs to promote growth and recovery over the coming years.
Pandemic curbs trend towards ever-increasing migration
Travel restrictions and other curbs to movement put in place in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put a significant dent in migration figures, but the overall trend shows 100 million more people living outside their countries of origin in 2020, compared to the year 2000, a new UN report revealed on Friday.
‘Migration is part of today’s world’
International Migration 2020 Highlights, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that the pandemic may have slowed migration flows by around two million people last year, cutting the annual growth expected since mid-2019 by around 27 per cent.
Since the year 2000, however, there has been a major increase in migration. That year some 173 million people lived outside of their countries of origin. Twenty years later, that figure had risen to 281 million.
In a statement, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, and undermined progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Less money sent home
The economic crisis that following in the wake of the pandemic has had a major impact on remittances, the money migrants send home to their countries of origin. The World Bank projects that remittances sent back to low- and middle-income countries may see a $78 billion dip, around 14 per cent of the total amount.
This will negatively affect the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, especially in those countries with a big diaspora. India, for example, has the largest diaspora in the world: 18 million people born in India live outside the country. Other nations with significant diasporas include Mexico, the Russian Federation (11 million each), China (10 million) and Syria (eight million).
US and Germany top destinations
Unsurprisingly, high income countries are the most coveted destinations for migrants. The US takes the top spot with 51 million migrants hosted in 2020.
Germany hosted the second largest number of migrants worldwide, at around 16 million, followed by Saudi Arabia (13 million), the Russian Federation (12 million) and the United Kingdom (nine million).
Many migrants do not travel far, however. Nearly half of them remain in the region from which they originated. For example, in Europe 70 per cent of migrants come from another European country. Similarly, some 63 per cent of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa come from a country in the same region.
Most refugees in lower income countries
Contrary to some perceptions, the vast majority of refugees, around 80 per cent, are hosted in low- and middle-income countries, and constitute some 12 per cent of all international migrants.
The number of refugees is rising faster than voluntary migration: the number of people forced to leave home due to conflict, crises, persecution, violence or human rights violations has doubled from 17 to 34 million since the beginning of the 21st Century.
In recognition of the need to better manage migration, the General Assembly has adopted several landmark agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. DESA says that around 60 countries have begun to adopt measures to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.
CAR: Displacement reaches 120,000 amid worsening election violence
“Worsening” election violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced 120,000 people from their homes, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.
In an appeal for an immediate end to all bloodshed – which has included deadly clashes with UN peacekeepers – UNHCR also said that mass displacement has continued outside the country since the 27 December Presidential poll, reversing a trend of people returning to CAR in recent years.
“What is clear is the situation has evolved, it has worsened, we have seen that the number of refugees has doubled in just one week”, said spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov, during a scheduled press briefing in Geneva.
Despite attempts by rebel groups to obstruct presidential and legislative elections, on 27 December, nearly two million Central Africans successfully cast their votes.
UNHCR and partners in CAR “are gathering reports of abuses by armed groups, including of sexual violence, attacks on voters and pillaging”, Mr. Cheshirkov continued, underscoring the agency’s call “for an immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace”.
“We were reporting 30,000 refugees last Friday, today it’s already 60,000, and much of that is the increase we’ve seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is coming with reports of intensified violence, people are being forced to move from their home and the situation has not calmed down for the moment.”
‘Fear and dread’
Echoing concerns for the deteriorating situation, the UN-appointed independent rights expert for CAR called on Friday for the arrest and prosecution of all those “who continue to fuel violence” there.
Because of them, the country’s people live in “fear and dread”, said Yao Agbetse, before deploring the fact that Central Africans “were unable to exercise their right to vote and that many were victims of torture or ill-treatment and death threats for exercising their right to vote in the first round of elections”.
Calling out the so-called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), Mr Agbetse alleged that the group had “obstructed the country’s electoral campaign in December, prevented the deployment of election materials, disrupted the mobilisation of voters to carry out their democratic right and burned polling stations”.
The CPC had also recruited children for its work, the rights expert maintained, “a crime under international law”.
Several localities were targeted, including Kaga Bandoro, Bossangoa, Batangafo, Bozoum, Bocaranga, Koui, Carnot “and other locations in the centre, west, and east of the country”, along with the capital, Bangui on 13 January, said the rights expert, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In his statement, Mr Agbetse noted that CAR’s “already fragile humanitarian situation” had worsened, with “more than half of the population in vital need of humanitarian assistance”.
The premises of some humanitarian organisations had been ransacked, he added, while basic necessities “are becoming scarcer and their prices are soaring in Bangui because of insecurity on the supply routes to the capital”.
Today, schools and training centres are closed outside the capital “and pastoralists and farmers can no longer carry out their activities because of insecurity and fear. Ultimately, food insecurity and extreme poverty are likely to worsen,” Mr. Agbetse said.
10,000 cross in just 24 hours
On Wednesday alone, 10,000 people crossed the Ubangui river that separates the two countries, UNHCR’s Mr. Cheshirkov said.
He added that in addition to the 50,000 refugees in DRC, another 9,000 have reached Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo in the past month.
In an appeal for funds, the spokesperson said the inaccessible terrain and poor infrastructure along the Ubangui river where people have sheltered, has complicated aid access.
“UNHCR was already seeking $151.5 million this year to respond to the CAR situation. The needs of the recently displaced Central Africans are mounting, and we will soon face a substantial funding shortfall,” Mr. Cheshirkov explained
Inside the Central African Republic, another 58,000 people remain displaced.
Ethiopia: Safe access and swift action needed for refugees in Tigray
The head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday expressed his deep concern over the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including its impact on Eritrean refugees hosted there.
The conflict between the Ethiopian Government and regional forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began in early November, when the Prime Minister ordered a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base. Government forces reported that the region had been secured at the end of November, but TPLF resistance has continued amid accusations of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses.
Despite some positive developments in accessing and assisting vulnerable populations, since the start of the Government operation, UNHCR’s repeated requests to access the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps have gone unanswered.
“I am very worried for the safety and well-being of Eritrean refugees in those camps”, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “They have been without any aid for many weeks”.
UNHCR continues to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity and allegations of grave and distressing human rights abuses, such as killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea, said Mr. Grandi.
Moreover, the agency has learned of additional military incursions over the last 10 days that are consistent with open-source satellite imagery showing new fires and other fresh signs of destruction at the two camps.
“These are concrete indications of major violations of international law”, the High Commissioner spelled out.
Ethiopia has long given refuge to people fleeing conflict and persecution.
The federal Government has provided assurances of measures are to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians.
“I have impressed upon the Ethiopian leadership, the urgency of ensuring the protection of refugees, preventing forced return and keeping refugee camps safe from attacks and other threats from armed actors”, said Mr. Grandi.
Equally distressing, he said, is that UNHCR teams have been unable to assist the thousands of Eritrean refugees who continue to flee the camps in search of safety and support.
“Refugees arriving on foot to Shire town in Tigray are emaciated, begging for aid that is not available”, recounted the High Commissioner.
Against the backdrop that refugees who had reached Addis Ababa are being returned to Tigray, some against their will, he reiterated the UN-wide call for “full and unimpeded access” to explore “all options to safely provide desperately needed assistance”.
In line with the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, UNHCR stands committed to work with the Ethiopian Government in protecting and assisting those forced to flee.
“We remain available to seek solutions – together – to the current humanitarian problems in a spirit of collaboration and constructive partnership”, said the UNHCR chief. “Safe access and swift action are needed now to save thousands of lives at risk”.
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