On 15 October, H.E. Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia visited UNESCO to discuss the Organization’s support to the reconstruction and reconciliation processes in Somalia.
During the bilateral meeting with UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, the President emphasized his long personal ties with the Organization as a former UNESCO Fellow and the paramount importance for his country to rebuild its foundations on education and youth engagement, following the long lasting conflict affecting Somalia.
Referring to the urgent need to review the educational system in his country, in particular curricula in higher education, the President declared “we have two lost generations with no tools for life, who have become vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist ad extremist groups”.
The Director-General emphasized the importance of civic engagement and youth participation as an indispensable step for the reconciliation process and the country’s national unity and she commended President Mohamoud for focusing on youth as a key element of his policy for reconstruction.
“Providing opportunities for youth in terms of skills and civil engagement is critical for peace building,” noted Irina Bokova.
President Mohamoud pursued by stressing Somalia’s need for vocational education noting the important role provided by the educational training and rehabilitation centres “these centres are overcrowded --- we need the support of UNESCO to develop technical and vocational education centres, in order to provide our youth with alternative ways of life than engaging in terrorist groups. Our youth are an indispensable manpower for the rebuilding of Somalia,” he stated.
The President also called upon UNESCO to assist his country in developing recreational activities for youth in the areas of sports, culture and the arts, stating that 65% of the population of Somalia are below 30 years old.
Irina Bokova assured President Mohamoud that UNESCO will join efforts with Somalia “in stepping up the country’s education system in order to ensure its sustainability, notably building on the expertise on curricula development with the help of the International Bureau of Education in Geneva”. The Director-General further underlined the critical importance of girls and women’s education as a condition for peace and stability.
Referring to the President’s emphasis on the role of arts and culture for his people to regain hope and pride in their national identity, the Director-General underlined the role of culture for development as an enabling force for participation, social cohesion, and employment and poverty eradication. “I am a firm believer that culture is a driving force for development and nation-building”.
President Mohamoud concluded “Somalia has been out of the picture in UNESCO but we want to be part fully of the UNESCO family”.
The President was accompanied by H.E. Mr. Abdirahman Douleh Beileh, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International cooperation, and by H.E. Mr. Shahidul Islam, Ambassador Permanent Delegation of Somalia to France.