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Italy’s Foreign Policy Priority Is Africa

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When his camels died, Hussein fled with his eight children to Baidoa, in southwest Somalia. A financial-pledging event, held at the UN on May 24, led by Italy and several other countries, sought to alleviate the “unprecedented and rapidly unfolding crisis in the Horn of Africa,” the essayist writes, triggered by years of drought and other extreme factors. ABDULKADIR MOHAMED/NRC

If there is an indisputable priority in Italy’s foreign policy, it is undoubtedly Africa. I have had the opportunity to reiterate our priority in many multilateral forums and bilateral meetings. Africa is central in our vision of future international relations, as it is in the cooperative solution for global challenges.

This is the message that I personally deliver in every encounter I have with the African ambassadors in Rome. This was the core message brought by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in her recent visit to Ethiopia. This is the priority we claim in all multilateral forums that we engage in and is key to our agenda for the Italian presidency of the Group of 7 in 2024.

Consistently with this approach, Italy has called on greater global solidarity to respond to the unprecedented and rapidly unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. That is why Italy convened — with the United Nations, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United States, in collaboration with the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — a high-level pledging event in New York City on Wednesday to further support the humanitarian response in the region. Representatives of the European Union and the African Union, as well as those from international financial institutions and civil society organizations joined today the ministers and government officials from UN member states to scale up their commitment to support the growing humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa. So far, donors have pledged $2.4 billion to the effort.

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The crisis unfolding in the region has reached a staggering magnitude: in 2023, at least 43.3 million people throughout Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are expected to need lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance. Conflicts and widespread instability, as well as the global effects of exogenous shocks, such as those caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, have all contributed to fueling this emergency. This bleak picture is worsened by the increase in the frequency and immensity of adverse weather events.

Five consecutive below-average rainy seasons have brought about one of the most severe, protracted droughts in decades, causing the loss of crops and arable lands and, ultimately, a sharp rise in food insecurity levels. Extreme weather events are indeed having a dramatic impact on human security, hindering the enjoyment of fundamental rights and access to basic services, including water, food, sanitation and education, especially for the most vulnerable people.

The compounded emergency underway in the Horn of Africa reflects what is happening on the global stage. Humanitarian needs are rising everywhere, and the available resources are becoming increasingly inadequate. It has become clear that we must re-evaluate the nature and structure of our humanitarian aid. Cooperative action should not only be limited to responding to the immediate needs but should also be tailored to ensuring long-term solutions. That is why this conference, whose main goal was to raise awareness of the dramatic extent of the emergency and gather international financial support for the humanitarian response, is also aiming to spur discussions on the root causes of the crisis.

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At the same time, it is important to understand that we cannot successfully define a roadmap that combines humanitarian and development tools to reduce needs in the medium term without ensuring that the beneficiaries are involved every step of the way. Local stakeholders are directly affected by the crisis, which makes them best suited to truly understand the nature of the problems and the most efficient solutions.

The role of local parties and links between humanitarian and development action are the main principles driving the Italian approach to these difficulties. Our priority will be rooted in a shared vision of sustainable growth, focusing on the self-reliance of African societies and youths.

We have therefore worked with the UN and the other co-hosts to ensure that Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been involved directly in preparing the conference. “African solutions for African problems,” as the saying goes, implies full ownership by the countries of the continent.

We will continue to do our utmost to bring urgent relief to people most in need, wherever they might be, but we will do so in a sustainable way to ensure long-lasting results and contribute to addressing the root causes of these emergencies.

 


This is an opinion essay.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the Horn of Africa's problems?

Antonio Tajani is the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs for Italy.

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Italy’s Foreign Policy Priority Is Africa
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