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Somalia Donor Conference Opens in Brussels


International donors are in Brussels Thursday for a one-day conference aimed to help stabilize war-torn Somalia. It appears uncertain whether the meeting will draw in the hefty pledges organizers hope for.

The donors conference on Somalia is fraught with concerns that do not directly deal with the problem at hand - bolstering security in the Horn of Africa country. Donors are worried about the rampant piracy off Somalia's shores. Potential donors are also financially strapped from fighting the global economic crisis.

Sponsors hope to raise $166 million

Still, the United Nations, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the European Union, hopes to raise about $166 million to beef up Somalian security and to help understaffed African Union peacekeepers in the conflict-torn country.

The United Nations also wants representatives from some 30 nations expected at the conference to come up with a 100-day plan to rebuild stability in Somalia.

Security plan must include protection against abuse

But Human Rights Watch warns that, whatever security plan donors do come up with, must include provisions the ensure it does not lead to more human rights abuses in Somalia.

"There's always been a very real and difficult dilemma for donors interested in establishing security in Somalia about supporting Somali security forces without risking contributing to an already serious and long record of Somali security forces and militias being involved in really serious human rights abuses - war crimes, crimes against humanity and so forth," explained Tom Porteous, London director of Human Rights Watch. "And so it's very, very important that the donors find a way of resolving that dilemma. Because if they go ahead and support abusive forces it's not going to create security -- it's going to create greater insecurity."

Among those expected at the conference are Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, along with the heads of the African Commission and Arab League and representatives of nearly three dozens nations.

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