Defeating piracy requires restoration of law in Somalia, Ban says

18 March 2009 – Despite the launch of “one of the largest anti-piracy flotillas in modern history,” the clan-organized taking of vessels off the coast of Somalia will only cease when order is restored to the Horn of Africa nation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today.

“There is a critical need to tackle the problem of piracy with a multifaceted approach” to ensure that the political process, the peacekeeping efforts of the African Union (AU) and the strengthening of institutions work in tandem, Mr. Ban writes to the Security Council.

He encourages Member States to place increased emphasis on ending lawlessness in war-torn Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991, through support to the Djibouti peace process and the AU Mission in the country, known as AMISOM.

He adds that it is necessary for the international community to use the existing international legal framework effectively to apprehend and prosecute suspected pirates and consider further strengthening it.

The 111 attacks in the critical sea corridor linking the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean that occurred in 2008 represent an increase of nearly 200 per cent over the previous year, Mr. Ban states, adding that there have been seven reported incidents in 2009 to the end of February.

Of great concern to the UN, Mr. Ban says, is the safety of vessels carrying food and other aid on which some 2.4 million Somalis depend, 95 per cent of which arrives by sea and which was threatened by the 2007 attack on a ship contracted by the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the report, the most prominent pirate fleets are based in the fishing communities of north-eastern and central Somalia and are organized in a way that reflects clan-based social structures.

As an example, the report describes the “Eyle Group” based in Puntland, which at the end of 2008 was holding six vessels hostage with their crews and was estimated to have earned $30 million in ransom up to that point.

“It is widely acknowledged that some of these groups now rival established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases,” Mr. Ban says.

In the past few months, however, political leaders in Puntland and neighbouring States have vowed to defeat the pirates, and a raft of countries, in addition to groups such as NATO and the European Union have contributed to a policing fleet under the legal framework of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and various Security Council resolutions.

Measures include protective escorts for WFP-contracted vessels with the result that no further attacks have been made on such ships, the Secretary-General says, urging that long-term continuity for those escorts be assured.

The UN Secretariat, Mr. Ban affirms, will continue to perform a central role in information and coordination in combating piracy and he urged all Member States to keep it updated about their anti-piracy activities.


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