UN Deputy Secretary-General flags need for ‘multi-dimensional’ approach to combating piracy

Counter-piracy operations being conducted in the Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Somalia. Photo: U.S. Navy/Ja'lon A. Rhinehart

19 November 2012 – The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, today stressed the need to address the causes of piracy with a “multi-dimensional approach” to ensure the safety of seafarers, fishermen and passengers and avoid damage to the fishing and tourism industries.

“Piracy and armed robbery against ships is a global concern,” Mr. Eliasson told the Security Council at UN Headquarters in New York, on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a debate on maritime piracy as a threat to international peace and security. “It affects the freedom of shipping and the safety of shipping lanes that carry about 90 per cent of the world’s trade.”

According to the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), there were 291 attacks against ships in the first ten months of 2012 and pirates are still holding 293 seafarers hostage. The areas most affected are East Africa, West Africa and the Far East.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on piracy off the coast of Somalia to the Council, Mr. Eliasson noted that although there was a sharp decline in pirate attacks in waters off the coast of East Africa this year, compared to 2011, this trend could easily be reversed if the causes of piracy such as instability, lawlessness and ineffective governance are not addressed.

“Combating piracy requires a multi-dimensional approach,” Mr. Eliasson said. “In Somalia, this has meant stabilizing the country through a Somali-owned process. The new President of Somalia has made an impressive start, but challenges remain significant. We need to move swiftly to support the Government so that it finally can provide the security and peace dividends that Somalis deserve.”

Measures that are needed in the Horn of Africa country to end piracy include focussing on modernizing counter-piracy laws, strengthening capacities for maritime law enforcement and crime investigation, supporting regional networks, as well as knowledge sharing. To do this, the Deputy Secretary-General stated, Member States, international and regional organizations must continue to build consensus on a joint response.

“Piracy is a problem the international community can address successfully if we continue to work together,” Mr. Eliasson said. “The UN remains committed to working with its partners to consolidate international assistance, coordinate our activities, and deliver a comprehensive response to this threat.”

The world body is helping States in different capacities, such as through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) piracy programme, the UN official added.

Last week, UNODC’s Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov, began a ten-day visit counter-piracy mission to the region. In Seychelles on Friday, he stressed the impact of piracy on countries’ economies.

“Piracy is immensely damaging to local economies and to local livelihoods,” Mr. Fedotov said. “In the Seychelles, it has prevented ships from fishing; between Kenya and Uganda it is raising transport costs; and from Somalia, some 1,200 fit and able young men have been detained and imprisoned across the world.”

During his visit, the UNODC chief met with top Government officials to discuss the country’s commitment to addressing piracy and ensuring those suspected of committing the crime are given fair trials according to international standards.

The mission to East Africa is part of UNODC’s $55 million counter-piracy programme operating in five different locations, and designed to support efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects in accordance with human rights and the rule of law.

In a presidential statement issued after the meeting, the Council noted that it continues to be gravely concerned by the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea pose to international navigation, the safety of commercial maritime routes, and the security and economic development of States in the regions concerned, as well as to the safety and welfare of seafarers and other persons, and the increasing violence employed by pirates and persons involved in piracy and armed robbery at sea.

“The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms hostage taking and the use of violence against hostages, and calls upon States to also cooperate, as appropriate, to secure the early release of hostages, including through sharing of information and intelligence,” the statement added.

It also stressed the need for a comprehensive response by the international community to repress piracy and tackle its underlying causes.

In this regard, the Council invited “all States, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other relevant international organizations and agencies to adopt or recommend, as appropriate, measures to prevent hijackings, measures to protect the interest and welfare of seafarers who are victims of pirates, both during their captivity through the provision of medical and other humanitarian assistance, as well as after their release from captivity, including their post-incident care and reintegration into society.”

In addition, the Council reiterated its call for States to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urged them, and international organizations, as well as the private sector, to share evidence, information and intelligence, as appropriate, for anti-piracy law enforcement purposes.

“The Security Council,” the statement continued, “stresses that the coordination of efforts at the regional level is necessary for the development of a comprehensive strategy to counter the threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in order to enable the prevention and disruption of such criminal activities.” It also noted the need for international assistance as part of a comprehensive strategy to support national and regional efforts to assist Member States undertaking steps to address piracy and armed robbery at sea and related illegal activities.


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