Secretary-General Calls for Broader Cooperation, New Push for Stability in Somalia, to Combat Resurgence of Piracy as General Assembly Meets to Examine Global Scourge
Secretary-General Calls for Broader Cooperation, New Push for Stability in Somalia, to Combat Resurgence of Piracy as General Assembly Meets to Examine Global Scourge
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
Informal Meeting of the Plenary
on Piracy (AM & PM)
Secretary-General Calls for Broader Cooperation, New Push for Stability in Somalia,
to Combat Resurgence of Piracy as General Assembly Meets to Examine Global Scourge
Round Tables Address: Political, Legal, Aspects of Piracy;
Case Study of Somalia; Global Character and Role of United Nations
“Piracy may be the first international crime,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today, as he called for a “change in strategy” to combat the resurgent scourge through broader global cooperation and a new push for stability in war-torn Somalia, off whose coast pirates had, in the past year alone, hijacked some 56 ships and taken hostage nearly 750 crew members.
Opening the Assembly’s day long informal meeting on maritime piracy, with a focus on the situation in Somalia, Secretary-General Ban said that, while the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was the legal foundation for the world’s efforts to tackle piracy, the attacks against transport vessels, oil tankers and shipping lanes continued and had even increased in recent years. “Piracy is very much with us.”
The meeting, convened by Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, featured presentations by Somali Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahman A. Ibrahim, and Kenyan Trade Minister Amos Kimunya, as well as Italy’s Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo. It included three round tables on, respectively, the political, legal and socio-economic aspects of combating piracy; an in-depth look at its effects on Somalia; and the global nature of the scourge and the role of the United Nations in combating it. Today’s informal discussions come exactly one week ahead of a United Nations-backed conference in Istanbul, Turkey, which aims to prompt a new global push for solutions to Somalia’s security and stability crisis.
“Just two days ago, a Greek-owned ship with 23 people on board was seized off the coast of Yemen,” the Secretary-General continued, emphasizing that by far the largest concentration of attacks had been off the coast of East Africa, where reported incidents increased seven-fold during the past four years. Calling the statistics “alarming,” he said that according to the International Maritime Organization, the global figure for 2009 was 406 — an increase of 100 over 2008.
Although the international community had reacted quickly and effectively to the piracy crisis off the Horn of Africa — deploying naval patrols, establishing a contact group and a trust fund, and moving to increase the criminal justice response, particularly in Kenya and the Seychelles — the pirates, he said, had changed their tactics, shifting their activities farther into the Indian Ocean and seriously affecting seafarers and disrupting navigation.
“Piracy is […] affecting the quality of life for Somalis, causing runaway inflation of food prices and problems for aid deliveries and supplies to the African Union mission there [known as AMISOM],” he said, echoing a refrain heard throughout the day: stability on land would undoubtedly improve the situation at sea. He set out a four-pronged strategic approach that encompassed enhanced international cooperation, concerted efforts to tackle piracy on land and help Somalia’s Transitional Government rebuild State institutions, quickly bringing criminals to justice, and tackling piracy in the wider context of security at sea.
For his part, Assembly President Treki demanded that the international community step up to help Somalia, a country that had been plagued for more than two decades by grinding poverty, ineffective governance and factional infighting. And, after years of neglect by the international community, Somalia and its people continued to suffer as the increase in piracy engendered political instability and was a further blow to the country’s already dilapidated economy.
“Looting Somali marine resources and dumping toxic waste on its territory only exacerbate the situation [which] is already a serious threat to maritime security, shipping and trade in this strategic part of the world,” he said, and if left unaddressed, the consequences would be global. There was, therefore, an urgent need for coordinated strategies, not only to fight piracy, but more importantly, to address the complex factors that triggered and sustained the crime and impunity in Somalia, the north-western Indian Ocean and the high seas in general.
“The situation calls for a truly holistic approach in Somalia, covering political, security, governance and humanitarian tracks,” he said, adding that while it was true that the primary responsibility rested with Somalia itself, given the magnitude of the problems, Somalia could not do it alone. While he commended the efforts and sacrifice of the African Union, as well as the support provided by the wider international community, he called specifically on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility by taking “strong and resolute measures” in support of a wider political, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategy in Somalia, to bring peace and ensure unity and territorial integrity.
Picking up that thread, Deputy Prime Minister Ibrahim said: “In sum, piracy is a symptom of the problems related to overexploitation of Somali’s resources, the demonization of Somali fisherman and other coastal dwellers, the flushing of wastes in our territorial waters by foreign vessels without being accountable for their actions, and the destruction of the Somali marine and coastal infrastructures.” As for the pirates, they perhaps felt that resorting to illegal activities was justifiable as long as the country and its people remained poor and unemployed.
He urged the international community to identify the root causes of piracy and to address them. Fisherman and other coastal dwellers needed alternative sources of income. The Somali coast guard and other law enforcement agencies needed rehabilitation, and information sharing networks needed to be created among African coastal States on piracy and other sea-related crimes. Further, mercantile vessels that ferried goods to and from the African coastal States for seafarers needed preliminary security escorts. Finally, he declared that the problem of piracy could be solved if the international community “really and aggressively” supported the Government and “honestly” gave what it needed most.
Kenyan Minister Kimunya said that even as piracy was mutating into a more “monstrous conundrum” that was affecting trade, business activity, economic development and stability in the Horn of Africa and beyond, one thing remained clear: the scourge could not be eradicated without stepped up efforts to stabilize Somalia itself. Indeed, as much as shippers and Government authorities were quick to pay ransoms, the stronger the pirates became — on land and at sea — and there was no telling how far they would go or what new forms their crimes would take, including advanced terrorism.
Kenya, as a responsible neighbour and member of the international community, had taken significant steps to combat piracy and the criminals who committed such acts; jailing, trying and prosecuting perpetrators “is becoming unbearable” and that effort needed to be shared by the international community, he said. Kenya had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with five other nations (Canada, China, Denmark, United Kingdom and the United States) and the European Union on anti-piracy measures. While the agreements had yielded some success, the burden had just become too much.
Believing that its efforts were not being met with corresponding support, the Kenyan Government had, therefore, been forced to give notice that it planned to stop accepting suspects out of a belief that it “should wait for the rest of the international community to catch up with our determination and provide help”. Piracy was not just an East African problem, and he urged all States to share the burden of trials and detention, and to scale up support for Somali institutions.
Italian Minister Prestigiacomo urged the international community to remember that supporting institution building and economic development in Somalia was key to a more permanent solution. It was, therefore, very important to broaden the base of donors to support the AMISOM and Somali security forces. “The international community, with United Nations leadership, has taken concrete steps and quick action to address the short-term and medium-term concerns,” she said, stressing that now, such multilateral cooperation must be sustained over the long-term.
United Nations Legal Counsel and Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien moderated the panel on “political, legal, social and economic aspects of combating piracy”, involving panellists Thomas Winkler, Legal Adviser of Denmark and Chair of Working Group II of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; Samir Hosny, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; and Douglas Stevenson, Director, Centre for Seafarers’ Rights, the Seaman’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Somalia, moderated the panel discussion on “Somalia: A Case Study” with panellists Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor, Military Adviser, Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The third panel, on “Global character of piracy and the crucial role of the United Nations and cooperation amongst Member States in combating the scourge”, was moderated by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Panellists included: Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, Operations Commander of the European Union Naval Force Atalanta; Yoshihisa Endo, Executive Director of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy (ReCAAP) Information-Sharing Centre; and Joao Honwana, Director of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs.
The General Assembly this morning convened an informal meeting on international maritime piracy. Along with an opening plenary that featured statements by the Secretary-General, the Assembly President and special invited guests, the day’s events also included three round table discussions on, respectively, “Political, legal, social and economic aspects of combating piracy”; “Somalia: A case study”; and “Global character of piracy and the crucial role of the United Nations and cooperation amongst Member States in combating the scourge.”
ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI, President of the General Assembly, said the challenge posed by maritime piracy, particularly off the coast of Somalia, had assumed serious proportions. Piracy was a complex problem, with security, political, legal, social, economic and even human rights dimensions and consequences. It had a particularly destabilizing effect on national, regional and international security, stability and trade. He noted that recent statistics from the International Maritime Bureau confirmed those concerns, and that last year alone, pirates had attacked 217 ships, successfully hijacking 47 and extorting some $60 million in ransom.
While maritime piracy was not a new phenomenon, shifting geographic hot spots and the up-tick in the number and severity of attacks, warranted a comprehensive, urgent and effective response by the international community. As for Somalia, piracy off that country’s coast was rooted in the insecurity, instability, chaos and lack of governmental authority, which had characterized the situation there for the past two decades. In recent years, the United Nations had taken actions aimed at strengthening and assisting the fledgling Transitional Federal Government to improve the security situation in Somalia. For example, the Security Council had authorized measures to counter piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia. Further, a Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia had been established, and most recently, the Council had adopted last month a new resolution on the issue.
“These efforts notwithstanding, there has been no respite in the incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia,” he said, emphasizing: “Somalia’s sovereignty, security and economy remain under serious threat.” Indeed, Somalia and its people continued to suffer from problems compounded by internal strife and years of neglect by the international community. And the increase in piracy engendered continuing political instability and was a further blow to the country’s already dilapidated economy. “The looting of Somali marine resources and the dumping of toxic waste on its territory only exacerbate the situation [which] is already a serious threat to maritime security, shipping and trade in this strategic part of the world.” If left unaddressed, the consequences would be global.
Continuing, he said that there was, therefore, an urgent need for coordinated strategies, not only to fight piracy, but more importantly to address the complex factors that triggered and sustained the crime and impunity in Somalia, the north-western Indian Ocean and the high seas in general. “The situation calls for a truly holistic approach in Somalia, covering political, security, governance and humanitarian tracks,” he said, adding that while it was true that the primary responsibility rested with Somalia itself, given the magnitude of the problems, Somalia could not do it alone. He commended the efforts and sacrifice of the African Union, as well as the support provided by the League of Arab States and the European Union.
He, nevertheless, called for a broader international effort and allocation of resources to effectively tackle the challenge. He called in particular on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility with regard to Somalia by taking “strong and resolute measures” in support of a wider political, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategy in that country, to bring peace and ensure sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. “I believe the General Assembly will fully back the Security Council in this objective.” Indeed, as the universal and most representative organ of the United Nations, the Assembly had a crucial role to play in forging international cooperation and increasing coordination to address the problem of piracy.
He had convened today’s meeting to provide an opportunity for an informed, inclusive and comprehensive discussion of the problem of international maritime piracy. It was his fervent hope that Member States and other stakeholders would take an in-depth look at the various facets of the issue, with a view to devising the much-needed collective and coherent international response. “I trust that this discussion will also serve to reaffirm the urgency of restoring peace and stability in Somalia, and thus provide a fillip to the international efforts in that regard,” he concluded.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said that piracy might well be the very first international crime, and efforts to fight it had created the first precedents of universal jurisdiction. Today, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was the legal foundation of such efforts.
“Though it may seem like something out of the past, piracy is very much with us. In some parts of the world, it is resurgent,” he continued, emphasizing that the international community had reacted quickly and effectively to the piracy crisis off the Horn of Africa by, among other initiatives, deploying naval patrols and establishing a contact group and a trust fund. In addition, there had been concerted efforts to increase the criminal justice response, particularly in Kenya and the Seychelles.
“Yet the attacks continue -- indeed, they are increasing in number,” he said, citing statistics from the International Maritime Organization that the global figure for 2009 was 406 -- an increase of 100 over 2008. Last year, eight crew members had been killed, with 59 injured or assaulted. Some 746 crew members were taken hostage or kidnapped, while 56 ships had been hijacked. But, by far, the largest concentration of attacks had been off the East African cost, where reported incidents increased seven-fold during the four-year period to 2009. Just two days ago, a Greek-owned ship with 23 people on board had been seized off the coast of Yemen, he said.
International naval patrols off the Somali coast had led pirates to increase their activities further into the Indian Ocean. He said that piracy was having a serious effect on tourism and fishing in the region. It was affecting the quality of life for Somalis, causing runaway inflation of food prices and problems for aid deliveries and supplies to the African Union mission there, known as AMISOM. There had also been an increase in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, and in other regions. “This has seriously affected seafarers and disrupted navigation,” he said, adding: “The figures are alarming. We need to assess what is working, and what needs to be improved. That is the purpose of today's meeting.”
Laying out what he considered the four key issues for delegations’ discussions, the Secretary-General said first, that international cooperation was essential. According to UNCLOS, States were required to “cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy”. The Security Council, for its part, had adopted six resolutions on the matter, providing a framework for enhanced cooperation and help to Somalia, which lacked the capacity to patrol its waters and to address piracy and armed robbery off its coast. He also welcomed the Assembly's longstanding engagement on this issue.
“Second, piracy cannot be solved only at sea,” he continued, noting that despite the commendable efforts of the many navies patrolling the coasts of Eastern Africa, there was simply too much water to patrol, and an almost endless supply of pirates. The problem needed to be solved on land, including in Somalia. That issue had been debated recently in the Security Council, and there was no doubt that a change in strategy was needed. Next week's conference on Somalia in Istanbul, Turkey, would aim to kick-start a new global push for solutions to Somalia’s security and stability crisis. Stability on land would, undoubtedly, improve the situation at sea.
Third, he said piracy suspects should be brought to justice -- not simply let go, or left to die. Commending the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in helping Eastern African countries strengthen their criminal justice systems to prosecute piracy cases, he urged Member States, in addition to Kenya and the Seychelles, to take on their fair share of this burden.
To that end, he was encouraged by the signature by 14 States of the Djibouti Code of Conduct for the repression of piracy and armed robbery. In accordance with Security Council Resolution 1918 (2010), he would be preparing a report in the next three months on options to further the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning the pirates.
Finally, the Secretary-General urged an examination of the issue in the wider context of security at sea. There were many issues involved, including container security, human trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, and money laundering. “Piracy can not be addressed without taking on these other crimes,” he declared.
He went on to pay tribute to the organizations working so hard to tackle piracy, including the European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), INTERPOL, AMISOM, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the African Union and the League of Arab States. United Nation bodies and agencies were also closely involved, particularly the International Maritime Organization. Thanks to those efforts, the success rate of attacks has decreased from one in three to one in ten. He also congratulated the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and the regional authorities of Somaliland and Puntland, for establishing a technical cooperation mechanism on counter-piracy.
“We must build on this in our efforts to boost Somalia-based solutions,” he said, urging Member States to support that Somali-led mechanism and to consider providing support to the rebuilding of Somalia's coastguard. He also called on Member States to give their generous support to the Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, and to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Trust Fund for the Djibouti Code of Conduct.
ABDURAHMAN ADAN IBRAHIM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources of the Transitional Federal Government, Somalia, said following the collapse of Somalia’s central authority, the country had succumbed to enormous problems. Its natural resources had become subject to mismanagement. Waste from vessels from industrialized nations was being flushed into the country’s territorial waters. On top of that, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities by foreign sea poachers had already jeopardized the livelihood of its fishermen, destroying the fishing infrastructure. Somalia’s coral reefs were reportedly dead, and lobsters and tuna were gradually vanishing.
Those occurrences had generated a bitter resentment among Somalis, he said, which, when coupled with the collapse of the Somali central government, had led to piracy. In sum, “piracy is, therefore, a symptom of the problems related to overexploitation of Somalia’s resources, the demonization of Somali fisherman and other coastal dwellers, the flushing of wastes in our territorial waters by foreign vessels without being accountable for their actions, and the destruction of the Somali marine and coastal infrastructures,” he said.
Somalis were never known to have indulged in piracy prior to the collapse of the Somali national institutions, he said. For the pirates, they may feel resorting to illegal activities was justifiable, as long as the country and its people remained poor and unemployed. The risk raised by piracy was severe enough to prompt shipping companies to choose a longer and more expensive sea route around the Cape of Good Hope. Many stakeholders who depended on regional sea trade were suffering as a result. In addition, pirate attacks carried environmental risks, given that oil or chemical tankers were among the targeted vessels. Pirates were also using more powerful weaponry. A major environmental disaster in the Gulf of Aden could be triggered if a tanker was set on fire, or even sunk.
He urged the international community to identify the root causes of piracy and to address them. Fisherman and other coastal dwellers needed alternative sources of income. The Somali coast guard and other law enforcement agencies needed “rehabilitation”, and information sharing networks needed to be created among African coastal States on piracy and other sea-related crimes. Further, mercantile vessels that ferried goods to and from the African coastal States for seafarers needed preliminary security escorts.
The international community should help the Transitional Federal Government to counter the pirates, he said. It should help, as part of its post-conflict environmental assessment, the Transitional Federal Government to determine the impact of toxic wastes dumped in Somali waters. It should carry assessment studies with neighbouring States to determine the spill-over effects of marine pollution caused by foreign vessels. The problem could be solved if the international community “really and aggressively” supported the TGF and “honestly” gave what it needed most.
AMOS KIMUNYA, Minister of Trade of Kenya, said he hoped today’s meeting lent serious momentum to the effort to eradicate poverty off the East African coast. While delegations discussed the matter, he urged everyone to recognize how complex the issue of piracy was. It’s social and security dimensions were undeniable. However, piracy was fast mutating into a more “monstrous conundrum” that was affecting trade, business activity, economic development and stability in the Horn of Africa and beyond.
Yet the one thing that was clear was that the scourge could not be eradicated without stepped up efforts to stabilize Somalia itself, he continued. Indeed, as much as shippers and Government authorities were quick to pay ransoms, the stronger the pirates became -- on land and at sea -- and there was no telling how far they would go or what new forms their crimes would take, including advanced terrorism.
He went on to say that while Kenya, as a responsible neighbour and member of the international community, had taken significant steps to combat piracy and the criminals who committed such acts, jailing, trying and prosecuting perpetrators “is becoming unbearable” and that effort needed to be shared by the international community. Kenya had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with five other nations ( Canada, China, Denmark, United Kingdom and United States) and the European Union on anti-piracy measures. While that agreement had had some success, the burden had become too much.
Indeed, the Kenyan Government believed that its efforts to mitigate the risks and offset the economic, and especially social, costs of taking the lead in what should be a global effort to track, capture and prosecute pirates, were not being met with corresponding support. Kenya had been forced to give notice that it planned to terminate the Memorandums of Understanding out of a belief that it “should wait for the rest of the international community to catch up with our determination and provide help”.
He said that Kenya understood that acts of piracy had always been treated as “acts of international jurisdiction” and could therefore be tried and prosecuted anywhere. As such, that burden should be shared. “This is not just an East African problem,” he said, urging all States to not only share the burden of trials and detention, but to scale up support for Somali institutions. Nevertheless, he welcomed recent efforts to widen the scope of anti-piracy measures, including through taking aim at pirate networks, infrastructure and hideouts on land.
He reiterated that Somali piracy would no be eradicated until stability took hold in Somalia itself, and urged all stakeholders to step up their efforts “to ensure that we don’t have failure of State institutions and authority in Somalia”. Meanwhile, Kenya was more than willing to continue playing its part to eradicate the threat of piracy, which affected the international community as a whole. “Let’s work together,” he said.
STEFANIA PRESTIGIACOMO, Minister of the Environment and of Protection of Land and Sea, Italy, citing 2009 figures, said 850 seafarers had been taken hostage in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Some 68 seaman were injured, 8 killed and 12 kidnapped. Eight seamen were still missing at year’s end. Ecoterra International, an organization that monitors Somali piracy, said that 464 seamen were being held hostage by Somali pirates alone.
Between ransoms, rising insurance costs and the costs of military intervention in the Gulf of Aden, she said sea piracy was having a large global financial effect and is threatening stability in fragile areas, particularly in the Horn of Africa region. Approximately 21,000 ships passed through the Gulf of Aden carrying humanitarian aid, food and industrial exports, including 10 per cent of the world’s oil supply.
The multilateral response to protect seafarers and trade in the last 18 months had been strong, she said, involving military vessels from around 30 countries. Ships had come from the European Union, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and several countries engaged on a national level. In addition, the international community had established a Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, an informal multilateral coordination mechanism that included 48 countries and 7 international organizations ‑‑ the African Union, the European Union, the International Maritime Organization, INTERPOL, the League of Arab States, NATO and the United Nations. It was based on the model of regional cooperation already implemented in Asia to combat piracy in the Malacca Straights. The Group of 8 addressed piracy for the first time in 2009, under the Italian presidency.
At the same time, she urged the international community not to forget that supporting institution-building and economic development in Somalia was key to a more permanent solution. She “attached great importance” to the opportunity to broaden the base of donors to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali security forces. “The international community, with United Nations leadership, had taken concrete steps and quick action to address the short-term and medium-term concerns,” she said. “Now this multilateral cooperation has to be sustained in the long-term.”
Panel I: Political, Legal, Social and Economic Aspects of Combating Piracy
United Nations Legal Counsel and Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien moderated the panel on “Political, legal, social and economic aspects of combating piracy”, involving panellists Thomas Winkler, Legal Adviser of Denmark and Chair of Working Group II of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; Samir Hosny, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; and Douglas Stevenson, Director, Centre for Seafarers’ Rights, the Seaman’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey.
On the current legal regime, Ms. O’BRIEN explained that some elements of piracy might constitute offences under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1988 Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA) Convention, and various regional and bilateral arrangements. Under UNCLOS, piracy was defined as illegal acts of violence or detention committed for private ends by the crew of a private ship against another ship, on the high seas. When such acts took place in a States’ territorial waters, it was not qualified as piracy under UNCLOS, but rather as armed robbery at sea.
She explained that UNCLOS provided “universal jurisdiction” over piracy, so that States could claim criminal jurisdiction over alleged pirates even when committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state, regardless of nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting country. It required that States cooperate to the fullest extent possible to hold pirates accountable and eventually convict them. Some examples of regional cooperation were the 2006 Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct.
However, many States had not enacted national legislation specific to piracy, or had outdated policies, she said. Others struggled to determine appropriate procedures for arrest and detention, the means to transfer and extradite convicted offenders to third States, and to untangle where they stood on the use of force. Coordination among States of different legal systems was also a challenge. As a result, the Office of Legal Affairs was collaborating with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to compile national legislation on piracy, which could help States wishing to review their laws. The Contact Group and IMO had also created a trust fund for capacity-building.
She said the General Assembly considered the issue of piracy on a yearly basis, as part of its agenda item on oceans and law of the sea. The Security Council, as well, had drafted resolutions with suggestions on how to proceed in Somalia, some adopted under Chapter VII, although those resolutions were not meant to establish rules under customary international law. For example, those resolutions contained provisions allowing Member States to enter Somali waters to tackle piracy through “all necessary means” ‑‑ for which prior notification had been provided by the Transitional Federal Government to the Secretary-General ‑‑ pursuant to UNCLOS anti-piracy law enforcement. Subsequently, States and regional organizations could undertake necessary measures in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
She said the Security Council had also called on the Secretary-General to prepare reports on possible options to further the aim of prosecuting and imprisoning persons captured in relation to piracy. Some suggestions include to create domestic chambers with international components, or to create regional or international tribunals with corresponding imprisonment arrangements. Of the many issues needing to be tackled and resolved was the need to address piracy’s root causes on land.
Mr. WINKLER said the ad hoc Contact Group, formed on 14 January 2009, met quarterly at the United Nations, and was due to meet again on 10 June. Its four working groups focused on different aspects of the issue, such as political, military and other elements. The legal working group, of which he was a member, had produced a legal toolbox of documents and mechanisms that might inspire States to create their own guidelines. In the view of the legal working group, the world was not engaged in an armed conflict with pirates; rather, the crime of piracy was an issue of law enforcement, even when the military was used to capture them.
He noted that, although the Security Council made references to international law in its resolutions, many States did not know how those laws could be applied in reality -- for example on board a ship. In some instances, States taking action were not sufficiently aware of human rights law. And while international law established clear jurisdiction of a State over piracy, nations had not taken the necessary political decision to introduce universal jurisdiction into national law.
He said prosecutions were taking place in several States ‑‑ Kenya, Seychelles, France, United States and the Netherlands ‑‑ opening the possibility of discussing key, practical issues relating to evidence and witnesses. However, the goal was to ensure burden sharing, so that apprehending States, flag States, and others, could take part in prosecuting and punishing captured pirates. The international system for exchanging evidence should be brought up to speed, since insufficient evidence, going by the rule of law, meant suspects had to be released. The trust fund created by the Contact Group would support States willing to prosecute. Legally and politically, it would seem natural for Somalis to be imprisoned in Somalia, but repatriation of Somalis convicted in other States would require the necessary legal framework, which the legal working group would soon address. He added that one idea was to refashion existing court chambers in the region into “dedicated piracy chambers”. The Secretary-General was due to report to the Security Council on that issue soon.
Mr. HOSNY said the Arab League applauded the efforts under way thus far, including by the naval forces of the European Union and the United States, among others. It also welcomed the efforts of those countries and organizations that were scaling up or positioning humanitarian aid to Somalia. Despite all that, significant measures must be taken inside Somalia to bolster the Government’s ability to enhance its institutions and promote a functioning economy. The Somali Coast Guard and other maritime authorities also needed more help. The country’s legal system should be strengthened and enhanced, so that pirates could be detained and prosecuted there.
He said pledges over the past two years to support such efforts remained seriously under-funded, and he urged all States to stand by their obligations “to bring Somalia back to stability”. The Arab League had itself provided financial support to Somalia and to AMISOM. Next week at the Istanbul conference, the League planned to make more pledges aimed at helping Somalia eradicate the scourge of piracy. He also called for an end to illegal fishing and waste dumping in Somali waters, which served as an incentive for would-be pirates.
Mr. STEVENSON’s presentation centred on the well-being of merchant mariners, who were responsible for transporting more than more than 90 per cent of global trade, where “almost everything consumed in the world had travelled on a ship”. While much had been done to suppress and deter piracy, little was said about the treatment of mariners. More than 200,000 experienced threats off the coast of Somalia every year. What happened after an attack? Did they continue their seagoing careers? Were they fit to work? Did they receive medical attention? Where did they go to help deal with the aftermath? What happened to them and their families?
Those questions did not have answers, and indeed, the protection of merchant mariners did not figure as a rationale for suppressing piracy. And, while IMO and Contact Group guidelines contained some guidance on the issue, it was limited to gathering information for military intelligence or prosecutorial purposes, not out of concern for their well-being. He drew attention to a white paper calling for a piracy survivors resource centre. In view of the dearth of studies assessing the effects of stress on mariners, his organization had conducted its own to help advise flag States, ship-owners, first responders and others with an interest in seafarers on how to deal with trauma caused by pirate attacks. The international community needed to do what it could to make seagoing an attractive career option for skilled and responsible men and women, he said, by recognizing their contribution to the world economy and raising their stature commensurate to their importance.
Joining the discussion, speakers stressed the importance of crew protection and post-accident treatment for piracy survivors. One speaker urged that a fresh look be taken on seafarers’ employment agreements, and modalities of justice when it came to protecting the rights of labourers. Also at issue was accessibility and quality of medical and social assistance. Working Group Three of the Contact Group had met in March to discuss those issues, and would do so again later in May.
Speakers stressed, as well, the need to strengthen international cooperation, saying that prosecution was not the sole responsibility of a few countries. One speaker pointed out, however, that the trust fund was not only aimed at helping prosecuting countries, but for helping countries at all stages of the process. Another speaker added that their country had a robust system for trying and punishing pirates and their ex-hostages were willing to testify in Kenya, or other courts where Somali pirates were being tried.
Panel II: Somalia: A Case Study
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Somalia, moderated the panel discussion on “Somalia: A Case Study” with panellists Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union; Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor, Military Adviser, Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Mr. LAMAMRA said the African Union Plan of Action adopted by the Special Session of the African Union Summit regarding conflicts in Africa recommended the convening of an international conference to discuss the adoption of an international convention on maritime piracy and its underlying causes and the promotion of international cooperation. He stressed that the African Union saw the issue of piracy as a symptom of the broader challenge to peace and security in the Horn of Africa. Any effort to address piracy in isolation from its wider context would not produce results. Piracy in Somalia should be seen in the context of the collapse of government in the 1990s, and its subsequent lawlessness had led to the development of illegal fishing off the coast and the dumping of toxic materials. Initial acts of piracy had been directly linked to attempts by local fishermen to protect their coast.
Piracy had evolved in scope and in involvement of larger criminal networks and had become a threat to efforts to bring an end to conflict in Somalia, he said. The situation called for a comprehensive approach to addressing poverty and instability, including strategies for effective environmental conservation and fisheries management. It called for a truly holistic approach covering the political, security and humanitarian tracts. The efforts to prosecute piracies should also include the issue of illegal fishing and toxic dumping. Perpetrators of those crimes were no lesser criminals than the pirates. One good idea, presented to the Security Council yesterday, was to encourage Governments, mostly from developed countries, whose citizens were involved in fishing off the coast of Somalia to pay license fees to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
In order to access cross-cutting maritime challenges to African growth, the African Union had organized a workshop which had emphasized the issues related to illegal fishing, dumping of toxic waste, arms and drug trafficking, human trafficking and piracy and dumping of toxic waste. A well-managed Africa maritime domain, on the other hand, would be a source for prosperity in Africa and a contribution to global security. To that end, the workshop had stressed the need for a significant contribution by the international community.
As for the quest for peace in Somalia, he said the African Union made efforts to promote an inclusive political process and increase security throughout Somalia through continued deployment of AMISOM. An effective way to combat piracy was to provide more support to AMISOM and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, because piracy should be defeated inside of Somalia.
Mr. COSTA said that commendable anti-piracy efforts included the fact that the Contact Group had built a consensus as to the most appropriate anti-piracy measures, while donors had been financing shore-based criminal justice responses in several countries. Significant naval cooperation off the Horn of Africa had become a significant deterrent. Pirates had been tried in regional criminal courts, rather than released or shot on sight. The current problem was not finding court capacity, but making it possible to imprison convicted pirates in Somalia itself and, eventually, moving trials there. A recent UNODC mission had concluded that the construction of adequate detention facilities in Somalia must be expedited to ensure the transfer or prisoners from other countries.
He said that, although naval patrols had reduced the success rate of attacks to one in ten attempts, the overall number of attacks was growing. Individual pirate earnings per successful attack had increased, as had individual ransoms. Pirates now asked for money in exchange for people, not only vessels. A growing number of seized pirates had indicated that they originated from internal parts of Somalia, which was evidence that poverty, insecurity, social distress and poor health were increasingly root causes of the problem. Piracy off Somalia had had a limited impact on rich countries, but the impact on Eastern African had been severe. Kenya and Seychelles had seen their tourism business decimated. Fishing was down. The disruption had now moved to Great Lakes States that used East African ports for trade.
There were some 500 pirates under detention, about half outside Somalia, but there was a limit to the number of pirates who could be imprisoned outside of the country. Court proceedings in the countries of seized vessels was impractical, given the distance and jurisdictional arguments. The cost of patrolling the seas of Somalia was enormous. The annual budget of all 44 vessels operating in the Indian Ocean stood at $1.5 billion, while the Anti-piracy Trust Fund had a budget of $3 to $5 million.
He said that the contextual factors that facilitated piracy must be neutered. Key was the engagement in Somalia, where anti-piracy work could be conducted without unreasonable risks, such as in Somaliland and Puntland. Basic institutional and logistical infrastructures relating to coast guards, police and courts were needed to support Somali high-sea patrolling and Somali law enforcement on land. At the same time, anti-money laundering measures were needed. Most of the profit of piracy did not go to the pirates, but to criminal groups that invested in and sponsored piracy. Apart from piracy, the economic lawlessness in the Horn of Africa included a free illicit trade zone of arms, fuel, counterfeits, migrants, children, natural resources and drugs. Piracy could not be addressed without taking on those other crimes.
The only viable long-term solution was to empower Somalia itself. Current measures had served an interim purpose, but the international response had been constrained by no peacebuilding and little peacekeeping. Sustainable anti-piracy must be part of a larger strategy, including: a push towards lasting peace in Somalia and towards reconstruction; engagement with community leaders in the provinces where pirates came from to create jobs targeted on youth; establishment of criminal justice institutions in Somalia able to prosecute, try and imprison its own pirates and their sponsors; energetic anti-money laundering efforts; and establishment of a specialized Anti-piracy Court in Somalia staffed with well-trained nationals mentored by international experts.
Somalia must be assisted in dealing with its own piracy problems. That was feasible from the budgetary vantage point of rich countries. It would be sufficient to re-deploy some of the resources currently spent on the naval force in the Indian Ocean. The United Nations could contribute by expediting the return of its political and development presence in Somalia.
General OBIAKOR said there was concern that the scourge of piracy off the coast of Somalia could spread to other vulnerable parts of Africa, including the Gulf of Guinea. It was essential that the complex issue be addressed in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Although significant results had been achieved in combating piracy, maritime operations, while essential, did not address the root of the problem, which was on land. Unless the state of lawlessness on land and the dire humanitarian situation there was addressed, it would not be possible to eliminate piracy.
He said the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the logistical support package for AMISOM could contribute towards addressing the conditions on land that bred piracy. The escorts provided by the European Union and NATO to humanitarian vessels and AMISOM vessels were mutually beneficial. However, other participating navies should share the burden to provide such escorts. At the same time, the reactions of the pirates should be anticipated, as Somali pirates now had expanded their operation well into the Indian Ocean. “We cannot successfully combat piracy through military means at sea alone,” he said.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations was an active participant in several international forums that addressed piracy, including the Contact Group. It was also the focal point for information sharing and reporting obligations of the Secretary-General on military naval counter-piracy issues. The Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) mechanism was made up of over 91 participants from different States and regional organizations and demonstrated that successes could be achieved when activities were coordinated and information shared.
Stressing that the fight against piracy could not be won unless the problem at sea and on land were addressed concomitantly, he said that efforts to develop the Transitional Federal Government’s security and rule of law institutions should be strengthened. Similar efforts were underway in Somaliland and Puntland. Indications that extremist groups were beginning to take an interest in the havens of piracy along Somalia’s coast were of serious concern. Hizbul Islam had recently overrun Harardhere and dislodged pirates. Their intentions were unclear, despite declarations that they would free hostages. “We must remain suspicious and consider ways of preventing any attempts by them to take over the lucrative enterprise of piracy,” he said in conclusion.
Mr. OULD-ABDALLAH said piracy was an important issue because of its ramification for East Africa and because of its implications for trade. Piracy should be taken seriously because of its impacts on security, the economy and the families living in coastal areas. Noting that the renewed focus on Somalia was linked to the surge of piracy, he said the international community must see the need for an effective and supported Somali Government. Responses should be devised on how to address some of the root causes. Reiterating his suggestion to the Security Council two days ago, he said the establishment of a trust fund where contributions could be made through the payment of fishing licenses could help to address the problems.
He said that the issue of piracy could not be separated from the situation on the continent. Payments of enormous ransoms had led to a resurgence of piracy, which was now the most lucrative activity in Somalia. The international naval presence had had a positive aspect, as it was dissuasive and effective.
During the ensuing discussion, speakers, noting that the negative effects of the conflict and the breakdown of authority in Somalia were felt abroad, stressed that the long-term solution to the piracy problem had to be found on land, in Somalia, through a comprehensive plan that included addressing the root causes of piracy. They stressed in that regard that, although it was the responsibility of authorities and the people of Somalia to create an environment of law and order, the international community must provide support, among other things through capacity-building, not only in the country, but also in the region. One speaker asked why the huge amounts of money paid in ransom could not be tracked and be subject to asset freezes, as happened with some terrorist entities.
Some speakers from the region expressed concern that the naval efforts to combat piracy had a detrimental effect on fishing by neighbouring States of Somalia, as they had been the target of fire by the international naval forces. Efforts should be concentrated on the areas of the Somali coast where pirates were coming from. One speaker drew attention to the Gulf of Guinea, where acts of piracy were increasing, threatening the fragile countries of on the coast of West and Central Africa.
Panel III: The Role of the United Nations and International Cooperation
The third panel, entitled, “Global character of piracy and the crucial role of the United Nations and cooperation amongst Member States in combating the scourge”, was moderated by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization. Panellists included: Rear Admiral Peter Hudson, Operations Commander of the European Union Naval Force Atalanta; Yoshihisa Endo, Executive Director of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy Information-Sharing Centre; and Joao Honwana, Director of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs.
Mr. MITROPOULOS spoke of the long history of piracy and the severe consequences on seaborne trade today. For those under attack, the threat to life, the conditions of captivity and fear were not anything that anyone should have to suffer during their lives. The IMO had been identifying patterns and trends, promoting regional agreements and drawing up international guidelines since the 1980s.
He appreciated the response of the Security Council, and the authorizations given through consecutive resolutions. Protection of workers and passengers, safeguarding humanitarian aid and safeguarding shipping in the Gulf of Aden were key elements for IMO in confronting the problem. Council actions, including the creation of the Contact Group, were models for effective international action and dovetailed with IMO efforts for cooperation and adoption of standardized safety codes.
He said that promoting legislative action and legal capability were also priorities of IMO, and were the objectives of the Djibouti Code of Conduct. He was working with many international organizations and individual States on the implementation of the code. States must continue to increase cooperation, with the United Nations providing the central coordinating role. In addition, the root causes of piracy must be addressed. The job was no means completed; more and more ships were being held hostage.
Rear Admiral HUDSON agreed that coordination was crucial ashore, as well as at sea, to combat piracy and concurred that piracy was not a new threat. He said that the scale of violence, the volume of the attacks and the geographical range of pirates was something new, however. The four Security Council resolutions persuaded the European Union to quickly cooperate through the Atalanta force, deploying it in the Gulf of Aden within ten weeks of authorization. The force offered reassurance to all lawful mariners, he said, and he expected it to be extended as long as needed.
The force had made a difference; no ship supplying AMISOM had been attacked since deployment. With NATO and international forces operating out of Bahrain, attacks had been greatly reduced. Well-defined procedures had been established with other forces and escorts of the ships of individual nations. Sharing of best practices, open communication between partners and widespread provision of guidance remained crucial — some ships recently captured did not comply with such guidance. International cooperation would continue to make progress in the years to come, but could not eliminate piracy without a comprehensive approach, including development and building judicial capacity on land. The European Union was active in both areas.
Mr. ENDO outlined initiatives taken in the region since 1997 by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the genesis of ReCAAP, signed in 2004 by 16 countries (ASEAN+6). He said that information sharing, capacity-building and co-operative arrangements to respond to incidents were the pillars of the agreement. With a Secretariat to be located in Singapore, it was open for accession by any State — recently the Netherlands had signed on. Each contracting party designated a focal point and funded activities. Capacity-building arrangements had been signed with IMO and other international organizations.
The roles of focal points were managing anti-piracy operations within the jurisdictions of its country, as well as managing cooperation and information sharing with other parties. Integration of law-enforcement agencies and maritime organizations with the agreement was another role of focal points. All information on incidents was recorded for the Information Centre and trends were analyzed there. All this activity had significantly reduced the threat of piracy in the region.
MR. HONWANA, speaking on behalf of Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs, emphasized the serious consequences of the global increase in piracy, including the increase in the price of goods. In regard to the role of the United Nations, he said that the engagement covered activities at sea, working as a centre of information-gathering in conjunction with IMO. On land, the Organization conducted development initiatives to provide alternatives to piracy, as well as awareness-raising and assisting States in building capacity for the prosecution of pirates. In addition, he noted that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL were active in tracing the funding trail of piracy, and a United Nations-backed trust fund helped assist countries of the region to deal with the scourge.
In the discussion that followed, speakers agreed that international cooperation and the central role of the United Nations in combating piracy were crucial, along with international efforts to help countries prosecute piracy at the national level. Many speakers described their national efforts in both of those areas. Not all speakers thought the creation of international tribunals to prosecute pirates could be effective, however. Some stressed that the Convention on the Law of the Sea was fundamental in providing the framework for international cooperation. In that context, arrangements made in the current climate should be considered exceptional because of the exceptional nature of the problem, they said.
Many speakers called for extending the strong international cooperation demonstrated on the high seas, in the fight against piracy, to the fight against root causes of piracy, such as conflict and extreme poverty in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa. Some representatives of countries of the region called for international assistance to their local fisherman and questioned whether the fight should be more focussed on the areas of the Somali coast from which the pirates took to sea, rather than allowing them to range far and wide.
Mr. TREKI, President of the General Assembly, extended thanks to all for their participation today. He said that the proceedings had reaffirmed that if not addressed urgently and effectively, the problem of piracy would spiral out of control and lead to further serious global consequences. Already, the political, social, economic and human rights implications of piracy, and its destabilizing effects, were posing significant challenges.
With regard to Somalia, he said that the discussions had reaffirmed the urgent need for serious and concerted international effort to bring peace and stability to the country, as piracy was only one symptom of the instability there. In addition, it was affirmed that stronger and better-coordinated strategies were needed to address the complex root causes of piracy, as part of a comprehensive approach.
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