|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6646th Meeting (PM)
Despite Strong Counter-Efforts, Piracy off Coast of Somalia Still Major
Problem, Security Council Is Told; Regional Economies Hurt
Reduction of Incidents with More Arrests Noted, But Too Many Suspects
Freed; Secretary-General Expresses Concern for Fate of Kidnap Victims
Despite unprecedented efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, pirates had expanded their reach and had become more violent and technically adept, and international actors must redouble their efforts to solve the problem in the context of an overall solution to the Somalia crisis, a senior United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council this afternoon.
“The fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia can only be won through an integrated strategy that tackles deterrence, security the rule of law and development”, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on piracy in the region (document S/2011/662) and on the natural resources and waters of Somalia (document S/2011/661). “Counter piracy efforts should be an integral element of the Somalia peace process,” he added.
Piracy and armed robbery continued to harm regional economies in East Africa, as well as the global economy, he said. In response, naval operations had resulted in the reduction of incidents at sea and in the region. More and more pirates were being arrested and prosecuted. Information-sharing and coordination had also improved, with the Contact Group on Piracy playing a key role. A new initiative to track financial flows and target leaders and masterminds of the crimes was also promising, as were efforts towards a framework to regulate the use of private armed guards in the region. All this had allowed the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance.
Despite those efforts, however, Somali pirates had expanded their operations well into the Indian Ocean, he said. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 316 people and 15 vessels were being held hostage as of early October 2011.
Along with increased violence and technical capabilities, reports of links between pirates and the Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgent group were a cause of concern. In many cases this was because of their bases of operations being pushed into areas under the group’s influence, as a result of otherwise commendable law-enforcement measures undertaken by some regional authorities. Although it was still unclear, there might be connections in that regard between Somali piracy and the kidnappings in Kenya, as well as maritime attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and elsewhere.
Positive developments in a more integrated strategy included, he said, the inclusion of counter-piracy benchmarks in the recently agreed road map to end the transition in Somalia that included institutional provisions within the Transitional Federal Government, coordination in the region and the proclamation of a Somali Exclusive Economic Zone that would address illegal fishing and dumping of wastes and clarify Somalia’s rights over its marine environment and economy.
The number of States undertaking prosecutions of those suspected of acts of piracy was increasing, he said, as was the number of prosecutions themselves. However, a large number of suspects were still not prosecuted for a variety of legal, practical and political reasons. Further efforts were, therefore, needed; he encouraged Member States and the maritime industry to contribute generously to the Trust Fund for that purpose. Efforts to strengthen Somali and regional maritime and law-enforcement capacity were also needed, which, he suggested, might be accomplished for the interim term through the establishment of a coastguard capacity in the region.
It was true that Somalis needed greater incentives not to succumb to the lure of piracy, he said, warning, however, that “as long as piracy is lucrative, alternative livelihood options will be a hard sell”. The flow of ransom money was making all solutions more difficult to achieve.
In regard to Somalia’s natural resources and waters, he said that the Secretary-General states in his report that “the overall evidence of illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping, as well as the alleged links with piracy activities required further investigation”. At the same time, he stressed that it was important to use every opportunity to draw attention to the need to protect Somalia’s natural resources and prevent their illegal and unregulated exploitation. The declaration of an exclusive economic zone and other measures under the road map would address some of those challenges.
In addition, in the report, Somalia is urged to accede to the international legal framework under IMO and to adopt the appropriate legal framework to address all aspects of maritime law and the development of a fishing industry, he said, adding that it was equally important to continue support to the Somali Government to reform its security sector, and for Member States to investigate allegations of illegal fishing and dumping and prosecute perpetrators under their jurisdiction. In the report, the Secretary-General pledges assistance to the Somali interim authorities, as well as the regional authorities of “Puntland”, “ Somaliland” and “Galmudug”, if requested to address such challenges. It was important, he added, that the issue of natural resources be addressed simultaneously at the national and regional levels, for which purpose the Kampala Process dialogue forum should be used.
The report, he said, also stressed the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment for Somalia that the United Nations would carry out in partnership with relevant organizations and the transitional authorities. Finally, he conveyed the Secretary-General’s primary concern over the fate of hundreds of kidnap victims who were still in the hands of pirates, most often in difficult and inhumane conditions. He said that he called it encouraging that the effort to secure their release was broad-based and included Somali authorities, Governments, industry and the United Nations.
The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m., at which time Council members went into consultations on Somalia.
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