9 November 2010

Piracy off Coast of Somalia Outpacing International Efforts to Defeat It, Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Security Council

9 November 2010
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6417th Meeting (AM)

Piracy off Coast of Somalia Outpacing International Efforts to Defeat It,


Under-Secretary-General Says in Briefing to Security Council


Members Hear Call to Broaden Battle beyond Naval Force

As Head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Outlines Programme

The menace of piracy off the coast of Somalia was outpacing international efforts to stem it, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council today, emphasizing:  “Warships alone will not solve the problem.”

Briefing the Council on the situation in Somalia, Mr. Pascoe said:  “We need to continue to fight this battle in the broadest manner, focusing simultaneously on deterrence, security and the rule of law, as well as providing economic alternatives for Somali youth.  We must also make piracy and robbery off the coast of Somalia costly by addressing impunity and building the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government to expand its authority and deal with law and order.”

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Somalia (document S/2010/556), he described the numbers as “appalling”, citing International Maritime Organization (IMO) reports that more than 438 seafarers and passengers as well as 20 ships were held by pirates as of 4 November, an increase of almost 100 kidnapping victims in less than a month.  Pirates were also taking greater risks and seeking higher ransoms, he said, recalling that just a few days ago, pirates had “brazenly” attacked a European Union warship escorting supplies for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  The assault had been mounted from a large freighter, itself seized about a month ago, he said, pointing out that such actions continued to have serious effects on regional economies and those of the wider world.

He said the problems would be worse if not for the “very considerable” international anti-piracy efforts.  Member States had put in place a strong naval presence with an unprecedented level of coordination among naval forces in the area.  International naval coalitions off the Somali coast had disrupted more pirate operations and protected more vessels than ever before, amid increasing implementation of self-protection recommendations developed by the shipping industry and the IMO, he said.  “But much more effort is required to tackle the root causes of piracy.  Fighting piracy demands simultaneous action on three fronts:  deterrence; security and the rule of law; and development.”

The private sector was expected to play its part in deterring attacks by following IMO recommendations and industry-developed best management practices, he continued.  Regional cooperation was also critical, he said, pointing out that 16 Member States had now signed the Djibouti Code of Conduct and that the IMO had assisted in its implementation, with three regional counter-piracy information-sharing centres in the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Yemen, as well as through the construction of a training facility in Djibouti and efforts to build capacity in the legal and maritime law-enforcement fields.

Deterrence also required that those found guilty of piracy face prosecution under international law, he emphasized, noting, however, that the prosecution and imprisonment of convicted pirates was difficult for Member States in the region without commensurate financial support.  He urged Member States and the maritime industry to contribute generously to the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, while noting that long-term imprisonment arrangements for convicted pirates, ideally in Somalia, still needed to be identified.  Jack Lang, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, would issue recommendations in that regard before the end of the year, he added.

The United Nations, the International Contact Group on Somalia and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) were working to develop Somali capacity to deal with piracy on land and in close in-shore waters, he said, adding that the effort was linked to others aimed at developing the justice and security sectors.  Strengthening the police and establishing a coast guard, or coastal monitoring capability, should be an integral part of the debate on piracy, he noted.  Somali security institutions must also be provided with predictable funding.  Piracy was also very much an economic issue, he said, stressing that the Somali people, especially the youth, needed greater incentives not to succumb to the lure of the pirate economy.  To that end, economic rehabilitation and alternative livelihoods were needed, particularly the rehabilitation of coastal fisheries.

Following Mr. Pascoe’s remarks, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that despite the many challenges, efforts to address the question of detention and prosecution of suspected pirates were showing some success.  “With the right support from the international community, they have the potential to become even more effective and lead to a long-term solution,” he said, noting that more than 700 suspected and convicted pirates were now detained in 12 countries, more than half of them in Somalia itself.

He said the international community had provided support for prosecutions through UNODC’s counter-piracy programme, developed over the past two years, and other mechanisms.  Kenya had taken the lead in regional prosecutions and was currently trying 69 suspects, having convicted 50.  The Seychelles, despite its tiny size, had undertaken 31 prosecutions and had already convicted 22 suspects, he said, adding that Mauritius, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Maldives had expressed interest in helping with prosecutions.  However, the prosecution and imprisonment of convicted pirates posed a heavy burden for countries in the region, he cautioned, noting that Kenya was now only accepting the transfer of pirates on a case-by-case basis.

UNODC was addressing capacity concerns, including prison conditions and access to defence lawyers, he continued.  Imprisoning pirates for the length of their sentences, which had so far ranged from five to 20 years, posed a particular burden.  In that light, Special Adviser Lang’s proposal to transfer suspects to Somalia and expedite trials there would require additional assistance from UNODC, which was working closely with many other actors.  The UNODC programme focused on fair, efficient trials and imprisonment in and inside Somalia.  Thus far, it had ensured respect for the rule of law and human rights in the procedures, he said, adding that time frames for conviction in the Seychelles, for example, compared favourably with those in North America and Europe.  At the same time, the programme was building capacity in regional States, reinforcing the broader justice system in Somalia.

He said the agency was also helping to foster and strengthen development in Somalia, welcoming, in that light, the non-partisan cooperation offered by the country’s Transitional Federal Government, and by the authorities of “Puntland” and “Somaliland” through the Somali Contact Group on Counter-piracy, also known as the Kampala Process.  He pledged that the “lean and committed” UNODC team was working diligently in those parts of Somalia where it was able to operate, and would continue to do so.

Also taking the floor today was the representative of Somalia, who said the Transitional Federal Government was “very much seized” with fighting piracy and restoring law and order in his country.  The Secretary-General’s report accurately conveyed the problems of combating piracy and the regional problems involved, both inside and outside Somalia, he said, expressing thanks to UNODC for its support in bringing pirates to justice, as well as to neighbouring countries that had agreed to detain and prosecute suspects despite the great burdens involved.  It was regrettable, however, that a great number of seafarers remained in captivity, he said, extending sympathies to their families.  “I hope that it will cease to happen, the sooner the better.”

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:27 a.m.


For its consideration of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1897 (2009), which contains information received as at 11 October, based on assessments and recommendations provided by Member States and regional organizations.

The report (document S/2010/556), citing information from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), says 164 attacks against ships took place during the first nine months of the year, leading to 25 hijackings, mostly in the western Indian Ocean.  That compares with 193 attacks and 33 hijacked ships during the same period in 2009.

Noting that the level of violence employed by the pirates has risen, the report says the effectiveness of naval disruption operations has also increased, adding that full implementation of IMO guidance and industry-developed best-management practices will significantly lower the risk of being hijacked.  As at 11 October, 389 people and 18 vessels were being held hostage, the report states, noting that pirate capacities increased with the development of “pirate action groups”, comprising a large “mother boat” towing two or three attack skiffs.  They enabled pirates to carry out attacks as far as 1,300 nautical miles off the coast against ever-larger freighters.

The report says that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, “Puntland” and “Somaliland” established a three-member committee, the Somali Contact Group on Counter-piracy, at a technical meeting convened by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).  The three sides agreed on a draft anti-piracy law for Somalia and began working on laws relating to the transfer of prisoners.  Both Puntland and Somaliland have interdicted and arrested piracy suspects.  Also known as the Kampala Process, it serves as the national focal point as defined in the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.  The Djibouti Code of Conduct is a regional cooperation agreement aimed at combating piracy by sharing information, interdicting vessels, prosecuting suspects, and facilitating the care of individuals subjected to pirate attacks.

According to the report, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Indian Ocean Commission, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are keeping piracy on their respective agendas.  The second regional ministerial conference on the issue, held in Mauritius on 7 October, adopted a regional strategy to prevent and combat piracy and promote maritime security.

The report states that the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, established by Council resolution 1851 (2008), has met six times and established four working groups:  on operational coordination and regional capacity-building; on the legal aspects of piracy; on strengthening shipping self-awareness and other capabilities; and on improving diplomatic and public information efforts.  Three multinational maritime coalition forces carry out naval activities off the coast of Somalia:  the European Union’s Operation Atalanta; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation Ocean Shield; and Combined Taskforce 151 (CTF-151) of the Combined Maritime Forces.  In addition, several Member States have independently deployed naval military assets, some of them in coordination with the multinational coalitions.

Civil-military coordination is a key element of the strategy to protect global maritime trade transiting the affected waters, the report states.  The primary mechanism for protecting merchant vessels is the collaboration between the shipping industry and the naval presence through the use of the IMO-endorsed, internationally recommended transit corridor.  There is a need to expand and formalize the mechanism, in order to ensure that information obtained by naval assets is effectively collected and shared with various law-enforcement and judicial bodies, such as the Monitoring Group on Somalia and INTERPOL.

According to the report, the Secretary-General finds “disheartening” the continuing recruitment of children into pirate groups operating off Puntland.  Several cases have been documented involving children who escaped from the Al-Shabaab militant group and joined pirate groups in Puntland and southern and central Somalia.  The plight of the 389 hostages currently help by pirates on Somali territory was also of concern, the Secretary-General says, calling for a redoubling of efforts to ensure their release and an end to the practice of kidnapping for ransom.  He also urges Governments, private companies and non-governmental organizations to explore how best to help secure their release.

On the prosecution of pirates, the report notes that the Secretary-General has appointed Jack Lang (France) to serve as his Special Adviser on Legal Issues.  Discussions between Mauritius and the European Union on a possible arrangement for transferring suspected pirates highlighted the importance of finding long-term imprisonment arrangements, ideally in Somalia, for those convicted.  The Contact Group established a trust fund to defray expenses associated with prosecution, which can be replenished by Member States and the private sector.  As of 11 October, it had received some $3 million, of which $2.5 million has been disbursed to support prosecution- and detention-related activities in Kenya, Seychelles and Somalia.

The report cites the Secretary-General as noting that the root causes of piracy are found on land, and tackling them requires security on the ground.  He stresses the vital importance of security-sector development and the development of meaningful alternative livelihoods and rehabilitation programmes.  With pirate attacks severely constraining the importation of goods into Somalia, food prices are rising and unemployment is widespread.  Those conditions have led many young Somalis to join armed groups and pirate gangs.  The payment of ransoms has also created an incentive for piracy, notably because ship owners can take out private insurance covering negotiation assistance and ransom payments, the report says, adding that piracy has become woven into the social and economic fabric of everyday life in some parts of Somalia.

According to the report, the international community is thus faced with a dilemma:  the payment of ransom is often the only feasible available method to freeing hostages and ships, but the aggregate economic effect has created a daunting challenge for alternative livelihood programmes and the socio-economic rehabilitation of coastal zones.  The Monitoring Group on Somalia established by Council resolution 1853 (2008) has identified and recommended for targeted sanctions against four pirate leaders and will continue to investigate and report on pirate militias and their financiers, facilitators, active supporters and beneficiaries.

However, much more needs to be done in order to prosecute pirates, the report stresses, citing the need to improve evidence-collection and investigative elements upon arrest at sea, and to build capacity and find long-term legal solutions that contribute to the deterrence of piracy.  More needs to be known about possible connections between the pirates and the financing of land-based militias or insurgent groups.  The Secretary-General calls upon all Member States, international organization and non-governmental organizations to coordinate their efforts with those of the IMO and the signatory States to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Contact Group.

According to the report, there was also an urgent need to combine sea-based and judicial counter-piracy initiatives with the search for a solution to the situation in Somalia as a whole, in support of the Djibouti Peace Agreement.  It is also important that Member States provide funding and resources directly to the Transitional Federal Government to support its efforts to fight piracy.  The Secretary-General urges regional administrations, such as those in “Puntland” and “Somaliland”, to strengthen their efforts to promote political and security stability equally, while invigorating and strengthening the Kampala process.

The Secretary-General goes on to observe that more work is needed to bring together the efforts of the Contact Group, the UNODC and those charged with security-sector reform under the Djibouti Peace Agreement.  A nexus of counter-piracy with development is also needed.  Government steps to promote maritime security and the development of alternative livelihoods in the maritime environment should be coordinated with security-sector reform and economic rehabilitation efforts, he adds.  “The Somali people, particularly the youth, need greater incentives to avoid succumbing to the lure of the pirate economy.”

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.