Piracy off the coast of Somalia was not only a criminal activity, but it was, first of all, a very successful business, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Political Office there told the Security Council.
Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said that, although international naval deployments and the self-protection measures of vessels had reduced the number of successful piracy incidents, attacks continued, with pirates using more sophisticated methods. They were still ready to take risks. The approach to combating piracy could, therefore, not be limited to an international naval force, but must be part of an overall plan to address the root causes.
He stressed that, as piracy was a symptom of wider problems ashore in Somalia, the only sustainable solution would be effective governance, the establishment of the rule of law and security institutions, and the creation of alternative livelihoods in Somalia for stable and inclusive economic growth.
Describing the various efforts of United Nations entities, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), he underlined the importance that any long-term effort to address lawlessness at sea complement current political, security, recovery and development efforts being undertaken by the United Nations and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The representative of Somalia said that the problem of piracy was a symptom of the major problems that had been bedevilling Somalia for nearly two decades, and stressed that the problem, thus, required a concerted and coordinated effort at the international, regional, national and local levels.
He informed the Council that the Transitional Federal Government had established a coastguard body and had already trained 1,000 coastguards. As there was a need for the deployment of some 10,000 coastguards, he said assistance was sought for training and equipment. Noting that, currently, pirates were claiming to protect the Somali coast, he said that the coastguard, if well equipped and trained, could also address illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste, as well as smuggling of arms and illicit drugs.
Agreeing with the Special Representative that, in the long term, the fight against piracy should include addressing its root causes in Somalia itself, Council members stressed that, in the short term, the international naval presence was necessary to protect humanitarian aid provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) and logistical support for AMISOM, as well as of other vessels.
Warning that continued impunity ran counter to deterrence, speakers urged prosecution of piracy suspects and called for assistance to those countries in the region, in particular Kenya and the Seychelles, that were willing to accept those apprehended by international naval forces in order to prosecute them. Implementation of IMO’s Djibouti Code of Conduct in that regard would be helpful.
Participants in the debate also called for greater coordination among those involved in combating piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia and on the high seas, in particular between the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia — established as a contact point between and among States and regional and international organizations on all aspects of combating piracy –- and the International Contact Group on Somalia, headed by the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS).
Echoing the warning of some speakers, the representative of Mexicoemphasized the negative impact of piracy on the sanctions regime in Somalia. It was important in that regard that States and multinational maritime coalitions cooperate with the Monitoring Group on sanctions.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Sweden’s representative announced that the mandate for its naval Operation Atalanta, which provided crucial protection for WFP deliveries and United Nations’ delivery by sea of logistical support for AMISOM, would be extended until the end of 2010.
The representative of the United Kingdom, stressing the importance of addressing the root causes of piracy, said that greater support should be given to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in its fight against insurgency and also urged for security assistance to Puntland and Somaliland. More of the same determination shown by the international community at sea must be shown on shore.
The representative of the United States said that, in order to combat the profitability of piracy, all States should adopt a firm policy against paying ransom.
As the Seychelles became a hub in the fight against piracy –- it was a vulnerable country directly impacted by the spillover, or piracy, from the instability in Somalia — its speaker said the Government had signed status of forces agreements with several countries and allowed the United States to station unmanned aerial vehicles on its territory to supplement the multinational military surveillance aircraft already flying from its islands in search of pirates.
It was awaiting promised assistance in its own fight against piracy and would welcome more, he said. It also supported an arrangement in which convicted pirates would serve their sentences in Somalia. However, it was under no illusion that the long-term solution to regional piracy lay in solving Somalia’s unrest and, thus, supported the Secretary-General’s call to strengthen the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, Japan, China, Turkey, Libya, Croatia, Russian Federation, France, Costa Rica, Uganda, Austria, Ukraine, Norway, Philippines and Spain.
The meeting started at 10:20 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:55 p.m.
As the Security Council was to consider piracy and armed robbery in territorial waters and the high seas off the Somali coast, it had before it, the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1846 (2008) (document S/2009/590), which provides an assessment of the piracy situation and examines the political, legal and operational activities undertaken by Member States, regional organizations and the United Nations.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 306 incidents of piracy and armed robbery were reported worldwide, of which 136 were in the East African area, the report states. During the period of January through September 2009, 300 incidents were reported worldwide, of which 160 occurred in the East African area. Thirty-four ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia and more than 450 seafarers were taken hostage. Between July and September, two successful hijackings were carried out. The number of attempts dropped from 95 in the second quarter to 26 in the third quarter. Since then, a resurgence in the number of attacks resulted in eight ships and 178 seafarers being held hostage.
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which held its inaugural meeting on 14 January, was established as a contact point between and among States and regional and international organizations on all aspects of combating piracy, in line with resolution 1851 (2008). It is supported by four working groups that cover: military and operational coordination and the establishment of the regional coordination centre; legal issues including the prosecution of suspected pirates, strengthening of shipping awareness; and diplomatic and public information. On 10 September, the Contact Group approved the terms of reference of an international trust fund to help defray prosecution expenses.
The combined efforts of the international naval forces operating off the Somalia coast have significantly increased in the last 11 months, resulting in reduced successful incidents of piracy. Three multinational maritime coalitions have been contributing to the fight against piracy: the European Union Naval Force Operation “Atalanta”; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); and the United States-led Combined Maritime Forces — currently, CTF-151. Several Member States have acted independently. The primary mechanism that successfully brings together the naval forces is the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) group.