The United Nations General Assembly today held a day-long informal meeting on piracy, with Assembly President Ali Treki calling for broader international efforts and resources to combat the ever-expanding scourge, particularly off the coast of war-torn Somalia.
“The international community must step forward to help Somalia,” he said, stressing the need for “a truly holistic approach” covering political, security, governance and humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa country, which has had no functioning central government and has been torn apart by factional fighting for nearly two decades.
Last month the Security Council put forward the possibility of establishing international tribunals to try pirates, with members calling for tougher legislation to prosecute and jail suspects caught off Somalia. But today Dr. Treki called for greater heft from the 15-member body, whose decisions are legally binding while those of the 192-member Assembly are not.
“I call on the Security Council, in particular, to shoulder its responsibility with regard to Somalia by undertaking strong and resolute measures in support of a wider political, peacekeeping and peace-building strategy in Somalia, to bring peace to the country and to ensure its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” he said.
With dozens of ships, from massive oil tankers to chartered supply ships carrying UN food aid for Somalia’s hungry masses, being hijacked and tens of millions of dollars paid in ransom each year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the magnitude of the problem.
Despite international naval patrols, “the attacks continue, indeed, they are increasing,” he told the Assembly, citing UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) global figures of 406 in 2009, an increase of 100 over 2008, with by far the largest concentration off the coast of East Africa, where reported incidents increased seven-fold over the four-year period to 2009.
He stressed that piracy cannot be solved at sea alone but requires action on land to re-establish security and stability. “There is simply too much water to patrol, and an almost endless supply of pirates,” he said.
“There is no doubt that a change in strategy is needed,” he added, noting that a major international conference on Somalia in Istanbul next week aims to launch a new push for solutions to the security and stability crisis there. “Stability on land would, undoubtedly, improve the situation at sea.”
International cooperation is essential, a legal system should be established to bring piracy suspects to justice, not to simply let them go, and piracy must be considered in the wider context of security at sea, he said. “There are 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.
East African officials attending the debate included Somali Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahman A. Ibrahim, and Kenyan Trade Minister Amos Kimunya.