The growing problem of piracy off the Somali coast demands more than just military efforts, the United Nations political chief told the Security Council today, calling for simultaneous action on three fronts – deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development – to combat the scourge.
“Piracy is a menace that is outpacing efforts by the international community to stem it,” B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the 15-member body, adding that the numbers are “appalling.”
According to figures by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), over 438 seafarers and passengers and 20 ships are held by pirates as of 4 November – an increase of almost 100 kidnapped victims in less than a month.
Presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the issue, Mr. Pascoe said that warships alone will not solve the problem.
“We need to continue to fight this battle in the broadest manner, focussing simultaneously on deterrence, security and the rule of law, as well providing economic alternatives for Somali youth.”
Mr. Pascoe noted that as long as piracy is so lucrative, with ransom payments adding up to tens if not millions of dollars, and other economic options so bleak, the incentives are obvious. “Economic rehabilitation and the creation of alternative livelihoods, especially the development and rehabilitation of coastal fisheries, must be at the centre of our efforts to fight piracy.”
He also stressed the need to make piracy and robbery off the Somali coast costly by addressing impunity and building the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to expand its authority and deal with law and order.
In his report, the Secretary-General noted that, while naval patrols off Somalia’s coast have increasingly disrupted the activities of pirates, with many sea bandits arrested and prosecuted, the increased levels of violence employed by the pirates as well as their expanding reach is “disconcerting.”
He welcomed steps taken to prosecute suspected pirates and imprison convicted offenders, expressing particular appreciation to Kenya and Seychelles for their efforts, as well as to a number of Member States that have provided resources for the trial and incarceration of convicted pirates.
At the same time, Mr. Ban stressed that much more needs to be done, including improvements in the collection of evidence and other investigative activities following arrests at sea, as well as finding long-term legal solutions to the problem.
Also addressing the Council today, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that his agency has developed a counter-piracy programme to assist regional countries in prosecuting pirates. Over 700 suspected and convicted pirates are now in detention in 12 countries, with more than half of these in Somalia itself.
Executive Director Yury Fedotov said the main impediment to regional States accepting the transfer of suspected pirates for prosecution has been the burden of imprisoning convicted pirates for the length of their sentences, which generally range from 5 to 20 years, as the prisons are overcrowded.
“It is clear that the only viable long-term solution to the Somali piracy problem is to restore law and order in Somalia, including in its waters. It is also clear that this solution is some years off and will require concerted and coordinated international effort,” he stated.
Meanwhile, UNODC’s counter-piracy programme, which was established in 2009, is working towards ensuring fair and efficient trials and imprisonment of piracy suspects in regional countries; humane and secure imprisonment in Somalia; and fair and efficient trials in Somalia.
Combating the problem of piracy is a major priority for the Security Council, its President for the month of November, Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom, told reporters after closed-door discussions.
While Council members are grateful for those involved in the naval operations aimed at deterring piracy off the Somali coast, they agreed that such operations on their own would not address the problem, he noted, adding that it is important to address the root causes and tackle issues such as security and development in the country.