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UN Meeting Tackles Somalian Piracy Problem

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

19 January 2009

The first meeting of the newly-formed Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) took place at the United Nations' headquarters on January 14, to facilitate discussion and coordination of actions among states and organizations to suppress piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Participating in the meeting were representatives from: Australia, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, The Netherlands, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia TFG, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Yemen, as well as the African Union, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the UN Secretariat, and the International Maritime Organization.

The Contact Group noted with deep concern that piracy off the coast of Somalia grew significantly in 2008, and that attacks on shipping vessels can be expected to increase without enhanced international efforts.

In 2008, over 100 attacks, including over 40 successful seizures, resulted in hundreds of persons taken hostage. The pirates have been demanding million-dollar ransoms for release of the hostages, ships and cargoes.

Piracy disrupts critical humanitarian aid deliveries to Somalia, increases shipping insurance premiums along one of the world’s most traveled routes to near-prohibitive levels, damages littoral economies by forcing the diversion of vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, and raises the prospect of an environmental disaster as ships fall prey to hostile intent.

Piracy is a symptom of a wider lack of security and rule of law in Somalia and continues to constitute a threat to regional stability. As such, the group noted that piracy issues must be kept in mind as one element of a larger challenge.

Pursuant to UNSCR 1851, States and regional organizations fighting piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia will consider creating a center in the region to coordinate information in 2009.

Additionally, the CGPCS announced that it will examine practical options for strengthening the ability of countries willing to detain and prosecute suspected pirates. It will also examine options for developing other mechanisms to address piracy, including international judicial mechanisms.

The CGPCS identified six focus areas where they will centre their efforts:

  • improving operational and information support to counter-piracy operations;
  • establishing a counter-piracy coordination mechanism;
  • strengthening judicial frameworks for arrest;
  • prosecution and detention of pirates;
  • strengthening commercial shipping self-awareness and other capabilities;
  • pursuing improved diplomatic and public information efforts; and
  • tracking financial flows related to piracy.

The participants agreed to establish four working groups in which all CGPCS parties may participate, to address the focus areas.

The CGPCS will inform the UN Security Council on a regular basis of the progress of its activities, including through providing relevant information to the UN Secretary General for possible incorporation into his periodic reports to the Council.

The CGPCS plans to meet again in March to review the progress and direction of the four working groups and other developments.

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