Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and the Challenge of Failed States

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce, there have been, since the beginning of 2011, 211 piracy attacks world-wide and 24 hijackings of vessels. Somalia pirates are currently holding 26 vessels hostage (522 crew) and in 2011 alone 139 of the reported incidents were conducted by Somali pirates

A Research paper authored by SWP and entitled “Piracy and Maritime Security” highlighted the challenge of eradicating piracy in failed states. It demonstrated clearly “that piracy and maritime insecurity cannot be understood in isolation from developments on land. Piracy often becomes a worthwhile business where legal employment offers only a marginal income and the weakness of state institutions limits the risk of punishment. Accordingly, effective counter-piracy requires more or less functioning statehood.”

The full SWP Research Paper can be accessed at: http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/research_papers/2011_RP03_mrs_ks.pdf

A recent US Congressional Report Services document entitled Piracy off the Horn of Africa concurs with the SWP appraisal: “The increase in pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa is directly linked to continuing insecurity and the absence of the rule of law in war-torn Somalia. The absence of a functioning central government there provides freedom of action for pirates and remains the single greatest challenge to regional security”

The CRS report can be accessed at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40528.pdf

Two UN document are also referenced in the attached newsletter. The first is a Report of the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Legal Issues related to Piracy of the Coast of Somalia. This document provides “a plan in 25 proposals”. The following text extracted from the report highlights the political dimension of the problem:

“With the industrialization of the phenomenon and especially the emergence of new professions (intermediaries, negotiators, and interpreters), the Somali population is increasingly dependent on piracy. The economy, which basically depends on export of livestock (camels, sheep) to the Gulf countries, remittances from the diaspora and port operations, is gradually relying on support for the pirates by entire villages, now with the approval of some clan chiefs and even some members of the diaspora. The risk of reaching a point of no return is emerging, with the creation of a veritable mafia, piracy-driven economy and the deep disintegration of Somali society, which is built on fragile local arrangements.”

The full UN Report can be accessed at: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/C3368F7BFEF0D4E98525783800796871-Full_Report.pdf

The second UN document referenced is Resolution 1976 adopted on 11 April 2011, which includes wording requesting relevant stakeholders “ to assist the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and regional authorities in Somalia in establishing a system of governance, rule of law and police control in lawless areas where land-based activities related to piracy are taking place”; and, “to support sustainable economic growth in Somalia. The UN Resolution further: supports the ongoing efforts by regional States in the development of anti-piracy courts or chambers in the region….; decides to urgently consider the establishment of specialized Somali courts to try suspected pirates both in Somalia and in the region, including an extraterritorial Somali specialized anti-piracy court….; and, invites States……to examine their domestic legal frameworks for detention at sea of suspected pirates”.

UN Resolution 1976 (2011) can be accessed at: http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Somalia%20S%20RES%201976.pdf

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