By Steve Matthews – LLOYD’S LIST
Possible measures against maritime piracy and in particular pirate attacks originating in Somalia were debated for the first time on Friday at an informal meeting of the full United Nations General Assembly in New York. Its growing importance was reflected in the fact that sessions lasting a full day were dedicated to various aspects of the piracy problem.
IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos moderated one of three panel debates and called for increased international co-operation.
The UN Security Council has discussed piracy on several occasions and passed resolutions on various measures, including allowing naval forces to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and proposals to set up international tribunals for the prosecution of pirates, but this was the first occasion that all 192 members of the assembly had the opportunity to give their views.
The debate covered a wide range of aspects, including the political and legal issues of bringing pirates and those supporting them to justice. Those present at the meeting included Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdurahman Ibrahim.
Assembly president Ali Abdussalam Treki called for broader international efforts and resources to combat piracy, especially off Somalia, including further legally binding measures by the Security Council.
“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.
But he said that the solution must be “a truly holistic approach” covering political, security, governance and humanitarian needs in a country, which has had no functioning central government and has been torn apart by factional fighting for nearly two decades.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon pointed out that attacks are increasing despite international naval patrols and these include attacks on ship chartered to carry UN food aid to Somalia. But he too recognised that piracy could not be solved by action taken at sea alone.
“There is simply too much water to patrol, and an almost endless supply of pirates,” he said.
He said that any resolution to the problem would require action to re-establish security and stability.
“Stability on land would, undoubtedly, improve the situation at sea.”
Mr Mitropoulos called for a change in strategy, including further international co-operation and the establishment of a legal system to bring pirates to justice. He added that piracy must be considered in the wider context of maritime security.
“There are many issues involved, including container security, human trafficking, smuggling, organised crime, and money laundering. Piracy cannot be addressed without taking on these other crimes.”
Mr Mitropoulos told the Assembly that multilateral co-operation arrangements, between and among states, regions and institutions can reduce the risk of unprovoked piracy attacks on innocent ships. He said that it is essential that states continue establishing effective co operative mechanisms and that the UN provides a leading role. He highlighted the example of successful collaboration among countries in Southeast Asia to reduce attacks in the Straits of Malacca.
“We expect that the systems and infrastructure we are putting in place will help to reduce substantially the operation of pirates in the region, just as they did in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore,” he said.
Although the General Assembly meeting was informal and did not make any official resolutions, the assembly chairman will produce a summary report. The debate itself reflects the increasing political urgency attached to implementing further international measures to deal with the problem and its underlying causes