About the Author: Dr. Jun Bando serves as the Maritime Security Coordinator and U.S. Africa Command Liaison for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs.
In the past week, the international community has taken two significant steps in addressing piracy off the coast of Somalia. On Wednesday, January 14, 24 countries and five international organizations met in New York and agreed to a framework for enhancing international coordination in counter-piracy efforts. The group, known as the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, was formed in response to a call from the United Nations Security Council to improve the coordination of international activities to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1851, unanimously adopted on December 16, urged the international community to create a mechanism to improve coordination between countries and international organizations, and expanded the range of actions the international community could potentially take to stem piracy near Somalia.
The contact group’s areas of focus will include improving information sharing and military coordination, strengthening legal mechanisms for the handling and prosecution of suspected pirates, and improving the shipping industry’s ability to avoid being victimized by piracy. The discussions in New York were very positive and constructive, and I’m optimistic that the contact group will contribute significantly to the effectiveness of international efforts to reduce piracy.
A second major development occurred on Friday, January 16, when the United Nations Security Council agreed to contribute financial and material support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and expressed its intention to authorize a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation as a follow-on force to AMISOM by June 1. The African Union has bravely borne the burden of peacekeeping in Somalia to date; however, a lack of sufficient resources has hindered its ability to deploy fully and fulfill its mandate. It’s clear that a durable solution for ending piracy in the Horn of Africa will require improving security, stability, rule of law, and economic opportunity in Somalia, as well as solidifying political progress by forming a unity government and advancing the peace process. The United Nation’s decision to provide critical support to AMISOM will strengthen one key element -- security -- of this comprehensive approach.
Many other piracy-related efforts have recently taken place on the international stage, including a meeting convened in Nairobi by Kenya and the United Nations in December to discuss concrete recommendations for reducing piracy in the Horn of Africa. Last week’s developments compliment and support these and other important efforts.
In fact, the international response to piracy near Somalia has been remarkably cohesive. In meeting after meeting, diplomats, development experts, and military officers have all emphasized two messages: that the international community must strengthen and better coordinate its efforts to address piracy near Somalia, and that a durable solution to reducing piracy must address the root cause of piracy -- the situation in Somalia. This unity of purpose bolsters hope that the international community and Somalia will succeed in reducing piracy and stabilizing the country. We may also see new partnerships built and existing partnerships strengthened, as the United States, other countries, and international organizations continue forward in this effort.