It's been just over a year since the United States joined with partners across the international community to establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which has honored Secretary Clinton's call for a 21st century solution to a 17th century crime of pirate attacks in the waters off the Horn of Africa. In the year since this voluntary effort was founded following the United Nations call for such an effort, it has grown from 24 countries to more than 50 countries. In addition, several international organizations participate, including the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States, the International Maritime Organization, INTERPOL, and NATO.
Those of us participating in the Contact Group also share a conviction that joint action, sharing of effective tactics and strategies, and coordination of military, business, and legal measures together offer the best means of dealing with piracy. In that regard, there are three general areas in which we have made steady progress to meet this challenge:
Security: Everyday, ships from more than 20 nations jointly patrol the Gulf of Aden, creating an internationally recognized transit corridor to provide safe passage for the 30,000 cargo ships that pass through this area every year. This effort represents cooperation not only among American and European naval forces participating under NATO and the European Union, but also remarkable individual contributions by a number of other countries, such as Russia, China, and India. This is a result of a coordination mechanism based in Bahrain, which also obviates the need for a supreme commander to lead the effort. As a result, the success rate for pirate attacks in this transit corridor has fallen to nearly zero. It's a good model not only for the Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin, but for future cooperative security endeavors.
Partnering with Industry: Since naval vessels can't be everywhere all of the time, employment of relatively simple means of deterring pirates, such as briefing crews and increasing watch in high-risk waters, upgrading lighting, preparing to take evasive action or positioning fire hoses to repel would-be boarders, has proven to be the most important factor in the declining rate of successful pirate attacks in the region. Over the last year, the Contact Group has worked closely with the International Maritime Organization to establish and codify best management practices that ships should employ when they're in this dangerous territory. We hope to see other states require the same kind of best management practices that we've adopted for U.S.-flagged commercial ships operating in the region. It's the lowest cost and most effective way to deter pirate attacks.
Legal prosecutions: Since piracy has long been defined as a universal crime, every state has the jurisdiction to prosecute pirates. Whether it's an attack on their flag, their property or their citizens, we encourage the states affected by piracy to prosecute. We recognize, in particular, that Kenya has stepped forward and offered itself as a site for the prosecution of suspected pirates. This has been a step of great responsibility, and we respect and thank the Kenyans for taking that step.
What also binds Contact Group participants together is a realization that the root causes of piracy off the coast of Somalia rest in the state of disorder that has characterized Somalia now for 20 years. While a parallel UN-led diplomatic effort to stabilize Somalia continues on land, the Contact Group seeks to manage piracy's consequences for disruption to aid and trade, as well as the human cost it ultimately imposes upon the people of Somalia.
We're mindful of some of the motivations that cause young Somali men to go to sea in this desperate effort. The economic situation in Somalia has led to a situation in which some may undertake these very high-risk criminal activities. However, when past pirate attacks have been successful, the money has not come back primarily to benefit the economy of Somalia. As in other forms of criminal activity, the people deriving the primary benefit are the enablers and organizers on land convincing young men to endanger their lives. To these organized crime leaders, the young Somali man is just as disposable as the leaky old boats and second-hand small arms they use to threaten shipping traffic.
The United States supports the Djibouti Peace Process as the Somali-led vehicle for bring stability back to Somalia. We encourage Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to reach out to those actors who want peace in Somalia and to move forward on transitional tasks. As surely as the Somali fisherman, farmer and teacher are victims of Somalia's continuing land-based instability, peace and stability can only be realized by addressing Somalia's governance, security, humanitarian and development needs.
Related Content: Briefing on U.S. Anti-Piracy Efforts.