This week representatives from more than 70 nations, international organizations, and maritime trade organizations participating in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia are meeting in New York.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a crime of growing global concern, as it threatens commerce and humanitarian aid deliveries along one of the world's busiest shipping corridors. There is a growing recognition that piracy can only be effectively addressed through broad, coordinated, and comprehensive international efforts.
As a result, the United States helped establish the Contact Group in January 2009 to spur international action and coordinate counter-piracy efforts. The plenary session chaired by Singapore in New York this week, will build on our past efforts and should galvanize further action, as well as help harmonize counter-piracy policy among participating countries and international organizations.
Importantly, we are seeing more and more willingness amongst countries to take action. Since its initial meeting in January 2009, the Contact Group has nearly tripled in size. The Contact Group has facilitated the operational coordination of an unprecedented international naval effort from more than 30 countries working together to protect transiting vessels. The United States coordinates with NATO and the European Union in these efforts, and also looks to further develop counter-piracy cooperation with countries such as China, India, and Russia.
Working with the private shipping industry is also critical. The Contact Group has effectively partnered with the shipping industry to improve practical steps merchant ships and crews can take to avoid, deter, delay, and counter pirate attacks. The shipping industry's use of Best Management Practices and other counter-piracy guidance has proven to be the most effective deterrents against pirate attacks.
Finally, the Contact Group has strengthened the capacity of Somalia and other countries in the region to combat piracy, in particular, by raising contributions to the UN Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
Strengthening the international response to piracy is a key component of the State Department's broader strategic approach. After an intensive review of our strategy following the QUEST tragedy, Secretary Clinton approved a series of recommendations which, in addition to engaging the Contact Group and continuing our naval actions at sea, calls for exploring options to target pirate leaders and organizers on shore. Our intention is to pursue innovative measures to maximize all the tools at our disposal in order to disrupt the activities of the financiers, organizers and logistics suppliers of piracy. In line with the guidance from Secretary Clinton, the Contact Group has also launched a new initiative aimed at disrupting the pirate enterprise ashore, including its associated financial networks, through approaches similar to those used to target other types of organized transnational crime networks.
Through the work of the Contact Group and the State Department's new strategic approach, significant progress can be made to degrade the ability of pirates to conduct attacks and threaten vital shipping lanes. We should have no illusions: there is no simple solution to modern-day piracy off the Horn of Africa. But through the shared commitment of the United States and the international community there is much we can do in the months and years ahead to achieve progress against this growing challenge.