On-shore peace, stability solution to piracy in Somalia, says UN official

15:23, August 17, 2010      

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Offshore piracy in Somalia can be eliminated if certain solutions are implemented in the Horn of Africa country, a UN official said.

Joao Honwana, director of the Africa I Division (Southern and Eastern Africa) of the UN Department of Political Affairs, told Xinhua that the main reason behind piracy is the lack of a normal and functioning state in the war-torn country.

"The piracy off the coast of Somalia happens because there is trouble on shore," Honwana said. "Because of the absence of the state and alternative livelihoods, big numbers of young people are attracted to criminal activities including piracy."

He said the long-term and sustainable solution to piracy is to create on-shore peace and stability.

The international community has already given impressive responses to the pressing issue, including stepping up the presence of the international naval forces there.

"We have naval forces from the European Union, NATO, individual member states like China, Malaysia, India and others ...significant resources are there, which is important and has to continue," Honwana said.

Also, a trust fund was created to support the prosecution of those involved in piracy activities, he said.

In April, the UN Security Council put forward the proposal of establishing international tribunals to try pirates, with members calling for tougher legislation to prosecute and jail suspects caught off Somalia.

"Obviously there is a long-term solution, which is the strengthening of Somalia's own capacity to conduct investigation, prosecution and arrest of those who are convicted," Honwana said.

"Pirates are becoming bolder and bolder. They are now striking very far away from the coast of Somalia -- as far south as the territorial waters of the Seychelles; as far north as near the coast of India, sometimes they are able to strike commercial vessels that are cruising 800 or 1000 miles off the coast of Somalia," he said, calling for more sufficient responses from the international community.

Data from the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) shows that there were 406 pirate attacks in 2009, 100 more than in 2008 and showing a seven-fold growth over the four-year period to 2009. By far the largest concentration is off the coast of East Africa.

"Piracy is a serious challenge that we'll have to do more (about), but the long-term and sustainable solution is to resolve the political crisis within Somalia and make the country a normal, functioning state. That's the key," Honwana said.

He called on countries to address the structural causes that allow piracy to thrive.

"It's going to take time. It's going to take effort," he said. "But if we implement the right solutions, I'm sure piracy is beatable."

Source: Xinhua


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