UN: Root cases of Somali piracy must be tackled

Guterres warns that attacks would continue until underlying causes of piracy resolved. (Credit: Suzanne Plunkett)

Despite significant efforts to minimise acts of Somali piracy through international efforts, the root causes of the problem still need to be addressed to further reduce attacks, according to the secretary-general of the United Nations (UN).

In António Guterres’ report S/2018/903, he praised efforts to reduce attacks in east Africa, noting the work of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, contributions from member states and international naval forces, and the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia and other UN and non-UN agencies. “Those measures, along with the observance of best management practice by all vessels, have sustained efforts to reduce the number of piracy incidents overall,” he said.

According to the International Maritime Bureau there were five attacks off the coast of Somalia in 2017, with 2018 having only two at time of press and neither resulting in successful hijackings or hostages being taken.

However, Guterres warned that attacks would continue until the underlying causes fuelling piracy were resolved. He stressed that piracy networks were “still very much active” and warned that four pirate action groups “remain ready to resume attacks should the opportunity present itself”, adding these groups are “opportunistic”, in large part due to the ease of access they have to skiffs and weapons.

The report noted that in 2017 there were several attempts to attack vessels during the normally quiet monsoon season. Furthermore, in 2018, the geographic high-risk area was extended, highlighting the pirates’ ability and intent to carry out attacks as “far across the Indian Ocean as possible”. There is also a trend of pirates not being deterred if their first attempt is unsuccessful.

Guterres stressed that the multitude of threats in the region meant there must be a clear and continued maritime security approach among the international community and Somali federal government.

In the long-term, he wrote, countering piracy will require the creation of a secure maritime region off the coast of Somalia, around the Horn of Africa, and down to the border with Kenya. However, he pointed to “political indecision” within Somalia’s government, focused on a lack of spending and of a security approach that addressed both maritime and land-based security issues, as the reason why such efforts had been hindered in the past.

“As long as those external and internal conditions remain, so will the risk of further acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia,” Guterres concluded in his report.