While counter-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean have the surface effect in deterring piracy incidents, they do not really work as a permanent solution to the problem. Security experts are correct in asserting that the key to stopping the problem once and for all is to focus on the internal situation on land in Somalia.
International efforts need to be made to work with Somalia to bolster internal law enforcement, but even more importantly, create alternative opportunities for those that would potentially be drawn to piracy.
The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, Yury Fedotov, recently ended a tour of the hot-spots for piracy in East Africa. Upon concluding in the island nation of Mauritius, the discussed counter-piracy efforts and what could be done for a long-term solution to the problem. On his tour he met with high-ranking political and military officials of Seychelles, Kenya, Somali and Mauritius. He also met with counter-piracy and organized crime experts.
On the issue, Fedotov asserted that if the international community is to successfully counter piracy, we must break-up the criminal groups, identify and isolate the ringleaders and financiers, and disrupt their cash shipments through coordinated police and border work. UNODC’s role is to support the criminal justice chain. We also recognize that there is no piracy without pirates. As a result, downstream, we need strong advocacy from community leaders and others in Somalia to prevent young men hijacking ships.”
While it may not seem like it on the surface, piracy is a complex problem that requires a multifaceted response. While UNODC has spent $55 million USD on counter-piracy in the last four years, further efforts are needed. In the past years, the program has focused on holding trials for pirates and providing safe, appropriate prisons for them to be held at, because their home nation of Somalia is in no state to conduct such operations.
Many of the pirates have been tried and imprisoned in neighboring countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya. Fedotov met with these heads of states to thank them for their contributions to the international effort.
While efforts at developing an effective method for trying and imprisoning pirates is certainly a step in the solution to the problem, it still only addresses the most visible symptom. Beyond cooperating to contain pirates, countries will need to further join forces to help Somalia back onto its feet, and allow its citizens other options than piracy.