A group of nations working to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia met earlier this month in New York to coordinate international efforts to combat this global challenge.
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, representing 24 nations and 5 international organizations, was created under a call by the United Nations Security Council for a more effective response to the offshore raiders, who have wreaked havoc in the region with their attacks.
This is a significant step in dealing with the problems caused by pirate bands who have captured dozens of ships for ransom as the international community works to address the larger issues on land in Somalia that contribute to the problem.
Somalia’s coastline borders one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, linking the Mediterranean and Red seas to the Indian Ocean. Taking advantage of political instability ashore, bands of well-armed and mobile raiders are swooping down on isolated ships, quickly overcoming the crews.
The raids have roiled international commerce, but have also had a large local impact as shipments of critical humanitarian assistance for the Somali people have been attacked, putting the lives of millions of Somalis at risk.
There are currently many naval forces, including ships from the European Union, Russia, India, China, Malaysia and the United States, patrolling to protect humanitarian shipments and other merchant vessels transiting the area. The Contact Group will facilitate international cooperation to deter, disrupt and eventually bring to justice groups and individuals involved in acts of piracy.
At its meeting, the Contact Group organized international teams to improve operational and information support for the naval patrols, to strengthen judicial frameworks for the prosecution and detention of pirates, to reinforce activities by the commercial shipping industry to increase self-awareness and institute best practices; to pursue diplomatic and public information efforts; and to identify ways to disrupt pirate financial operations.
More will be done to make the seas off Somalia safe, but this unique collaboration among nations sends a strong message that the international community stands ready to help Somalia check the criminal activity plaguing its coast.