Executive Director defines role of UNODC in new counter-piracy plan for Somalia

piracy Français / French

4 February 2011 - As piracy off the coast of Somalia seems to be outpacing the efforts of the international community to stem it, today sees the launch by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and international partners of an action plan to combat piracy.

At IMO headquarters in London, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended IMO for its determination to spotlight the issue of piracy in 2011 and reiterated both his personal support and that of the United Nations as a whole for what is an important initiative.

Mr. Ban drew attention to the almost daily occurrence of pirate attacks: "As we gather here, 31 ships with more than 700 people are being held hostage. Moreover, ransom payments adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars have created a 'pirate economy' in some areas of Somalia that make them more resistant to efforts to develop alternative livelihoods."

"The role of the IMO in securing and developing Somalia's maritime sector could play an important part in alleviating the conditions that encourage people to turn to piracy", he said.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said that much more needs to be done to arrest and prosecute Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, emphasizing that "It is clear that the only viable long-term solution to the Somali piracy problem is to restore law and order in Somalia, including in its waters. It is also clear that this solution is some years off and will require concerted and coordinated international effort".

IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos said: "Underlying our efforts to achieve these objectives will be the need to engage at the political level to bring about a solution to the Somali problem and thus facilitate and expedite the release of the seafarers and any other persons held hostage."

"There should be no respite in our efforts to strengthen the protection of persons, ships and cargoes in piracy-affected areas", he added.

Mr. Fedotov welcomed last week's report by Mr. Jack Lang, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General, recommending further strengthening of a coordinated international response. "This is consistent with UNODC's counter-piracy programme, which focuses on supporting regional prosecutions and on rebuilding Somalia's criminal justice capacity. UNODC stands ready to support the implementation of recommendations as directed by Member States".

The UNODC counter-piracy programme , established in 2009, has effectively supported efforts to detain and prosecute piracy suspects according to international legal standards and respect for human rights.  The programme, funded largely by the European Union, focuses on three main objectives: fair and efficient trials and imprisonment in regional centres; humane and secure imprisonment in Somalia; and fair and efficient trials in Somalia.

UNODC is currently offering support to Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania. The Office manages the International Trust Fund of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which supports prosecution-related initiatives.

UNODC, together with multilateral partners, has enjoyed considerable success in its activities in the criminal justice sector. While the prison system in Somalia has suffered from chronic underfunding and, like the prison systems of Kenya and Seychelles, faces major challenges, it is hoped that a new prison opened by UNODC in Hargeisa in November 2010 with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme will help to overcome those challenges succesfully.

Related information:

Action plan to promote the 2011 World Maritime Day theme: "Piracy: orchestrating the response"