Battling maritime piracy

by Sarah Jacotine

As part of UAE Counter Piracy Week, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and DP World’s UAE Counter-Piracy Conference in Dubai addressed the challenges of maritime piracy. 

Piracy, terrorism and criminal activities originating in Somalia can only be addressed by creating a climate of engagement and empowerment that encourages employment for Somalia’s young people was the key message that came out of the fourth annual UAE Counter-Piracy Conference.

The public and private sector came together at the summit, held from October 29-30 at the JW Marriot Marquis, Dubai, to discuss counter piracy efforts, security, international investment and Somalia capacity building under the theme ‘Securing State Recovery: Sustaining Momentum at Sea, Confronting Instability on Land’.

The three-day event highlighted the importance of community engagement and supporting home grown businesses in countering instability, attracting investment and creating a sense of belonging among Somali nationals.

Despite a considerable decrease in piracy attacks in the Horn of Africa over the past two years and the number of hostages held falling from 48 to 37 since 2013, maritime threats in the region continue.

Piracy hotspots have also shifted, largely to the coast of Nigeria and West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea. The latter in particular has suffered from a rise in open-ocean attacks, indicating that the capabilities of the pirates is increasing.

Speaking at the conference, chairman of DP World Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem discussed DP World’s efforts this year to engage with Somalis from a variety of backgrounds and reported to the 600 delegates in attendance on the company’s findings.

He described those who took part in the focus groups as “absolutely passionate” about rebuilding Somalia, which used to have a thriving agricultural and fishing-based economy.

“Their message was clear – Somalia has moved from emergency to recovery and they want to be part of that recovery,” he stated.

“And while they look to the international community to invest in Somalia, they will not look to the international community to “fix” their country – they will do that themselves.”

The UAE has played a leading role in international efforts to counter the threat of piracy and raise public awareness about this threat for several years. In his welcome note at the conference, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan reiterated that international efforts have yielded tangible successes with the decrease of the pirates’ attacks during the past two years.

He pledged renewed support from the UAE and also commended the Somali Government on its progress in bringing peace to the people of Somalia and in re-establishing justice, while calling on countries around the world fight against piracy and terrorism.

“The battle is far from won,” he warned. “Unfortunately, there are some worrisome signs. Off the coast of Somalia, the number of naval forces is slowly shrinking, armed teams are getting smaller and merchant ships are drifting closer to dangerous areas. We cannot be lulled into complacency.”

In Dr Abdirahman Duale Beyle’s speech, Somalia’s Foreign Minister, at the conference, he praised the UAE for playing a key role in countering the effects of a prolonged civil war: “If you continue your support to Somalia, we can go back to peace and progress.

“Piracy attacks have declined substantially and the Somali government is working to track, negotiate and release seafarers who have been held hostage.”

He also discussed the poverty and lack of proper livelihood opportunities for young people in Somalia, stating that with 70 percent of the Somalian population aged under 30 years old, the situation is “dire”.

“Piracy is youngsters looking for a livelihood who have no other options,” he explained. “To end piracy we have to create opportunities for these kids.”

The conference follows hot on the heels of an event organised by DP World and the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai under the theme ‘Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Opportunities, Communities Engagement and Soft Diplomacy’.

In a statement released after this event, which was attended by government officials, industry experts, academics and Somali youth, DP World group CEO Mohammed Sharaf stressed the importance of helping Somalia move beyond piracy to become a vibrant economy once again.

He also commented: “Public-private partnerships are a way to develop economies and infrastructure. We have experience of PPP agreements around the world, particularly where governments are often seeking expertise as much as they are pursuing foreign direct investment.”

INEGMA Director of Research and Consultancy Dr. Theodore Karasik added: “Creating hope in Somali societies will encourage communities to implement change and soft power that develops cooperation strategies between public and private stakeholders as alternatives to a military or coercive approach. Emphasising the role of local cultures and policies is crucial in promoting national security and boosting the economic sector.

“At the same time, measures such as Communication for Development (C4D) – a communication tool and process for sustainable democratic development – have emerged as drivers for the delivery of aid programmes involving social media campaigns which could impact the recruitment of young people into piracy.”

One of the key takeaways from this conference was the acknowledgement that, as the threat of piracy evolves to encompass a more transnational nature, there is also an increase in prospects for cooperation which entails more effective mutual assistance and greater collaboration between countries, agencies, and industry.

Both summits concluded that the empowerment of youths highlighted the vital importance of engaging these marginalised groups in society for the enduring growth and prosperity of the region.

Tools for youth investment and mechanisms to counter violence were advocated as key to addressing this issue; only in building an economy that offers Somali youth attractive and sustainable options and opportunities can piracy convincingly be countered.


Original Article