Children and Youth in Marine Piracy: Causes, Consequences and the Way Forward


According to the Failed States Index Data 2011, created by the Fund for Peace Organization, 6 countries most affected by piratical activity fall within the top 15 most fragile states. This includes Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Pakistan, Yemen and Nigeria. Piracy is not the main factor as to why these countries are fragile, at the same time, not all fragile littoral states have marine piracy.

However, this does demonstrate the importance of looking at the broader social, political and economic environment that enables piracy.
Understanding the human factors associated with piracy activity and the root causes is critical to the development of solutions to address piracy.

The Dalhousie Marine Piracy Project (DMPP) has undertaken such an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to addressing the problem of
contemporary piracy and its impact on the shipping and coastal communities.

In so doing, it comprehensively examined the four interdependent themes of Law and Governance, Socio-Economic, Operational Responses, and Information Management; assessed current literature on the topic ofcontemporary marine piracy; and, through analysis of that work, highlighted potential areas for policy development and implementation.

Piracy appears to develop where weak or non-existent government and enforcement capabilities, impoverished coastal communities, and shipping targets exist in relatively close proximity. Other elements such as organized criminality, youth unemployment, political conflict and even natural disasters may also contribute to the likelihood of piracy emerging as a major threat toshipping in a particular region. The DMPP has examined the economic, political and social conditions, which have led to contemporary outbreaks of piracy with the intention of identifying and evaluating the effectiveness of current and proposed responses to piracy.

This paper highlights an important and growing issue identified from the DMPP research. Of deep concern is the increasing evidence that children and youth are being recruited by piracy gangs with little recognition among those responsible for addressing piracy and the complexities this introduces. For this particular problem, however, it is important to note that systematic collection of data on this matter does not currently exist and as such, it has been difficult to conduct a clear, evidenced-based assessment of the situation.

As such, three key objectives of this paper are: (i) to raise the awareness of the failure to address the question of the involvement of children and youth by those involved in either studying or addressing piracy and (ii) to provide a rationale for the collection and accessibility of is aggregated data on those committing piracy by those who are capturing, releasing, reporting and prosecuting those involved in piracy activity and (iii) to provide possible alternatives to addressing marine piracy by focusing on the challenges posed by the involvement of children and youth. In addition, it should be noted that many who are involved in studying or addressing marine piracy have failed to pose questions regarding the involvement of children and youth. This means that a critical gap in the data collection, research, and responses to marine piracy have yet to be considered as a potential approach in the overall effort to halt or reduce marine piracy.

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Original Article