x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Somali foreign minister criticises global response to piracy problem

Minister tells UAE anti-piracy conference the global response to the piracy problem has been 'half-hearted'.

DUBAI // In a blunt keynote address to open an anti-piracy conference yesterday the Somali foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, criticised what he called a half-hearted global response to the problem of piracy.

"We wait to be convinced that the international community has the will to tackle piracy in a clear strategic partnership with the Somali government for the rebirth of the national Somali state," he said.

"Without this, we see no likelihood of success against piracy."

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The international response so far - including naval patrols, new pirate courts and prisons - has targeted only the symptoms of the problems, he said, and not invested enough in Somalia itself.

"All components of this strategy have focused on legal, financial and military measures to deal with consequences of piracy. They do not and have not addressed the root causes of piracy.

"Equally, all programmes and investments made have focused on projects outside Somalia and its territorial waters. There are none of any significance in Somalia."

Several delegates from South Korea, Pakistan, Yemen and other countries affirmed the need to act immediately and to focus on rebuilding Somalia.

A critical role of the conference this week is to raise money for the UN counter-piracy trust fund set up in January last year. It has used US$4.2 million (Dh15.4m) of $6.9m previously donated.

About $25m is needed over the next three years to build pirate prisons and courts, plus extra funds for development aid in Somalia, said Jack Lang, the former special adviser to the UN secretary general on piracy.

However, he said the international community had in fact devoted resources to aiding Somalia. "It's not true to say there was nothing inside. Very big work was undertaken by northern countries, by Nato, by others," he said. "But now we have to go further."

Last month the UN spent about $1.5m to construct a 460-bed prison in Somaliland, an autonomous region in the north of Somalia.

There are also UN plans to build another prison in Puntland, a region in central Somalia from which many pirates come.

Officials from both regions signed agreements yesterday, on the sidelines of the conference, to take in pirate prisoners who had been convicted abroad.

Last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution encouraging more prisons and courts to be built, including in Somaliland and Puntland.

The resolution drew largely from proposals submitted by Mr Lang.

The conference, coming so soon after the new Security Council resolution, was timely, Mr Lang said. "It will reinforce international consciousness," and, "if possible, get money".

chuang@thenational.ae