A riddle: If pirate attacks drop to zero, should Contact Group on Piracy still exist?
File photo: Somali pirates surrender at sea when a US Navy ship approaches them, February 11, 2009. (Jason R. Zalasky, US Navy)
(Seychelles News Agency) - If pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have dropped to nearly zero, does the international community still need a Contact Group on Piracy? That group is meeting in Seychelles this week to discuss that very issue.
The group’s 19th plenary session opened on Tuesday under the theme ‘From the Region to the Region: Creating a Lasting Legacy’.
Deputy head of CGPCS Jacques Belle said that faced with new maritime threats, the delegates will have to decide on the contact group’s future mandate and structure.
“Pirate attacks have reduced, but there are other maritime threats in the Indian Ocean. Participants will need to express their opinions clearly on what they think should be the way forward,” said Belle.
|Group photo of delegates attending the conference. (Joena Bonnealme, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia is an international governance mechanism established in New York in January 2009 to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among states and organisations to suppress Somali piracy.
To date, more than 60 countries and international organisations have become part of the forum.
The Seychelles archipelago of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean has been on the forefront in the fight against piracy in the region and assumed the presidency of the CGPCS in January this year.
At the opening of the session, Seychelles’ Vice President Danny Faure said lasting security and prosperity remained the island nation’s ultimate objective.
“The face of maritime crime is evolving, as are the challenges they present. To rest on our laurels would be to put us on the back foot against these criminals,” said Faure.
Despite the fact that pirate attacks have dropped to near zero off the Somali coast over the last several years, the vice president said there was no room for complacency, and the CGPCS should be dynamic in its response to tackling all forms of maritime crime.
|To date, more than 60 countries and international organisations have become part of the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia. (Joena Bonnealme, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Joel Morgan, chairperson of CGPCS, added that there was a need to reinforce further and step up the regional capacity building, and that the region is counting on the support of the international community.
Morgan said the continued reports of terrorists attacks and other related threats such as drugs and weapons trafficking has proven how vulnerable the world and especially our region can be if these dangers are not dealt with.
“Maritime security operations in the region should continue, and evolve to address threats which are as well evolving. This needs to be done so that we safeguard the rule of law in the region and where needed, improving on our capacity,” said Morgan.
Somalia’s Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir said his government welcomed initiatives that helped build their country’s capacity, protect its exclusive economic zone and prosecute criminals.
Dahir visited the main detention centre, the Montagne Posee Prison on the main island of Mahe, where 20 Somali pirates are being held. He thanked the government for treating them with humanity and compassion.
|Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Joel Morgan (first photo) Somalia’s Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir (centre) and the Seychelles Vice President Danny Faure addressing the conference on Tuesday. (Joena Bonnealme, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
In the CGPCS’ last meeting in February in Mumbai, India, members agreed on further regionalizing the work of the group and working towards a sustainable transition strategy as a core objective.
Among other points discussed at the meeting were the extensions of the CGPCS mandate to cover maritime security issues, such as illegal fishing and piracy situations in other regions, such as West Africa, or Southeast Asia.
Belle told the press all these recommendations will be addressed at this week’s session and “hopefully we will have a common stance at the end of the session on Friday.”
During the one-week meeting, delegates will also be able to visit the judiciary, the Seychelles Coast Guard and as well the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (REFLECS3).