DUBAI // Somalia must build its coastguard, judicial institutions and provide jobs to young people to tackle the root causes of piracy, said the country’s president.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asked for long-term international support while confirming his nation’s commitment to fight piracy before an audience of government ministers, military personnel and heads of maritime and security businesses at the third Counter-Piracy conference in Dubai on Wednesday.
“The country is now ready to work with international partners in implementing key priorities such as security, justice reform, public finance management, good governance,” Mr Mohamud said.
“We are also building our coastguard capabilities in order to protect our waters from pirates … Building an effective coast guard can interdict, disrupt and persecute pirates while ensuring transnational trade and maritime security in the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean.”
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the UAE was committed to helping Somalia realise its aims by providing support in development projects to fight piracy and build trade in areas such as renewable energy.
“Somalia’s progress towards stability is one of the main means to ensure that piracy is eliminated in the region,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
“A stable Somalia will be reflected in the strength and stability of the entire region.”
Sheikh Abdullah also reiterated the Government’s decision to open an embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
In May, the UAE pledged to provide US$50 million (Dh183.6m) to enhance Somalia’s security capabilities, strengthen political cooperation and deliver humanitarian assistance.
The UAE has so far provided $22m to Somalia in development aid, of which a large portion has gone towards food aid programmes and supplying drinking water.
“We hope the conference will intensify efforts against maritime piracy and I urge you to send a clear message to the supporters and leaders of piracy that we will never tolerate maritime piracy,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
Experts say that while piracy is on the decline with the last successful seizure of a large commercial ship around a year ago, shipping companies continue to invest in the use of private armed guards and maintaining naval escorts to battle the problem.
The direct cost of combatting piracy was estimated at about $6 billion for 2012, according to advocacy group Oceans Beyond Piracy’s annual report released in April this year.
The Somali leadership outlined initiatives to deal with piracy by reaching out to local communities and creating jobs.
“We have engaged in negotiations with a potential contact to allow penetration into the piracy networks,” Mr Mohamud said.
“We need help to rebuild our prosecution capacity and rehabilitation centres so that young Somalis will be able to face trial in their own country and be rehabilitated within their communities.
“We hope that this conference will address the root causes of piracy, which are poverty, lack of functioning institutions, lack of hope and opportunities for our young people,” Mr Mohamud said.
Support in building clinics, schools, roads would help the youth stay away from piracy, he said.
“Two generations have lost out on jobs and we are now talking with the rest of the world to provide opportunities to young boys so tomorrow they don’t go back to the sea and piracy,” he said.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the chairman of DP World, said the company was ready to participate in public-private sector programmes.
The conference was organised by the Foreign Ministry in collaboration with DP World and Abu Dhabi Ports Company to enable such partnerships
“Sustainability comes with solid infrastructure and economic conditions that offer opportunities for growth,” Mr bin Sulayem said.
“Our industry has much to offer in its experience … maritime piracy can be eliminated only through multi-faceted solutions that take on the challenges both on the seas and on shore.”