At a press conference in Garowe, Puntland, on the fifth day of his East African counter-piracy mission, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, told reporters: “Piracy is a complex challenge to the safety and security of fragile economies in East Africa. Ransoms generate millions of dollars for criminal groups and some of this money flows into other transnational organized crime activities such as human, weapon and drugs smuggling.”
To counter the piracy threat, Mr. Fedotov said there is a need for region-wide cooperation with partners such as Puntland playing a key role. So far, said Mr. Fedotov, UNODC’s response has been to seek fair, efficient trials and humane and secure imprisonment of piracy suspects in the region, with an emphasis on building capacity in Somalia. UNODC’s counter piracy programme currently has a US$55 million budget and operates in five different locations.
Working in Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles, UNODC has worked on police, court and prison conditions; offered training for police, prosecutors, judges and prison staff; and ensured that witnesses appear at court hearings. Suspected pirates have also received impartial legal advice. Illicit money flows from piracy were also being tracked under UNODC’s Global Programme against Money Laundering.
Mr. Fedotov said UNODC’s work is more than the delivery of a law enforcement and criminal justice response, it was “about piracy prevention, which means focusing on piracy as a development issue; offering alternative livelihoods; and raising awareness of the dangers of piracy among Somali youth”.
Based on UNODC’s latest figures, 1,186 Somali men now face prosecution in over 21 countries around the world. However, UNODC is also focusing on the source in Somalia by working with the Somali Coast Guard. “Our work in developing capacity to investigate piracy is also bringing added value to the entire justice chain by improving the investigations of other serious crimes,” Mr. Fedotov told the assembled journalists.
President Abdirahman Farole of Puntland also joined Mr. Fedotov at the press conference. Prior to the press conference, the two had met the Minister of Justice and Religious Affairs, Abdikalef Sheik Hassan, the Minister of Maritime Transport, Ports and Counter Piracy, Saeed Mohamed Rage, and the Director General for Counter-Piracy, Abdirizak Ahmed.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Fedotov had said, “I would encourage Puntland to continue supporting UNODC in its work to counter piracy and illicit financial flows, both through engagement in programme expansion, as well as close collaboration with our staff in the field.”
The UNODC Executive Director’s visit to Garowe, Puntland is part of a 10-day mission to East Africa to see, at first hand, the effect of piracy on East Africa, as well as UNODC’s strategic response. During the mission, Mr. Fedotov will visit a number of countries in the region, meet heads of government, as well as talk to UNODC staff about their work on the counter-piracy programme.