What's In Blue

Posted Thu 3 Dec 2020

Somalia Anti-Piracy Resolution

In keeping with the voting procedures established during the Covid-19 crisis, the Security Council commenced the 24-hour written voting procedure today on a draft resolution renewing the counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia that expire on 4 December.  South Africa will read out the results of the vote tomorrow (4 December) in its capacity as Council president. The zero draft resolution was circulated by the US, as penholder, on 27 November. On that day experts met briefly via videoconference to discuss the resolution. All subsequent negotiations were conducted via e-mail. The negotiations appear to have gone smoothly.

The draft resolution does not alter the existing measures authorised by the Council to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea. It renews for 12 months the authorisation for states and regional organisations cooperating with Somalia to enter Somali territorial waters and use all necessary means for the purpose of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea. It also renews the authorisation for such actors cooperating with Somalia to take these measures for the same purpose in Somali territory (on land), pursuant to the request of Somalia, while stressing that such measures should be consistent with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law. The draft resolution also emphasises the importance for all parties to cooperate and share intelligence in order to eradicate the threat from piracy.

A new addition to the text this year emphasises the need to build the capacity of Somalia’s coast guard. This language was apparently added to the resolution by the US at the request of the Somali government, shortly before the draft resolution went into blue.

There is also some new language this year stemming from the Secretary-General’s annual report, which Council members received on 2 November. The report, which covered the period from 1 November 2019 through 31 October 2020, notes that for the first time there were no incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia. This is welcomed in the draft resolution. While this is good news, the report stresses that the situation is far from stable and encourages continued international cooperation to consolidate security gains made in this area.

The report also emphasises that COVID-19 had had an impact on all matters surrounding piracy and armed robbery, including the fact that there was less shipping due to decreased demand. In-person coordination meetings, such as the annual plenary session of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, had to be postponed. While noting this, the draft resolution commends the work of incoming Council member Kenya as Chair of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia since 1 January, particularly given the restrictions during COVID-19. Kenya will hold the post until 1 January 2022. This group, whose membership is voluntary, was established through resolution 1851 (2008) and is made up of around 80 countries, organisations, and industry groups with an interest in combating Somalia’s piracy problem.

In the report’s observations, the Secretary-General urges continued efforts by the Somali Federal Government and international community to address root causes and drivers of piracy, specifically by promoting alternative livelihoods, tackling insecurity, addressing weak governance structures and suppressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Such measures are necessary in order to consolidate counterpiracy gains. According to the report, there is also ongoing collaboration between the international community and Somalia, in particular the Somali Maritime Administration Department, on counter-piracy measures, including technical advice from various UN offices to military support through the Combined Maritime Forces and EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta. Language recognising such collaboration has been kept in the draft resolution from past years.

While the Council has recently been divided on some issues regarding Somalia—such as the future of the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the sanctions regime, as reflected by abstentions by China and Russia on resolution 2551 of 12 November, on Somalia sanctions—counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia appear to have unanimous support in the Council.