What's In Blue

Posted Fri 3 Dec 2021

Somalia: Anti-Piracy Resolution*

Today (3 December), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution authorising member states and regional organisations cooperating with Somali authorities to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia for three months. The measures were last renewed in resolution 2554 of 4 December 2020.

The US, the penholder on the Somalia anti-piracy resolution, convened the first round of negotiations on 29 November and continued to engage in bilateral consultations with Council members in the following days. As no consensus transpired during the bilateral discussions, the US convened a second round of negotiations on 2 December (the originally planned adoption date) and rescheduled the vote for today. A revised draft passed a short silence this morning. It appears that the penholder and other Council members engaged with Somalia prior to and throughout the negotiation process.

Resolutions on combatting piracy off the coast of Somalia have traditionally enjoyed the full support of the Council. The first resolution on piracy in Somalia (resolution 1816 of 2 June 2008) and all subsequent resolutions on this issue have been adopted unanimously. Somalia also supported the anti-piracy measures.

This year Somalia appears to have advocated for the discontinuation of the anti-piracy measures, however. A few weeks before the mandate expiry date, Somalia apparently approached the penholder and other Council members, requesting that they consider not renewing the measures. In this regard, they apparently maintained that there had been a reduction in piracy-related events off their coast, that security responsibilities needed to be increasingly transferred to the federal government and that it was important to combat piracy by addressing its underlying socioeconomic causes. During last year’s adoption, Somalia issued a statement emphasising that “there has been a massive reduction in the number of piracy-related incidents in the past three years thanks to the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts, in collaboration with the international community. For the first time in more than a decade, there is no single piracy-related incident off the coast of Somalia”.

In the past two years, the Secretary-General’s annual reports on piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia have indicated that no piracy events had been recorded. Issued on 3 November, this year’s report states that “the continued absence of successful piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia demonstrates the effectiveness of the measures applied by the Federal Government of Somalia, the shipping industry and the international community, including the Security Council and military and naval forces”. It nonetheless also notes that “the continued presence of pirate action groups and networks remains of concern and highlight that piracy has yet to be fully eradicated”. In the Secretary-General’s view, further efforts are needed to continue to address the root causes of piracy.

The negotiations on the draft appear to have reflected the penholder’s attempt to bridge Council members’ views and those of Somalia, especially given the need for Somalia’s consent to the measures and the importance of its cooperation regarding their implementation. Since the adoption of resolution 1816, the Council has repeatedly affirmed that the Somali government has to provide written consent prior to the adoption or renewal of anti-piracy measures.  Regarding cooperation with the Somali government when implementing the measures, resolution 2554 “stresses the need for a comprehensive response to prevent and suppress piracy and tackle its underlying causes by the international community in collaboration with Somali authorities and other relevant actors”.

It seems that the US initially proposed a twelve-month renewal, which appears to have been supported by other Council members. As Somalia objected to this timeframe, the negotiations centred mostly around the length of the measures’ renewal. Following talks between Somalia, on the one hand, and the penholder and other Council members on the other, Somalia seems to have moved from its initial position of advocating discontinuation of the measures to suggesting a renewal of two months. The pen appears to have suggested six months as a compromise solution, which some Council members apparently found agreeable. Others, especially EU members of the Council, reportedly supported another twelve-month renewal. Following further negotiations, also in consultation with Somalia, the penholder placed a draft under silence featuring a three-month renewal. It appears that all members were willing to accept this.

Several multilateral and bilateral efforts are currently underway to implement the anti-piracy measures. Operation Atalanta, the EU anti-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia, which acts under the Security Council’s authorisation, is mandated by EU Council Decision 2020/2188 of 1 January to “deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast”.

In addition to the EU Mission, the Combined Maritime Forces—a multinational naval coalition comprising 34 Member States, including Council members France, Norway, UK, and the US—are also conducting anti-piracy operations. Individual member states have also deployed vessels to ensure safe maritime traffic in the region.

*Post-script: On 3 December, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2608, renewing the anti-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia for three months. The EU Council members delivered explanations of vote, stating that a shorter timeline jeopardised planning and efforts regarding current and future maritime security set-ups (Estonia); that it risked creating a security vacuum (France); and that the shorter timeframe may threaten the continuation of the EU naval force deployed to the region, Operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta (Ireland).