International Partnerships Reduce Indo-Pacific PiracyPiracy is often thought to be a practice of the past, if not romanticized in fictional portrayals. Today, pirates are still prevalent. In 2020, piracy increased by 20% worldwide and doubled in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.N. reports this unprecedented threat in the Gulf of Guinea affecting regional stability and global peace. In response, major powers, including India, China and the U.S., are working together to see international partnerships reduce Indo-Pacific piracy.

Past Collaborations

In 2008, after piracy surged, Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) — an anti-piracy operation — was formed to coordinate missions among China, America, Japan and India. This alliance aimed to prevent piracy and poverty in pirate-prevalent nations. Then, in September 2009, the U.S. and China ramped up their collaboration. In total, the Chinese Navy, with U.S. assistance, “rescued … 43 ships in 32 missions.”

The Gulf of Aden, however, is perhaps the greatest cooperative victory. Much of the world’s oil and food exports are transported through the gulf, making the Gulf of Aden a crucial economic pipeline. In 2010, a U.N. Contact Group approved the U.S. and China’s plans for mitigating piracy in the Gulf, supported by India.

Anti-piracy initiatives with this level of cooperation are much more effective than a single nation’s efforts. No country can handle the vast ocean alone. As a naval expert said, “ To catch a pirate, cooperation is key.” Cooperating to end piracy may also save the world up to $12 billion a year and help decrease global poverty, according to a non-profit’s 2010 report.

Recent Initiatives

China partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard to clamp down on piracy and prevent primarily low-income countries in the Indo-Pacific from experiencing pirate-inflicted economic damage. Meanwhile, Japan joined U.S. and U.K. naval vessels in 2021 anti-piracy drills, providing another guard against pirates.

More broadly, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an alliance consisting of the U.S., Australia, India and Japan, recently planned several joint defense operations for mitigating Indo-Pacific piracy. In 2021, the alliance set a precedent where all four countries participated for the second consecutive year in over a decade.

American Funding

Piracy often begins in poverty and goes on to cause poverty, creating a loop. Put simply: poverty motivates potential pirates to steal. Rather than more minor acts of thievery, this often spirals into massive maritime violations. In the past decade, Congress considered funding vulnerable countries as a method of piracy prevention. Thus, in the past year, the U.S. provided $253 million for financial development in Somalia.

Furthermore, Congress passed the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative, which would gradually dispense $425 million toward piracy prevention. By economically supporting the Indo-Pacific region, overall poverty decreases and residents are less likely to resort to piracy. Piracy and its adverse effects can diminish by continuing to facilitate anti-poverty programs in the Indo-Pacific and other vulnerable regions. Major world powers have shown that cooperation works. Their international partnerships reduce Indo-Pacific piracy and help ease global poverty.

– Ashwin Telang
Photo: Flickr

The International Maritime Bureau published a report detailing the decreasing amount of Somali piracy incidents. The report details a nearly 40% drop in maritime piracy on the coast, with only 15 incidents occurring in 2013. This is a drastic decrease from the nearly 237 in 2011. The decline has been slowly occurring since 2011.

Why has this been occurring? Many international observers point to a stronger Somali government structure, backed by the African Unions security forces. Somalia has long been plagued with severe poverty and inadequate security measures in recent years, and a growing financial security and the African Unions military efforts to quell the Al-Shabab terrorist network.

Piracy was long seen as the only option for many Somali’s, who viewed piracy as a way to gain fast money to help survive in the harsh wasteland that is Somalia. Puntland, the self-declared independent nation located in Central Somalia has been often described as a pirate paradise. The nation is not internationally recognized, but functions with it’s own government separate from the Transitional Federal Government located in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu. Puntland is notorious for corruption, and many pirates have found a peaceful existence there with a government that more than likely condones it’s actions due to the ineffectiveness to combat it.

The United Nations recently invested millions to build a prison to contain the pirates in the city of Garowe, but international observers question whether Puntland will actively jail these offenders as corruption has run rampant throughout many of the levels of the unofficial government. Somaliland, the other unrecognized state in northern Somalia, is more stable and has taken international support to combat piracy. Many view this as the nations own bid to gain “state-like” status amongst the international community and possibly attain recognized status.

The Transitional Federal Government located in Mogadishu has not been majorly involved in the piracy problem. The region is mostly dealing with Al-Shabab, the international terrorist organization that is attempting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic government. The Ethiopian backed African Union troops have managed to attain military victories against them, but the general anti-Ethiopian feeling amongst the Somali populace is alleged to bolster Al-Shabab’s recruiting efforts. Ethiopia recently ramped up its military involvement in February of 2014, sending in 4395 more troops, bringing the total “peacekeeping forces in Somalia to 22,126.” Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage took advantage of this spike in forces, and has called to action the Somali people to take up arms against the Ethiopians “to defend their country or suffer when it’s too late.

Joseph Abay

Sources: Epoch Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Foreign Policy
Photo: The Sunday Times UK

On November 10, a deadly cyclone raged through the region of Puntland, located in Somalia’s northeastern coast. Though the cyclone has reportedly killed up to 300 people, the death toll has not yet been verified. Many of these victims were children and elderly, both of which are more vulnerable to hypothermia and exposure. Moreover, the United Nations says as many as 30,000 people are in need of food aid.

Whole villages have been washed away by the storm, thus forcing local aid workers to struggle to reach the stranded victims due to the damaged infrastructure. Furthermore, large portions of roads have been damaged, driving aid workers to deliver food aid on foot. Many people are also missing, especially in coastal towns where fisherman and their boats have been lost at sea.

Pastoralists have been hit the hardest since their livestock and poorly built homes and barns have been washed away. The region does not normally experience rain so the area’s infrastructure has not been built to withstand this sort of storm. In fact, some of the worst hit villages have lost 90 percent of their livestock to icy rain and flooding.

Moreover, areas infamous for pirates such as the port of Ely are some of the worst affected. This is worrisome as the 2004 Tsunami was considered one of the major triggers of the pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia where 736 people and 32 ships were held hostage.

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently arrived in Puntland and transported 340 metric tons of food including cereal and vegetable seeds to the worst affected areas of Bossaso, Banderbayla, Dongoroyo and Eyl. In total 27, 000 people have been given a month’s worth of food rations. In addition Puntland’s government sent 32 trucks of emergency supplies throughout the needed areas.

Once emergency aid has been distributed and the region is no longer in a state of disaster the WFP will begin recovery work to rebuild the infrastructure of the area. The Food-for-Assets initiative is a recovery program run by the WFP that assists communities in rebuilding their infrastructure in a way that would better withstand a future natural disaster. Moreover, community workers are paid in food rations for assisting with the development.

Further south in Middle Shabelle, flooding has devastated the town of Jowhar and surrounding areas, pushing over 10,000 people to flee their homes. Their water supplies have, furthermore, been contaminated increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, while all standing crops and livestock in the area have been destroyed or lost. The International Committee of the Red Cross has provided 25,800 people with emergency essentials such as kitchen sets, clothes and sleeping mats.  They have also been able to stop flooding and repair riverbanks in five locations and distributed emergency food aid and water.

Lisa Toole

Sources: AllAfrica: Food Aid, AllAfrica: Twin Natural Disasters, Yahoo, World Food Programme, Aljazeera