Allan Jacob and Ahmed Al Majaida
Much has been talked about piracy and its perpetrators, but more needs to be done for Somalia and its people. That was the message delegates took home from the second counter piracy conference in Dubai. Robust action against criminals at sea has paid dividends with three coalition naval forces and other navies taking the fight into the pirates’ lair in Somalia.
In the battle against maritime piracy and its origins, the UAE has played planner to perfection and has brought together different countries and the shipping industry to strategise and evaluate their options. A comprehensive solution to the problem was what the UAE sought and it got it when the Somalia and Somaliland delegations came together for a common cause after 21 years.
“This agreement is important because it opens channels of communication between the two sides,” said UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash.
He hoped it would be the beginning of many good things in the troubled Horn of Africa region. Somalia makes its political transition on August 20 with a new parliament.
Gargash called for patience and a “step-by-step approach” as Somalia’s transitional government President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Somaliland’s President Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo stood shoulder to shoulder after signing the Dubai Statement, their new bonhomie for all to see.
”It was a moving show of cooperation and unity and it will need further cooperation on the ground,” he added. On Wednesday, the UAE put money where its words were with a contribution $1 million. Think-tank, Oceans Beyond Piracy, added another $ 1 million on the concluding day of the conference.
The money will go into a trust fund for Somalia to boost the capabilities of its coastal and armed forces. New projects for the country are also being planned to benefit the youth. ”Entrepreneurial efforts in Somalia will be funded with the contribution to prevent youth from taking to a life of crime at sea,” said Jon Huggins, Director of Oceans Beyond Piracy. A legal framework to try pirates is in the works and will be in place by 2014.
The UAE has set the ball rolling for Somalia. Threats from rebels and pirates, but there is plenty to gain from the second conference in Dubai where a window for peace has been opened.