Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has set out how the FCO’s maritime security programme funds will be spent this financial year.
The Government is committed to continuing the fight against piracy and maritime insecurity wherever it occurs. Last year saw a dramatic decline in the number of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia, a fragile success that the UK was instrumental in achieving. Today’s announcement of funding will help us build on that success.
The new package of support for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with whom we are working in close partnership to deliver capacity building assistance, is worth £2.25m and includes:
- $1.135m of additional funding to the UNODC’s Post Trial Transfer Programme, to complete the construction of a new prison in Garowe, Puntland, to hold convicted pirates in facilities that meet international standards. Prison capacity remains one of the biggest challenges we face in bringing pirates to justice and it is essential that we provide a targeted, long term solution.
- A $100,000 project to tackle corruption in the Somali penal system. As UNODC continue the process of transferring pirates back to Somalia, we face the risk that convicted pirates may seek to secure early release by the paying bribes to prison staff. The project will extend existing anti-corruption awareness training from Garowe prison to all the prisons in Somalia holding piracy prisoners.
- A $240,000 project to develop the Somali coast guard. Supporting UNODC work with the maritime authorities in Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland to begin the process of securing Somalia’s coastline.
Speaking at the UK Chamber of Shipping Foreign Office Minister Mr Burt said:
“Last year saw a dramatic decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia – to just 35, with the number of ships seized falling by over 80 percent compared to the previous year. This has not occurred by chance. It is the culmination of years of hard work from governments, international organisations and industry.
“Nevertheless, it is by no means ‘mission accomplished’.
“Progress is fragile and reversible. 108 hostages remain in pirate hands, often subjected to terrible conditions with no knowledge of when, or even if, they will be released. So we must stay the course; take the opportunity to press home our advantage and make the waters off the coast of Somalia safe once again.”
Mr Burt went onto to comment on Somalia:
“So the Government is determined to stay the course. We will continue to support our partners in the UN to deliver on the ground…. And we must continue to work with our partners in industry and internationally to continue driving down piracy.
“As you will be aware, the challenges facing Somalia remain a key priority for the Government. Somalia is currently experiencing a level of political stability not seen for over two decades. There are many reasons for this, but I am in no doubt that last year’s London Conference on Somalia played a crucial role. It gave the international community an opportunity to look afresh – and holistically – at all of the issues facing Somalia and its people. A joint UK-Somalia conference, scheduled for 7 May, will provide an opportunity to sustain this momentum.”
Mr Burt concluded:
“Piracy and maritime security are global issues. In today’s networked world, instability and disruption of trade in one area is not isolated to a particular country or region, but affects us all. Similarly, the increasing incidence of piracy and maritime crime off Africa’s western seaboard illustrates that, wherever in the world pockets of insecurity exist, criminal elements will seek to exploit it for financial gain.
“We must be vigilant to such threats and act to neutralise them.
“We have demonstrated that when we work together we can thwart the intentions of those who would use threats and violence to extract financial gain. If we remain steadfast, we can eliminate the scourge of piracy from our seas.”