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Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

January 8, 2014 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. Thanks in part to the Contact Group’s concerted efforts, there has not been a successful pirate attack on a commercial vessel off the Horn of Africa in more than a year and a half, and pirates no longer control a single hijacked vessel.

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FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

October 28, 2013 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a major merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update

July 23, 2013 Comments off

Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: Quarterly Update
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on January 14, 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union will assume the chairmanship in 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy.

This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a merchant vessel in the region occurred on May 10, 2012.

CRS — Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response

January 31, 2012 Comments off

Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As a result of the worst drought in 60 years, regional conflicts, and conflict within states, a humanitarian emergency of massive proportion has unfolded over the past year in the Horn of Africa region. Current estimates suggest that more than 13.3 million people are currently affected, 250,000 of whom need food assistance in the near term to avoid death. Somalia has been hardest hit so far, creating population displacement within its borders and a refugee crisis of nearly 1 million people in the region, primarily in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The international community continues to respond with a massive humanitarian operation that reached full strength in mid 2011. Although food security has begun to improve, the situation remains very fragile, particularly in southern Somalia, where conditions are considered among the worst in the world. Humanitarian needs are expected to demand sustained attention well into 2012. While life-saving assistance is the current priority, long-term responses may be needed to break the disaster cycle in the Horn. Though triggered by drought, the humanitarian emergency is complicated by political and security pressures within, between, and among the various countries in the region. The recent deterioration of security conditions along the Kenya-Somali border, security incidents within the Dadaab refugee camp complex in northeast Kenya, and increasing restrictions by Al Shabaab, an Islamist insurgency led by an Al Qaeda affiliate, on humanitarian access in Somalia all have had an impact on the relief effort.

This report provides an overview of the current status of the crisis, summary background on the region, a framework for the international and humanitarian response, and an analysis of some of the operational challenges.

The role of the 112th Congress, which has so far focused on the crisis in hearings, legislation, and congressional correspondence with the Administration, is also examined, particularly with regard to funding questions, including:

  • budget priorities on global humanitarian accounts and food aid;
  • diversion of food aid;
  • donor restrictions on aid; and
  • burdensharing and donor fatigue.

It is anticipated Congress will continue to follow and respond to events as they unfold in the Horn.

Country Specific Information: Somalia

September 4, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Somalia
Source: U.S. Department of State

September 02, 2011

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalia has been subject to widespread violence and instability. A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was established in 2004 to guide the country to a more representative government. However, the TFG remains fragile and lacks the capacity to provide services in Somalia. The foreign terrorist group al-Shabaab attacks the TFG and its allied forces regularly in Mogadishu and in regions outside the capital, and commits terrorist acts throughout Somalia, including kidnapping for ransom. Inter- and intra-clan violence also frequently occurs throughout the country. The United States has no official representation in Somalia.

In 1991, the northwest part of the country proclaimed itself the Republic of Somaliland and maintains a separate regional governing authority; however, Somaliland has not received international recognition as an independent state. The northeastern section of Somalia, known as the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, has also made efforts to establish a regional governing authority but has not claimed independence. Somalia’s economy was seriously damaged by the civil war and its aftermath, but the private sector is trying to reemerge. Tourist facilities are non-existent. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Somalia for additional information.

State Department Travel Warning: Somalia

August 21, 2011 Comments off

State Department Travel Warning: Somalia
Source: U.S Department of State

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Somalia and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia. This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 27, 2010, to update information on security concerns.

Assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia. In August and September 2010, terrorists launched an offensive against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces involving multiple attacks against local and international targets. On February 21, terrorists exploded a suicide truck bomb at the gate of Sarangi police camp in Mogadishu’s Hamar Jajab district, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others. On May 30, AU peacekeepers engaged in a shootout with al-Shabaab insurgents just outside of the AMISOM base in Mogadishu, thwarting an attempted suicide bombing. On June 10, a suicide bomber killed the TFG’s Minister of Interior at his residence.

There is no U.S. Embassy or other U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia. Consequently, the U.S. Government is not in a position to assist or effectively provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia. In light of the serious security threats, the U.S. Government recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.

U.S. Response to Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa

August 12, 2011 Comments off

U.S. Response to Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa
Source: U.S. Department of State

More than 12.4 million people—primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—are in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. The United States is deeply concerned by the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa, the famine that is underway in parts of Somalia, and the escalating refugee crisis across the region. A large-scale international response is underway to prevent the further decline of an already dire situation, but there will be no quick fix. The U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the region. This week’s White House announcement of approximately $105 million in additional life-saving humanitarian assistance for the region brings the U.S. Government total this fiscal year to about $565 million to help those in need. This funding supports humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other drought affected populations. Because emergency assistance will not solve the underlying long-term problems in the region, the U.S. Government is also working on comprehensive responses, such as through the President’s Feed the Future initiative.

Horn of Africa – EU Development Work in the region

August 11, 2011 Comments off

Horn of Africa – EU Development Work in the region
Source: European Commission

More than 12 million people are affected by the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in 60 years (according to a United Nations estimate). Two consecutive rainy seasons have failed, leading to a 25% drop in rainfall in rural areas in Somalia, Northern and Eastern Kenya, Southern and Eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti. As a result harvests have failed, livestock mortality has soared, and food and water have become extremely expensive and difficult for most people to get hold of.

Millions of people in the Horn of Africa are unable to access food or meet basic survival needs and emergency levels of acute malnutrition are widespread. Malnutrition affects over 30% of people. While parts of Somalia are facing famine conditions, neighbouring populations (particularly pastoralist areas) in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are already faced with a food security emergency. An estimated 3 000 people a day are arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia from Somalia in search for help.

To respond to this emergency situation in the Horn of Africa, the Commission has allocated €97.47 million in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa and is preparing to step up its support even further, bringing our humanitarian support to the drought-affected populations in the Horn to €158 million this year. EU funds provide critically needed food aid, particularly to severely malnourished children, as well as healthcare and clean water, sanitation facilities and supplies.

But the current famine in the region, especially in the southern part of Somalia, has deeper structural causes.

In Somalia, over 20 years of local and clan conflicts and the absence of security and of effective government structures have exacerbated the impact of the drought. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is largely confined to some districts of Mogadishu, while most parts of central-south Somalia are under the control of the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group, Al-Shabaab, which had also barred humanitarian organisations from wide parts of the country. In the capital and its surroundings, almost daily clashes are reported between the insurgents and the TFG forces supported by the African Union mission, AMISOM. The fragility of the state and the enduring conflict are hindering the provision of basic services to the population at such a difficult time. As a result, people are fleeing the country and flooding to the refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food, water, and shelter.

In addition to emergency response, Somalia also needs sustainable solutions to its endemic political, security and socio-economic problems. This is why the EU is committed to linking immediate relief to long-term development and focussing more on preparedness, disaster risk reduction, livestock and drought management, as well as sustainable development.

+ Helping Somalia recover and develop: European Commission to invest extra €175 million in governance, education and food security

Fact Sheet: US Response to Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa

August 7, 2011 Comments off

US Response to Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa
Source: U.S. Department of State

More than 11.5 million people—primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—are in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. The United States is concerned about the high malnutrition rates in the region—particularly in southern and central Somalia and the attendant Somali refugee population. A large-scale multi-donor intervention is underway to prevent the further decline of an already dire situation, but there will be no quick fix. The U.S. is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the region, providing approximately $459 million this fiscal year to help those in need. This funding supports humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other drought affected populations, and builds near and longer term food security. Because emergency assistance will not solve the underlying long-term problems in the region, the U.S. Government is also working on comprehensive responses, such as through the President’s Feed the Future initiative.

Notes from the Field: Malnutrition and Mortality — Southern Somalia, July 2011

August 7, 2011 Comments off

Notes from the Field: Malnutrition and Mortality — Southern Somalia, July 2011
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

In July 2011, the internationally supported Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit — Somalia* conducted nutrition and mortality surveys across 17 livelihood zones† in southern Somalia to assess the impact of 18 months of insecurity and drought, which have resulted in crop failure, livestock mortality, increased cereal prices, and widespread malnutrition. On July 14, CDC was asked to assist with analyzing the survey data. This report describes the results of that analysis.

Fifteen of the 17 surveys were conducted using standardized monitoring and assessment of relief and transitions (SMART) methodology, which incorporates standard guidelines, questionnaires, and a software package to assess data quality (1). The remaining two surveys employed lot quality assurance sampling (LQAS), a method to assess whether a health condition in a given population exceeds a critical threshold. As of August 1, surveys in 15 livelihood zones (13 using SMART and two using LQAS) had been assessed for data quality using emergency nutrition assessment software (2). Prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) was estimated using World Health Organization growth standards (3). Crude mortality rates (CMRs) and mortality rates for children aged 20% in all 15 livelihood zones analyzed (Figure). In 11 of the 15 zones, GAM exceeded the famine threshold of 30% (range: 39%–55%). In four zones, CMR exceeded the famine threshold of 2 deaths/10,000 population per day (range: 2.2–6.1); in all zones, the mortality rate among those aged <5 years ranged from 4.1 to 20.3 deaths/10,000/day. Survey results for three zones (Lower Shabelle Agropastoral, Afgooye [internally displaced persons], and Bakool Agropastoral) were beyond the famine thresholds for both GAM and CMR (Figure) and therefore were classified as Famine/Humanitarian Catastrophe on the integrated food security phase classification scale (5).

The current situation, with extremely high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality, represents the worst nutrition crisis in Africa since the 1991–1992 famine in Somalia. Because the harvest season is still months away, the severe nutrition crisis is likely to spread across southern Somalia in the coming months. An opportunity exists for the international community to improve nutrition and prevent additional deaths. Priority interventions must focus on ensuring improved access to food and nutrition and health-care services.

Children in Somalia facing war crimes

July 24, 2011 Comments off

Children in Somalia facing war crimes
Source: Amnesty International

The scale of war crimes affecting Somali children, including the systematic recruitment of child soldiers under 15 by armed Islamist groups, has been exposed in a new report by Amnesty International today.

In the line of fire: Somalia’s children under attack reveals the full impact on children of the on-going armed conflict. Children in Somalia are being recruited as child soldiers, denied access to education and killed or injured in indiscriminate attacks carried out in densely populated areas.

“Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children’s crisis,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa.

“As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabab because you are caught listening to music or ‘wearing the wrong clothes’, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.

“The humanitarian crisis facing children in Somalia is also the result of al-Shabab denying access to aid in the last couple of years.”

The report analyzes more than 200 testimonies from Somali refugees, children and adults, in Kenya and Djibouti. Many cite the recruitment of children by armed groups as one of the reasons for fleeing southern and central Somalia.

+ Full Report (PDF)

CRS — Piracy off the Horn of Africa

May 24, 2011 Comments off

Piracy off the Horn of Africa (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, including those on U.S.-flagged vessels, have brought renewed international attention to the long-standing problem of maritime piracy. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), at least 219 attacks occurred in the region in 2010, with 49 successful hijackings. Somali pirates have attacked ships in the Gulf of Aden, along Somalia’s eastern coastline, and outward into the Indian Ocean. Using increasingly sophisticated tactics, these pirates now operate as far east as the Maldives in good weather, and as far south as the Mozambique Channel. Hostage taking for ransom has been a hallmark of Somali piracy, and the IMB reports that more hostages, over 1,180, were taken at sea in 2010 than any year since records began; over 86% of those were taken by Somali pirates.

The increase in pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa is directly linked to continuing insecurity and the absence of the rule of law in war-torn Somalia. The absence of a functioning central government there provides freedom of action for pirates and remains the single greatest challenge to regional security. The lack of law enforcement capacity creates a haven where pirates hold hostages during ransom negotiations that can last for months. Some allege that the absence of Somali coastal security authorities has allowed illegal international fishing and maritime dumping to go unchecked, which in turn has undermined coastal communities’ economic prospects, providing economic or political motivation to some pirates. The apparent motive of most pirate groups, however, is profit, and piracy has proven to be lucrative. Somalia’s “pirate economy” has grown substantially in the past two years, with ransoms now averaging more than $5 million. These revenues may further exacerbate the ongoing conflict and undermine regional security.

The annual cost of piracy to the global economy ranges between $7 and $12 billion, by some estimates. The U.N Security Council has issued a series of resolutions since 2008 to facilitate an international response, which is coordinated by a multilateral Contact Group. The Council has authorized international navies to counter piracy both in Somali territorial waters and ashore, with the consent of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and has also authorized, as an exemption to the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia, support for the TFG security forces.

Counter-piracy patrols by multinational naval forces near Somalia are intended to compliment mariners’ self-protection measures. Increased patrols and proactive efforts by ships have reduced attacks in the Gulf of Aden, but the U.N. Secretary-General warns that “while the effectiveness of naval disruption operations has increased and more pirates have been arrested and prosecuted, this has not stopped piracy. The trend of the increased levels of violence employed by the pirates as well as their expanding reach is disconcerting.” Some suggest that a perception of impunity exists among pirates and financiers; nine out of ten Somali pirates apprehended by naval patrols are reportedly released because no jurisdiction is prepared to prosecute them.

The United States has sought to prevent, disrupt, and prosecute Somali piracy through a range of interagency and multilateral coordination and enforcement mechanisms. The Obama Administration has initiated a new “dual track” policy toward Somalia, where some contend that international efforts to build a credible central authority have failed. Congress has examined options to address piracy both diplomatically and militarily. Congress appropriates funding and provides oversight for policy initiatives with implications for piracy in the region, including maritime security assistance to regional governments, support to peacekeeping operations in Somalia, and funding for U.S. Navy operations. Congress continues to debate options for addressing pirate safe havens and improving the prospects for prosecution of pirate suspects.

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