In October 2016, Somali piracy made headlines again, and the release of a group of seafarers who had been in captivity for nearly five years, reminded the international community of the adverse impact piracy has had on seafarers.
Piracy had always been a major maritime security threat, but the first two decades of the 21st century were marred by an unprecedented scale of pirate attacks off the coasts of Somalia. Between 2010 and 2014, almost 9,688 seafarers were attacked by Somali pirates and 2,060 seafarers were taken hostage. The estimated cost of ransom payments for the vessels and crews seized during the period 2005-2014 was between US$340 million and US$435 million. Somali pirate attacks have significantly dropped over the last two years, but Somali piracy has not come to end yet. In 2015, five hijackings were reported in the Western Indian Ocean where a number of seafarers remained in captivity. Continue reading →
This post is based on an article* in which I argue that ignoring African particularity reduces the effectiveness of the international community and almost certainly ensures that international law is never obeyed… except in cases of self-interest.
What is the International Community?
At the sight of any potential cross-border malaise – disease, conflict, terrorism – calls are made to the international community to act. Why do the calls to the international community not go through? Is there a faulty connection? Or have we run out of airtime? The answer is quite simple. We are mostly dialling a wrong number. Depending on who is making the call, calls to ‘the international community’ could be obliquely referring to all states, all humanity, the UN, the US and Europe or states with liberal democracies. This identity crisis almost always results in a lot of buck-passing. As the poem goes ‘Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.’
At the height of the Ebola epidemic I wrote a blog post enumerating lessons that can be learnt by the international community. I continue to be concerned with the responsibility to protect [R2P] and its operation in West Africa especially focusing on the preventive arm of R2P. I also continue to examine any responsibility which the international community may have in preventing human suffering in fragile states.
To recap, in April 2014, the first cases of Ebola were brought to international attention. The outbreak started in Guinea, but quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone with isolated cases in neighbouring Senegal and a transported outbreak in Nigeria. Without a hashtag to cling to or an ice bucket challenge to surmount, the world largely ignored the outbreak. It was not till selfless American and British aid workers, who contacted the deadly virus, were flown to their respective homelands for treatment, that the mass hysteria of an imminent biological apocalypse caused several governments around the world (outside West Africa) to begin to consider what they may do to avoid the virus killing their own citizens. Nevertheless, by October 2014 infections had occurred in the US and Spain. Continue reading →