President Michel's Speech at the opening of the International Symposium on Piracy
Tue, 13 July 2010
Speech by President James A. Michel of the occasion of the opening of the International Symposium on Piracy
Le Meridien Barbarons, Mahe, Seychelles
Monday 12th July 2010
Excellencies, distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
So many of the challenges of our age defy simple one-State solutions. These challenges go beyond the mandates of any one institution or organisation.
From financial instability to climate change, our globalised world increasingly throws up situations where simply continuing existing practices or relying on established procedures are not sufficient to achieve lasting solutions.
Piracy is one of these challenges. It is one of these challenges where a long term solution involves going beyond what has already been tried and tested.
It involves going beyond our comfort zones.
It also involves us all having the political will to commit our States and organisations to real action that goes beyond platitudes.
In its modern form, piracy in the Indian Ocean is potentially one of the most disruptive forces to sustainable economic development. Despite our relative distance from the coast of Somalia, Seychelles has been one of the States most affected by piracy. Our economy is reliant on the safety of the seaways that are our arteries to our continent of Africa and the world. Seychelles continues to offer a haven of seclusion and safety for our tourists. But as pirate attacks continue on the periphery of our ocean boundaries, our bread and butter are at risk.
In 2009, our conservative estimates indicate a loss of 4% of our GDP due to piracy. Insurance costs have ballooned by 50%. Port and fisheries receipts have dropped by 30%. And we are spending over 2.3 million Euros per year on our anti-piracy patrols and surveillance.
While trade levels drop, anarchy is being exported across the region.
The real threat of piracy is the long term effect. Peace and security are prerequisites for development. As long as piracy offers a short term gain for some, it reduces the options for long term wealth creation for many. And this applies both within Somalia and beyond.
In the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, ensuring the rule of law has proved challenging for all States involved.
With our limited capacity, Seychelles has striven to ensure the security of our 1.3 million sq km of ocean by implementing 24 hour patrols and cooperating with all partners who are able to dedicate assets in this region.
We appreciate the efforts of all our partners. But we are still a long way from being able to ensure true security that allows normal economic activity to proceed.
We are encouraged that we are surrounded today by so many friends and partners, who are also here to strategise and cooperate with a view to finding a lasting and sustainable approach.
We are encouraged, because we know we are not alone. We all have a duty to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean.
Your presence here today is a clear message that we are ready to go beyond the tried and tested. We are all ready to adapt and adopt new ways of doing things where necessary.
Every Seychellois has been affected by piracy in one way or another over the last 2 years. Whether it is child who says an extra prayer when a father goes out fishing, the military officer away from his family for months at a time, or the consumer who has to pay more for his shopping.
We have learnt a lot from our experiences- from how to deal with the economic effects to the practical considerations of ensuring that peace and security are maintained and that justice is served.
We can share them with you, but we still have a lot to learn.
This symposium gives us a unique opportunity to exchange views on three of the most pressing subject areas: improving maritime security and surveillance, ensuring the proper framework for legal prosecutions and enforcing the law of the sea, and boosting the capacity of Somalia itself to play a part in preventing the scourge from growing and spreading.
Seychelles is committed to these efforts for the long term. But we will not succeed alone.
Our maritime security plan is spread over a 30 year period. It is outlined over this period of time, not because we are pessimistic- but rather because we are optimistic that all our partners have the will to find a durable solution.
We have to be armed with a realistic appreciation of the situation and make informed decisions, as individual States, as a region, and as part of the international community. A piecemeal approach will simply defer the problem.
Enhancing our existing actions puts an additional strain on all our resources at this time of austerity around the world. But the cost will only increase tomorrow, if we don’t action now!
So let us act today.
I have every confidence that this symposium will allow us all to think innovatively and come up with practical and sustainable solutions.
I thank you all for showing your solidarity and support for Seychelles by being here to discuss this most critical of issues. Your support also illustrates how the security of the Indian Ocean States is inextricably inter-linked.
We are building a partnership to ensure the peace and security of our ocean.
I wish you fruitful deliberations and I look forward to the outcome of your discussions.