It has been a concern for me, ever since the Western response to the events of the 11th of September, 2001, that so much money and energy is put into trying to eliminate the terrorists, while little is invested into revising the economic structures that spawn terrorism in the first place.
The recent growth of Piracy on the high seas off the African coast is another such case in point. While I was recently at the United Nations, in New York, I attended a report presented by the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) on the issue of piracy. What was said was, not surprisingly, that piracy is an economic issue.
The typical pirate is a poor fisherman who can no longer make a living from his fishing business due to the breakdown of infrastructure in war torn countries like Somalia. These poor fishermen are recruited by crime lords and are paid $15,000 USD a shot for every successful raid. Quite an incentive for people in this situation! So, the problem ultimately has to be dealt with as an economic issue and as a human rights issue. If you stabilize the economy of these countries; stabilize the government and establish the rule of law, you reduce piracy.
Why does piracy work? Well, the first thing to note is that piracy is not about the cargo the vessels are carrying. It would be too difficult, time consuming and unprofitable to try to sell off the stolen cargo. No, piracy is about ransom. Ransom of the vessel and ransom for the passengers and crew, and insurance companies are more than ready to pay. After all, if the ship is worth a billion dollars, and the cargo is worth a billion dollars, and the pirates are asking for a million dollars, it is well worth the company’s time to pay the ransom to get things moving again.
It is worth noting too that Insurance companies benefit financially from piracy as their premiums go up. They collect around $400 million is premiums to insure vessels and cargo, so paying the pirates a ransom of one million dollars is nothing to them and well worth doing. After all, what the insurance companies really fear is if, as a consequence of failure to pay, an oil tanker is hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, leaving them to pay for the environmental damage of an oil spill, which could break them.
In a similar way, the war on terror is big business for arms manufacturers, upholding the economic structures which give rise to the problems in the first place. Perhaps this is why there is little comparatively invested in revising the economy as, while these issues cost money, they also fuel the current economic model. Money does make the world go around.