Thursday August 9, 2018
The inaugural conference on combatting the illicit smuggling of charcoal
was held at the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) headquarters in Bahrain
on 23 July 2018.The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) placed a total ban on the
export of charcoal from Somalia in 2012. In 2014, the UNSC gave
authorisation for Member States to inspect vessels suspected to be
carrying charcoal from Somalia in violation of the ban, to seize and
dispose of the illicit cargo and to divert the vessels to a port for
such disposal. There are multiple nuances in enforcing any UNSCR, and
for Charcoal this includes considerations such as safe disposal,
avoiding environmental damage.
The conference was attended by representatives from GCC countries, as well as CMF members.
With the majority of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries being
present, the aim of the conference was to identify potential methods to
disrupt the illicit trade in charcoal emanating from Somalia. It is
estimated that terrorist organisations such as Al-Shabaab earn in the
region of US$10 million per year by smuggling charcoal from Somalia,
which is often marketed as legitimate charcoal to buyers in GCC
countries, CMF said.
Dr Charles Cater, the Natural Resources expert from the United Nations
Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (UNSEMG) explained that a further
issue with the scale of charcoal smuggling is that, on current usage and
smuggling, it is estimated that there will be no trees left in Somalia
by the year 2060. This will leave the country prone to drought and
famine, leading to both an environmental and humanitarian disaster.
While CMF, EU NAVFOR and other international partners’ efforts have
suppressed piracy from Somalia, further economic hardship would increase
the incentives for Somali piracy to resurface.
Attendees at the conference agreed that CMF and attendant nations would
forge stronger links with the UNSEMG and the United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in order to facilitate information sharing and
Dr Cater said: “”The Monitoring Group looks forward to further
cooperation with CMF toward improved implementation of the charcoal ban
in order to diminish and disrupt Al-Shabaab financing.”
Captain Abullah Alabuder, the Commander of Combined Task Force 152 said:
“We are ready to provide support to all countries to find ways in which
we can work to stop the illegal charcoal trade.” He added: “We must
all work together, with the UNSEMG, to identify solutions to prevent
terrorists from being able to leverage the funds they make from the
illicit trade of charcoal.”