The United Nations’ political office in Somalia is reaching out to vendors to develop a PR campaign supporting its anti-piracy endeavors.

The U.N. wants to influence public opinion in South Central Somalia and among refugees in Kenya against pirates by highlighting the dangers and problems associated with piracy.

Pirates have become an international scourge after costing business and law enforcement an estimated $7 billion in 2010.

The U.N.’s International Maritime Organization said the Somali coast saw an increase from 219 attacks in 2010 to 237 last year, although the number of vessels hijacked fell to 28 from 49 as shipping companies employed private security contractors with occasional controversy.

U.S. snipers famously took out three Somali pirates to rescue an American cargo ship captain in 2009.

The U.N. this month issued a “request for expression of interest” (open through May 23) for a firm to develop a strategic communications and advocacy campaign in support of its counter piracy efforts.

“The contracting company will have the responsibility to define, manage and implement a broad-based counter piracy campaign to promote a negative view of pirates and piracy gainst through widespread advocacy in partnership with Somali elders, government and religious leaders and the media over an 18-month period,” reads the document.

The scope of work is not met by a typical PR firm, however. The U.N. notes it is looking for a contractor to provide expertise on counter piracy and the media and have critical contacts in the international community. In addition to experience communicating to the Somali population, a firm must mobilize its campaign within two weeks of award of a contract.

(Photo: U.N.)