Gulf of Guinea Piracy ‘Clear Threat’ to Security, Economic Development of Region; Countries Need United Front in Response, Top UN Official Tells Security Council
Gulf of Guinea Piracy ‘Clear Threat’ to Security, Economic Development of Region; Countries Need United Front in Response, Top UN Official Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6723rd Meeting (AM)
Gulf of Guinea Piracy ‘Clear Threat’ to Security, Economic Development of Region;
Countries Need United Front in Response, Top UN Official Tells Security Council
Also Briefed by Top Officials from Regional Organizations; Strong
Support Expressed for Regional Summit on Issue to Develop Comprehensive Strategy
The international community must build on the Security Council’s resolution 2018 (2011) to counter the growing menace of piracy in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea region through coordination and logistical support to regional security initiatives, the United Nations top political affairs official told Council members this morning.
“Building on this resolution, the assessment and increased efforts by regional States, we must take further concrete steps designed to eradicate piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which constitutes a clear threat to the security and economic development of the States in the region”, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in a briefing ahead of a debate that heard from Council members, regional organizations and representatives of interested countries.
Describing the assessment mission on piracy, which visited Benin, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola (see Background), Mr. Pascoe noted that such crimes increasingly undermined socio-economic development efforts in the region and were becoming more violent and systematic, targeting lucrative cargo such as oil onboard the ships, rather than taking hostages for ransom as in East Africa. Incidents of piracy reported to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had risen from 45 in 2010 to 64 last year. “Gulf of Guinea countries need a united front in order to respond effectively to the growing threat of piracy along their coasts.”
He welcomed measures to coordinate maritime security already taken by West Africa and Central African States, as well as the recommendation of the assessment mission that the Gulf of Guinea countries should convene a summit as soon as possible to develop a comprehensive strategy. He noted that United Nations offices were already helping States prepare for such a summit. He stressed, however, that regional States lacked technical and logistical capacities and urged that international assistance be provided in those areas, with further support for coordination provided by the United Nations.
Also briefing this morning was Abdel Fatau Musah of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Florentina Adenike Ukonga of the Gulf of Guinea Commission. Mr. Musah said that some observers might be wrongly tempted to think that the piracy problem in the Gulf had peaked, because Benin, the most affected State in the ECOWAS area, had recorded fewer incidents last year than the year before. That was only because the phenomenon was rapidly spreading around the region and increasingly dovetailing into oil bunkering, robbery at sea, hostage-taking, human and drug trafficking, terrorism and corruption. Urging a holistic approach to the scourge, he exhorted international partners to “buy into” the long-term perspective and to ratchet up their financial and technical assistance to the regional initiatives to strengthen maritime security capabilities.
Ms. Ukonga, summarizing collaborative efforts on maritime security between her organization and ECOWAS, stressed the insufficiency of the legal framework for dealing with piracy in the region, causing the release of piracy suspects. There was a particular need for an accepted, common definition of acts of piracy, with the same type of punishment in all the countries of the region, and possibly the establishment of a neutral jurisdiction that would try those arrested for acts of piracy.
Following those presentations, Council members and representatives of interested States agreed that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was becoming a serious threat to peace and security and development. Concurring also that the primary responsibility for fighting that threat lay with the countries of the region, they welcomed regional initiatives, called for enhanced coordination and agreed on the importance of international support in providing the necessary technical and logistical capacity for joint patrols and other needed actions, with the United Nations helping to mobilize such support and assist with coordination of all efforts. Most speakers also supported the earliest possible convening of a summit for the purpose of drawing up an integrated, comprehensive strategy on confronting the threat.
The Minister of State in charge of National Defence of Benin, detailing what he called the tragic effects of piracy on development in his country, said that fees raised from the Port of Cotonou generated 80 per cent of the income for the national budget. Since the first attacks off Benin’s coast, the number of vessels entering the port had dropped by 70 per cent, causing the revenue essential for the State’s functioning to drop at a time when Benin was hoping for dividends from the major investments recently undertaken.
“Let there be no doubt regarding the substantial political will at the subregional and regional levels in confronting this growing threat,” Nigeria’s representative said. Describing the cooperation between her country and Benin in their joint patrols, she said that the programme could benefit enormously from enhanced surveillance systems, more patrol boats, better maintenance capabilities, funding, coordination centres and information sharing.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo also made a statement this morning, in his national capacity.
Also speaking were the representatives of Azerbaijan, United States, China, France, Pakistan, Portugal, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Guatemala, Morocco, Colombia, Germany and Congo.
The meeting began at 10:22 a.m. and ended at 12:50 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the United Nations assessment mission on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (7 to 24 November 2011), annexed to a letter dated 18 January 2012 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2012/45). The report recalls that in July of last year, President Boni Yayi of Benin appealed for assistance from the international community, and on 19 October, during an open debate in the Security Council on the issue, the Secretary-General confirmed his intention to dispatch an assessment mission to the region and appealed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to work together to develop a comprehensive and integrated regional anti-piracy strategy for the Gulf of Guinea, in close cooperation with the Gulf of Guinea Commission and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa.
The assessment mission, according to the report, found that “the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic, especially for oil-producing countries that are frequently targeted for their high value petroleum assets, and countries like Benin, which rely extensively on their ports for national revenue.” Some interlocutors expressed concern that some of the pirate attacks might also have political motivations. All countries of the region are very concerned, but while some had already responded at the highest level, the phenomenon caught most unprepared and national capacities are limited. Similarly, the mission found that the collective anti-piracy architecture deployed over the past three years is commendable but limited. It points to the joint marine patrols by Nigeria and Benin as model for inter-State cooperation, but cautions that it is only a temporary solution, with a longer-term strategy requiring a broad synergy to prevent sanctuary to pirates anywhere in the region. That strategy requires substantial assistance from the international community, including logistical assets such as air and water craft. As a first step, it was critical to provide resources to Nigeria and Benin to maintain the joint patrols, the report says.
In addition, it says it is vital that the United Nations help coordinate the convening of a joint ECCAS, ECOWAS and Gulf of Guinea Commission summit to develop a comprehensive anti-piracy strategy for the region. The United Nations could also encourage regional States to act on the issue, as well as to mobilize international assistance. The mission also concluded that any comprehensive anti-piracy strategy might also need to take into account root causes, including high levels of youth unemployment. In addition, the deployment of private security contractors by commercial ship operators needed to be discussed at the regional and international levels, the report says.
B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, describing the assessment mission on piracy, which visited Benin, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola (see Background), noted that such crimes increasingly undermined socio-economic development efforts in the region and were becoming more violent and systematic, with the pirates resorting to more sophisticated modes of operations and utilizing heavy weapons. So far, the attacks had primarily targeted the lucrative cargo onboard the ships, rather than taking hostages for ransom as had been the practice off Somalia.
While cautioning that not all piracy incidents were systematically recorded, he noted that incidents of piracy had risen from 45 reported to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2010 to 64 last year, and this year the IMO had already recorded ten incidents. “Gulf of Guinea countries need a united front in order to respond effectively to the growing threat of piracy along their coasts,” he stated, as isolated national initiatives were only temporary, at best, pushing the pirates to shift their operations to other countries. In the interest of a comprehensive regional strategy, he noted the assessment mission recommendation that the Gulf of Guinea countries should convene a summit as soon as possible in 2012.
In that vein, he welcomed the measures taken by Central African States to set up a Regional Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC), based in Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo, as well as multinational coordination centres already operational in Angola, Cameroon and Congo. In West Africa, member States of ECOWAS had recently intensified efforts on a joint maritime security plan. The Gulf of Guinea Commission, meanwhile, was ready to bridge ECOWAS and ECCAS initiatives.
Such regional initiatives, he said, were hampered by inadequate resources and the lack of a harmonized legal framework. Welcoming international support already provided to strengthen maritime security, he stated that much more needed to be done in the areas of logistical support.
National authorities in Benin and Nigeria highlighted the need to set up a logistical facility in Benin to support the joint Benin-Nigeria maritime patrols helping, for example, with refuelling and repair of vessels. The United Nations system had already begun to provide some support, with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) assisting the 25 member States of the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) on implementation of previous agreements to enhance maritime security and law enforcement. The United Nations Offices in West Africa and Central Africa, known as UNOWA and UNOCA, respectively, were working with relevant States to support the development of subregional maritime arrangements in preparation for the proposed regional summit.
Regional States, he said, saw Security Council resolution 2018 (2011) as the first major international political and legal tool for mobilizing global cooperation against the piracy menace. “Building on this resolution, the assessment and increased efforts by regional States, we must take further concrete steps designed to eradicate piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which constitutes a clear threat to the security and economic development of the States in the region”, he concluded.
ABDEL FATAU MUSAH, Director of Political Affairs, Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on behalf of the Commission’s President, said that since the last meeting of the ECOWAS Commission on 19 October 2011, the fragile security situation in the “ECOWAS space” had taken a turn for the worse, owing to two main developments. The first was the resurgence of rebellion and banditry, as well as worsening food insecurity in the Sahel, and the second was growing piracy and associated illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea. Both developments seriously undermined the gains made in the last decade to stabilize the region and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
He said that some observers might be tempted to think that the piracy problem in the Gulf had peaked, wrongly judging the fact that Benin, the most affected State in the ECOWAS space, had recorded only 21 piracy incidents in 2011, compared to 45 cases in 2010. However, the rapid spread of the phenomenon to other States in the subregion was worrying. For instance, a total of 18 attacks had occurred in Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire last year alone. Further, piracy was increasingly dovetailing into other forms of transnational organized crime, including oil bunkering, robbery at sea, hostage-taking, human and drug trafficking, and terrorism. In a region extremely prone to climate change, those associated illegal activities were exacerbating environmental degradation and injecting an incendiary element into food insecurity and intercommunal violence. Piracy, thus, was also encouraging corruption, radicalization of youth and political instability, as well as maritime border disputes. The Council could not ignore the increasing dependence of the world economy on Gulf oil and the danger piracy posed to that vital commerce.
The Gulf was a reservoir of precious hydrocarbons, and rich fauna and flora, he said. It was projected that the region would double the production of its estimated 14 billion-barrel oil reserves from 4 million barrels per day to 8 million in the next decade. Against the backdrop of increasing dependency of both littoral and landlocked States in the region on oil exports, the consequences of unchecked piracy on both their economies and the world economy “cannot be underestimated”. To counter the dangers, States and organizations in the catchment area had, over the last few years, embarked on national, regional and international initiatives aimed at preventing and controlling the illicit activities, while building capabilities to strengthen maritime security.
Nationally, he said, the littoral ECOWAS States were taking practical steps to police their waters. The reality, however, was that those efforts remained “feeble responses to the threat, as hardly any of the States concerned can boast enough maritime surveillance and force projection capability beyond 100 nautical miles off the coast”. Consequently, bilateral and multilateral maritime security cooperation had been sought to complement national efforts. Nigeria and Benin had been conducting joint patrols in their common waters under “Operation Prosperity”. Similar operations existed between other States and international partners.
As a consequence of those disparate initiatives, piracy had declined somewhat in the Gulf waters, but it by no means had been rooted out, he said. The matter, therefore, was being given due attention at the political and strategic levels within ECOWAS, as well as the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff. A Summit in February had tasked the ECOWAS Commission to urgently develop a holistic strategic maritime policy framework to guide future actions and cooperation, and to strengthen collaboration with ECCAS, the Gulf of Guinea Council, and all other relevant stakeholders, with a view to confronting the challenges. The summit had also instructed the Commission to convene an urgent meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence staff to review all emerging security threats in the Sahel region and Gulf of Guinea to propose concrete measures to address them.
He said the ECOWAS Commission had taken several steps and, with ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Council, had been exploring modalities for joint action. Going forward, ECOWAS urged all the parties concerned to scale up efforts, beginning with the proposed multilateral forum, to develop a more comprehensive framework involving all the concerned parties to ensure a holistic approach to maritime security, in close cooperation with the United Nations. To that end, the Commission exhorted international partners to “buy into” the long-term perspective and to ratchet up their financial and technical assistance to the initiative, which sought to strengthen indigenous maritime security capabilities. The Commission also urged UNOWA and UNOCA to facilitate realization of the broader regional initiative. In such a cooperative compact lay the sustainability of the efforts and the guarantee of security in the Gulf of Guinea.
FLORENTINA ADENIKE UKONGA, Deputy Executive Secretary, Gulf of Guinea Commission, said that since the visit of the United Nations assessment team in 2011, the Commission had initiated action towards collaboration between it and ECOWAS on matters of common interest, including: possible concerted efforts in the fight against piracy; environmental pollution and degradation; and illegal, unauthorized and uncontrolled fishing, among others. It had also begun to draft a strategy for maritime security in the region, which, after its approval by the relevant higher authorities, would constitute the basic document for discussions and collaboration with other subregional and international organizations.
Concerning the report, she said although it addressed the situation in Benin, that was more or less the same in many other countries of the region. The legal framework for dealing with piracy was insufficient, ineffective and different from one country to the next, ranging from treatment of acts of piracy as minor misdemeanours in some to conspiracy to commit theft on the high seas in others. There was no standardized, adopted and accepted definition of piracy in the countries of the region, with the result that when pirates were caught, depending on where they were caught and under what circumstances, they could escape with little or no punishment.
She said there was a need, therefore, to have an accepted, common definition of acts of piracy, with the same type of punishment in all the countries of the region, and possibly the establishment of a neutral jurisdiction that would try those arrested for acts of piracy. What was true for piracy was also true of the legal framework for bringing to trial those caught carrying out illegal activities in other sectors. That underscored the need to harmonize the legal texts regulating activities in those sectors and prescribing punishments for violations of the laws. The Commission proposed that the United Nations support the proposed meeting of ECOWAS, ECCAS, and the Commission.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan) said incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea had risen significantly in recent years, making the area the second most acute piracy problem in Africa. Increasing piracy attacks, in addition to transnational organized crime, including illicit weapons and drug trafficking, constituted a serious threat to peace, security and economic development of both coastal and hinterland States in the region. Acknowledging the political will at the highest level in the individual countries and their determination to fight the threat and cooperate in that regard, he said measures and initiatives undertaken at the national and regional levels to mobilize international attention to the problem and enhance maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea were, therefore, commendable.
However, he continued, most countries of the Gulf of Guinea could not alone prevent or manage effectively the threat to maritime security in their coastal waters. It was, therefore, necessary that the regional States and organizations were provided with substantial assistance from the international community. Further, he urged the United Nations to continue to play the important coordinating role it played and called on the Organization to intensify its engagement and work in the region to help the States and organizations of the region to act and mobilize international support, including the convening of the joint summit of Gulf of Guinea States to develop a regional anti-piracy strategy. He endorsed the view that any viable or lasting regional strategy would need to take into account the root causes of the problems in the regional countries, and that for any comprehensive strategy to take effect, it was essential that the countries of the region further strengthened their interaction.
SUSAN RICE ( United States) said that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea required the strongest possible regional and international response. In that vein, her country had provided some $35 million in support to build national maritime security capacity and was committed to working with regional and international partners through regional mechanisms. Right now, an important security exercise was being carried out with the participation of many African and non-African partners.
She emphasized that the primary responsibility to fight piracy lay with the countries of the region, who must continue to develop coordinated mechanisms for monitoring, fighting corruption, harmonizing legal systems and other areas. Cameroon’s efforts were both a model and a cautionary example, as they had been effective, but also had shifted the crimes to other countries, showing the need for a coordinated, comprehensive regional approach. She stressed that the United Nations should play a support and coordination role and concluded, “National and regional political will, with the support of the international community, would be critical in reversing this threat.”
LI BAODONG (China) also expressed grave concern over the growth of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The United Nations, he said, should prepare integrated strategies to assist the countries of the region, which had the primary responsibility to fight the scourge. He welcomed the initiatives of those countries that had already been taken, and hoped that they would strengthen their coordination for that purpose, with regional organizations taking the lead in convening a summit as quickly as possible. He supported the recommendations of the assessment mission for a United Nations coordination role, as well as international provision of technical support, with due respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries involved. His country would continue to provide assistance within its capabilities. He finally called on the international community to address more intensively the root causes of piracy, such as poverty.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf were a source of recent concern for the Security Council. African States and maritime shippers had suffered the consequences for several years. As opposed to the situation in Somalia, the piracy acts in the Gulf were usually conducted in pockets near the coast and were more opportunistic than planned. However, their impact on coastal States’ economies was substantial, affecting maritime trade, among other things. The report before the Council very clearly demonstrated that, especially with respect to Benin. The primary responsibility to ensure maritime security, of course, rested within the jurisdiction of those States responsible for it, and it was up to them, and concerned regional organizations in the Gulf, to define a regional strategy, which could be supported by the United Nations.
He noted that the Security Council had already passed a resolution hailing the initiative of the Gulf States to hold a regional conference, and he reiterated his encouragement for that aim. He also lauded measures already undertaken by those organizations, and he called on them to better coordinate their actions and means, the goal of which should be for overall surveillance and not just piecemeal monitoring of the area. France, for its part, was contributing to a solution. French naval vessels took advantage of their stops in the region to conduct training there, and authorities in Equatorial Guinea had inaugurated a new naval school, supported by his country, which also backed other initiatives geared towards strengthening regional cooperation in the Gulf. Among other endeavours, France was financing an ECOWAS expert mission, in order to inspire attempts to put in place maritime structures and facilitate cooperation. At the European Union level, studies to finance structures for regional training, information sharing, and coast guards for the Gulf States were under way. The draft resolution being elaborated would have his delegation’s full support.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said his country staunchly supported a comprehensive approach against maritime piracy and it had been playing an active role in that fight through contribution of its warships for anti-piracy patrolling off the Somali coast since 2009. Increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea threatened the economic well-being of several countries in that region. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there had been 58 attacks in the region during the first 10 months of 2011, of which 21 had occurred off the coast of Benin, alone, a nation whose economy relied overwhelmingly on port activities. According to the report of the assessment mission, piracy was causing an estimated annual loss of $2 billion to the West African subregion’s economy.
Also worrisome, he said, were indications of links between piracy and other forms of organized crime, such as oil bunkering and drug trafficking. Left unchecked, those organized crimes could further undermine governance and economic development in the affected countries. The climate of insecurity would discourage investments, particularly in the offshore oil sector. The States of the region had taken several initiatives, but others in the region simply lacked the capacity and financial resources to do so. Eradication of piracy in a region the size of the Guinea Gulf could not be accomplished, therefore, without a collaborative approach, involving also international partners. Such an approach required: strengthening the legal framework at national and regional levels for criminalizing piracy; establishing collective systems for surveillance, information-sharing and joint patrolling; addressing links between piracy and other forms of organized crime; and addressing the underlying causes. In view of the experience with fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia, he underlined the importance of urgently countering the phenomenon in the Gulf to “prevent the situation from getting out of hand”.
JOÃO MARIA CABRAL (Portugal) said his country saw the piracy problem in the Gulf as a ramification of the wider threat of transnational organized crime in West Africa. As the report highlighted, piracy in the Gulf was not new, but had risen in frequency in recent years and become more sophisticated and more violent. Its effects were felt much beyond the purely security realm, as it disrupted trade and economic activities vital for coastal States. West African economies had reportedly lost about $2 billion in annual revenue as a result of piracy. Benin, in particular, had seen its shipping activities decline by 70 per cent as a result of attacks in the past two years. Most importantly, it affected countries with very different levels of institutional capacity to deal with the problem and could not be solved through isolated measures by each individual State.
He, therefore, shared the report’s central recommendation for a region-wide strategy, based first and foremost on the efforts of regional bodies. It was very positive that several regional organizations were paying attention and addressing the problem, but to be effective, those different efforts must be coordinated and each organization’s particular area of competence respected. The United Nations could have a central role in ensuring the coherence and overall coordination of those initiatives, as well as in mobilizing international assistance to build the capacity of regional organizations in crucial areas, such as surveillance and patrolling, and information sharing. Also important was to make good use of existing mechanisms, for example, the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan for organized crime and the West African Coast Initiative. International assistance could also be instrumental, as well as the creation of judicial institutions.
SERGEY N. KAREV (Russian Federation) said that there was sufficient concern for alarm at the situation in the Gulf of Guinea, which could become much worse if not addressed. The States of the region were responsible for security in the area, and he supported regional efforts, as well as the convening of a conference. Joint patrols and coordinated monitoring were essential. As opposed to the Somalia situation, local States had operating security systems, but needed logistical and technical support. The United Nations could play an important coordinating role and could mobilize the necessary assistance from the international community.
PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) stressed the importance of addressing the myriad threats to maritime security in order to harness the benefits that could be delivered by a secure maritime domain. Last year saw a significant increase in the volume and impact of armed robbery and piracy incidents in the Guinea Gulf, and his country was extremely concerned about the number and frequency of attacks, as well as their increasingly violent nature. Earlier this month, three attacks had occurred in just four days, resulting in the deaths of two seafarers. The shipping industry, too, was rightly troubled. In the past year, incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea and in the Gulf had spread along the coast and further out to sea. There was some evidence of the use of mother ships. That was a regional problem, not limited to the territorial waters of Nigeria and Benin, and it was in the interest of all States in the region to work together with the shared goal of prevention.
He said considerable benefits could be harnessed by the creation of a security maritime domain regionally, and he, therefore, urged regional States to declare their exclusive economic zones. That would afford States the authority to enforce their national laws, including those related to fishing, environmental protection, including waste dumping, and armed robbery at sea. That would also permit national control of all economic resources within the zones, including ocean life, mining, and oil exploration. In that regard, he encouraged States to coordinate, both domestically and regionally, on maritime activity, as well as with UNOWA. It was important that action taken now prevent further deterioration of the situation. Hopefully, the West African Heads of State would be able to prioritize activity to tackle the range of maritime security threats.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said piracy off the African coasts reflected the instability prevalent in the region and the reach of organized terrorist and criminal groups. The perpetrators were targeting oil and chemical vessels, as well as oil-drilling platforms in the Gulf, and employing severe violence against their captives. The region produced more than 5 million barrels of oil daily and three quarters of the world’s cocoa supply. Pirate attacks were, thus, adversely affecting the emerging oil industry of the region, as well as commercial shipping and mariners. As regional stakeholders had said, a large number of unemployed youth were attracted to the business. The evolving business model of piracy involved low cost and risk, but yielded high returns. While socio-economic issues like poverty, unemployment and so forth might be abetting piracy, the main reasons concerned the limited institutional capacity of the regional countries. Addressing problems like weapons proliferation, poor naval infrastructure, and weak law enforcement and prosecution systems had become integral to counter-piracy efforts.
India had been at the forefront of highlighting the menace off the Somalia coast, and was also concerned about the piracy surge in the Guinea Gulf, he said. While the two situations were quite different in proportion at present, the failure of the international community to act decisively against piracy off the Somali coast could have spawned the new surge of piracy in the Guinea Gulf. The time had come for the attention being paid by the Council to translate into a concrete plan of action. He encouraged sustained and full implementation of efforts, including, particularly, regional ones, and he welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal to facilitate a regional summit of Heads of States. The United Nations should also assist in mobilizing resources. UNOWA and UNOCA, along with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and IMO, had an important role to play in regional counter-piracy efforts and in staunching problems related to terrorism and illicit drug and weapons trafficking.
BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said that the effects of piracy were of particular concern in the Gulf of Guinea, as the countries in the region already faced many other challenges to their development and security. He welcomed initiatives already taken by States and organizations in the region, but stressed that more needed to be done, with numerous gaps existing at the national and regional levels. He underscored the need to comprehensively address piracy, as well as the root causes, such as poverty and unemployment. He encouraged the countries in the region to take a leadership role, with the international community providing financial and technical assistance. In that light, his country was committed to helping to the best of its abilities.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said, because the Gulf of Guinea was comprised of countries that held the natural resources, basic goods and trade that represented the livelihoods and source of employment for thousands of people, the region would continue to be a target for criminal activity until a strategy to fight against it was devised. The growing numbers of armed robberies at sea in the region constituted clear evidence that the problem needed to be addressed with initiatives and strategies of a regional nature. The fight against transnational organized crime, armed robbery at sea and piracy needed resources that surpassed the national capacity in the affected countries and, therefore, not only threatened the stability of the region, but also demanded a collective responsibility.
He called on the Security Council to use more precise terminology in describing the problem, because at present the Council seemed to use piracy and armed robbery interchangeably. Considering that the attacks in the subregion of West Africa were different from those occurring in the central area of the Gulf of Guinea and those that occurred in the coastal countries of Central Africa, the design of the regional strategy needed to take into consideration the differences in the attacks, in order for the response to adequately correspond to the type of threat that the countries were suffering. He also called for adequate international support for the expected Regional Summit of the States of the Gulf of Guinea on piracy, because the meeting had the potential to jump-start and accelerate the efforts and initiatives that would better coordinate the work begun by ECCAS, and what ECOWAS was attempting to pursue.
He urged the Gulf of Guinea Commission to have in its composition more countries from West Africa, in order to fulfil its objectives of serving as a bridge between both economic communities. Further, he encouraged both ECOWAS and ECCAC to continue their efforts to work together and formulate the necessary regional strategy in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, in close collaboration and coordination with the Gulf of Guinea Commission and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that in solidarity with the besieged countries, his country in recent years had alerted the international community to the piracy threats in the region. He commended the work of the December 2011 assessment mission and was interested in its follow-up. The impact of piracy in the Gulf was not just a security issue, but a commercial and economic one as well.
The alarming phenomenon affected international shipping and sea trade, energy security, and the economies of the coastal and landlocked countries of the region.
The first conclusion of the report was that many in the region had difficulties combating the problem, and the second conclusion was that various cooperation mechanisms in the subregion had so far bee unable to bring tangible and lasting results. Thus, Morocco supported the recommendations of the assessment mission for national and regional responses, and for the Untied Nations system to play a key role to help the regional countries develop legal and judicial capacities, among others. The contribution of bilateral partners was also important.
He said his country had invested much effort in establishing trans-regional cooperation between African States along the Atlantic coast to face up to the challenge, and it encouraged a regional summit of Heads of State and the relevant organizations. That would provide an opportunity to design an integrated trans-regional cooperation mechanism and a pooling of efforts to make the zone more secure. As for the regional security architecture overall, he agreed with the report’s recommendations on the need for greater balance between mechanisms in Central and Western Africa. But, any measure aimed at combating piracy in the Gulf would not endure unless the underlying cause of the problem was addressed.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) agreed with previous speakers that piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf region affected security and international shipping, and harmed trade and economic development in the regional countries, affecting not only coastal States, but also the landlocked countries. According to the report, that crime had led to a loss of some $2 billion per year in the economies of the West African subregion. The problem could not be tackled in isolation; all affected countries must act together. Further, any lasting solution should include truly coordinated regional and international efforts aimed at fashioning a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the capacities of the concerned nations.
He said that piracy attacks in the Gulf region were not opportunistic isolated invents, but were systematic and organized. It was important, therefore, to have precise and detailed information and to be able to verify the scope, modalities and specific zones in which the incidents had occurred in order to get a better idea of their character. That, in turn, would lead to better adaptation of the solution. The international community must support the efforts of the regional States and, in that regard, it was essential to maintain the leadership role of the concerned States via, among others, technical assistance for strengthening legislatures and judiciaries, and information exchange. He was convinced that a lasting solution required implementation of a regional approach and a viable response to such factors as the high youth unemployment rates, income disparities, uncontrolled circulation of illegal weapons, and corruption.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said that the report of the assessment mission confirmed an alarming situation. There was a need for a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated approach to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Well-trained security forces and adequate judicial systems were needed, as well as efforts to address root causes. He welcomed regional initiatives to coordinate maritime security and strongly encouraged the convening of a joint summit and the enhancement of coordination between all regional organizations, including the African Union. He noted European Union initiatives that were already being implemented and pledged that his country would continue to work to enhance capacity in the region to fight piracy. He supported the proposed draft resolution on the issue.
ELLIOT OHIN, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, welcomed the increased attention to piracy following the meeting on organized crime and other security threats in the Sahel region. He thanked the Secretary-General for his support to sending the assessment mission on piracy. In order to face up to the “awful situation” that piracy was creating in the region, ongoing regional initiatives were critical. He noted the ratification of the maritime security convention in his country, as well as relevant activity of the country’s navy. Awaiting the convening of a regional summit, national and regional initiatives should be bolstered by international support, as there was a lack of capacity among countries in the region. Welcoming international security initiatives in that vein, he suggested that the United Nations could mobilize and coordinate international aid. He thanked Security Council members for their support and their work on a second draft text on the issue.
ISSIFOU KOGUI N’DOURO, Minister of State in Charge of National Defence of Benin, said security was a precondition for the lasting developing of the countries in his region. Transnational crime in West Africa and the Sahel and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea were interrelated and represented a real challenge to Governments in the region. Benin aligned itself with the conclusions of the assessment mission, noting that in 2011, 21 attacks had been reported against vessels off Benin’s coast alone. From January to October 2011, 58 maritime attacks had been carried out off the West African coast, including in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Those had very negative political, economic, environmental and security ramifications for those countries and were “tragic” for the security and economic heart of Benin — the Port of Cotonou.
He said his country depended largely on fees raised from that port. Indeed, it generated 70 per cent of the country’s gross national product (GNP) and 80 per cent of the income for the national budget; it also accounted for 90 per cent of the trade. The port was a natural passage for landlocked countries, and since the first attacks off Benin’s coast, the number of vessels entering the port had dropped by 70 per cent. That had caused insurance premiums to soar and the revenue essential for the State’s functioning to drop, at a time when Benin was hoping for dividends from the major investments recently undertaken in the country. For that reason, the President of Benin took the necessary measures to alert the international community and Security Council to be seized of the question of the piracy in the Gulf. He was pleased to report that appeals for assistance had been prompt, as had attention by the Secretary-General and Council.
National and bilateral efforts had also been enhanced to deal with the scourge, and there had been a positive impact from joint patrols, which were part of Operation Prosperity, launched on 30 September, he said, describing in detail other initiatives under way. Those would include the implementation, in March, of patrol ships commanded by the Benin naval forces, allowing up to 15 people to patrol the high seas off Benin’s coast for a period of 10 days, 24 hours per day. A control programme on imports was also being employed, with scanners, to ensure transparent procedures in cargo handling and limit the possibility of customs abuses. His Government, with the help of the United States, had improved its national and maritime security strategy, which should ensure the growth of the maritime economy and allow for the free movement of persons and goods. It would also allow for further security in ports and port installations, and combat illicit transnational activities and maritime crime in the territorial waters, as well as the piracy in the high seas.
Making the Gulf more secure was essential to promoting investment, and while the international community still had time, it must face up to those relatively new threats of piracy and armed robbery, as well as deal with the problems stemming from abandoned vessels off the coast. Those were collection points for criminals, pirates and traffickers, he said. He also cautioned that, unless public authorities in the region exercised their efforts, the spread of the problem could lead to an environmental catastrophe affecting the entire globe. There were currently some 15 such vessels abandoned along Benin’s coast. The country had neither the resources nor the expertise to deal with those ships, and he appealed urgently to the country’s partners to assist in their removal.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ (Congo) said that the assessment mission’s report shed light on the main character of maritime piracy and fostered better understanding, as well as the need to evolve a dynamic approach that embraced all security challenges. The threats in the Gulf to peace and stability in the region were not just an industry out of control, but also reflected transborder insecurity, characterized by loss of human life, hostage-taking, armed robbery, destruction of economic infrastructure, illegal oil bunkering and over-shipping, even environmental endangerment around the oil installations. Those consequences were not even the full measure of the impact of those criminal acts. The functional synergy between the regional organizations addressing the problem must be enhanced.
In 2009, he recalled, the member States of ECCAS had adopted a strategy to secure their interests at sea, with the mission of ensuring their maritime space. That had led to a political commitment by those States to undertake concerted action against the piracy scourge. However, effective implementation of the centre that was established as a result was still challenged by insufficient finances and ineffective functioning. A multinational coordination centre was filling the gaps, and Congo’s financing of equipment for the centre would help. Congo’s legislation had previously included piracy as a crime. It had for some time been committed to combating the scourge and coping with its ramifications. He reiterated his Government’s gratitude to the various bilateral and multilateral partners for sustaining such individual and collective efforts. Congo supported the convening of a summit on piracy in the Guinea Gulf to put in place a collective strategy reflecting the legitimate and pressing aspirations of African States.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said that her country’s maritime security task force documented 293 piracy incidents between 2003 and 2008 on fishing vessels alone. The cost on local economies was staggering. “Let there be no doubt regarding the substantial political will at the subregional and regional levels in confronting this growing threat,” she said, with countries of the region strengthening their own initiatives and creating partnerships. She added that the joint patrols of Benin and his country derived 95 per cent of their logistical support from Nigeria, including the deployment of two helicopters, two maritime vessels and two interceptor boats. It was already recording some measure of success, but would benefit enormously from enhanced surveillance systems, patrol boats, maintenance capabilities, funding, joint coordination centres and information sharing, within a legal framework that took into account maritime domain awareness.
Warmly welcoming the Secretary-General’s assessment mission of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, she said that the findings and recommendations would form the bedrock for the development of a holistic approach in tackling the threat. The next steps must include more collaboration between regional countries and related organizations, with the support of both UNOWA and UNOCA. As a comprehensive approach was now imperative, she supported the convening of a summit, which she hoped would explore fresh ideas and provide new directions that could engender further action by the Security Council.
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