Rising Crime in Gulf of Guinea Contrasted with Declining East Coast Pirates
The Security Council today expressed its deep concern over piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, and stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach — led by States of the region, with international support — to address the problem and its root causes.
Issuing presidential statement S/PRST/2016/4, the Council strongly condemned acts of murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking and robbery by pirates in the Gulf, and underlined the importance of determining any links between piracy and armed robbery at sea, and terrorist groups in West Africa and the Sahel subregions. It encouraged regional organizations — including the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Council — to enhance cooperation on maritime safety and security, calling upon States in the region to criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea under their domestic laws.
The Council went on to encourage bilateral and multilateral partners to help enhance the anti-piracy capabilities of regional States and organizations in terms of personnel, funding, technology, training and equipment. It welcomed the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union to be held in Lomé, Togo, on 15 October, which was expected to adopt a charter on maritime safety and security, as well as economic and social development in Africa.
Before issuing the presidential statement, the Council heard a briefing by Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs on Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea. He said there had been a steady decline in the number of recorded incidents and illegal activities over the past few years, but insecurity remained a source of concern. Six attacks had been reported in the first quarter of 2016 alone, in addition to ship hijackings off the coast of Nigeria and kidnappings along the coasts of Western and Central Africa.
As a result of the Yaoundé Summit, the Interregional Coordination Centre had been inaugurated in 2014 with the aim of coordinating anti-piracy operations, he said. However, due to staffing, funding and other logistical constraints, it was not yet fully operational. Flexible and proactive efforts at the national, regional and international levels would be needed in responding to perpetrators who had proven to be highly adaptable, well informed and increasingly sophisticated.
During the ensuing open debate, Robert Dussey, Togo’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration, briefed on the upcoming Lomé Summit, saying it would see the adoption of an African charter on maritime security and development. The Lomé charter would promote a flourishing blue economy that would in turn encourage environmentally friendly development, incorporating a common fisheries policy and measures to tackle illegal fishing, he said, adding that it would build upon the 2050 Integrated Maritime Strategy for Africa, paving the way for further initiatives and actions.
Several speakers noted that piracy and armed robbery at sea were symptomatic of governance and development issues. They called for greater international support to support regional efforts, particularly at the level of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Security Trust Fund for West and Central Africa.
Morocco’s representative noted that the Gulf of Guinea had become the new centre of gravity for piracy in Africa, taking the spotlight away from the Gulf of Aden. Endowed with 8 per cent of the world’s petroleum resources, as well as fisheries and significant maritime traffic, it had plenty of targets for pirates. It was high time the Gulf of Guinea — where the pirates were reputed to be among the most violent in the world — benefited from the same international cooperation extended to the Gulf of Aden, he emphasized.
Egypt’s representative, however, said pirates operated differently in the two regions, so the response must also be different, reflecting different political and security situations. It was important that the shipping industry adhere to best practices in high-risk waters, he said, emphasizing that there was no time for complacency.
Nigeria’s representative said that criminal gangs motivated by access to crude oil, and people involved in trafficking illicit goods, as well as small arms and light weapons, had been operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Governments around the Gulf must pursue piracy networks on land and enhance their naval and air power so as to respond appropriately to maritime attacks.
Senegal’s representative noted that Gulf of Guinea piracy and armed robbery was no longer limited to the oil sector, but had now branched out into trafficking in people, drugs, weapons and generic medicine, as well as illegal fishing. That complicated the ability of regional States and their international partners to mobilize.
The representatives of both the United States and the United Kingdom called attention to attacks launched against two ships in one day off Nigeria’s coast earlier in April, which — considering the countries where the vessels were registered, their cargo and crew – involved no fewer than seven Member States. Their counterparts from Ukraine and Turkey recalled how citizens of their respective countries had been captured by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
The representative of Cyprus said a fresh Security Council resolution on piracy and armed robbery at sea might prove helpful, while his counterpart from South Africa said the Council should send a clear message to the end-users of pirated goods.
Also speaking today were Sweden’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and representatives of Angola, Spain, France, Malaysia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Japan, Venezuela, Russian Federation, China, Portugal, Thailand, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Greece and Kazakhstan, as well as the African Union and the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 1:55 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2016/4 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and recognizes the primary responsibility of States in the eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea.
“The Security Council, in this regard, reiterates the primary role of States in the region to counter the threat and address the underlying causes of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, in close cooperation with organizations in the region, and their partners.
“The Security Council reaffirms its respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of States concerned.
“The Security Council remains deeply concerned about the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, the security and economic development of States in the region, to the safety and welfare of seafarers and other persons, as well as the safety of commercial maritime routes.
“The Security Council expresses its deep concern at the reported number of incidents and level of violence of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea since 2014, and strongly condemns the acts of murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking and robbery by pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea. The Security Council further calls upon States in the region to cooperate, as appropriate, on the prosecution of suspected pirates and calls upon all States in the region and all relevant stakeholders to intensify their efforts to secure the safe and immediate release of all seafarers held hostage in or around the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Security Council notes the link between piracy and armed robbery at sea and transnational organized crime in the Gulf of Guinea and expresses its concern about the fact that pirates benefit from it.
“The Security Council underlines the importance of determining the existence of any possible or potential links between piracy and armed robbery at sea and terrorist groups in West Africa and the Sahel region, and urges Member States and relevant international organizations to assist States in the region, as well as regional and subregional organizations in making arrangements to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent the revenues generated by acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea from contributing to the financing of terrorism.
“The Security Council notes with concern the damage being done to the economic development efforts and the destruction of essential infrastructure, and urges support for multilateral efforts for the development of an international framework to address issues of crude oil theft and piracy and armed robbery at sea.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of implementing a comprehensive approach led by States of the region to counter the threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as related criminal activities, to address their underlying causes, and to strengthen both justice systems and judicial cooperation in the region. The Security Council recognizes the efforts of the countries in the region in adopting relevant measures in accordance with the relevant framework established by international law to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea and to address transnational organized crime, such as drug trafficking, as well as other measures to enhance maritime safety and security.
“The Security Council emphasizes that regional peace and stability, the strengthening of State institutions, economic and social development and respect for human rights, and the rule of law, are all necessary to create the conditions for a durable eradication of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Security Council stresses that the coordination of efforts at the regional level is key to counter the threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea, and also notes the need for international assistance to support national and regional efforts to assist the Member States undertaking steps to address threats of piracy and armed robbery at sea. The Security Council thus encourages the regional organizations, including the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) and the Maritime Organization for West and Central Africa (MOWCA), to enhance subregional, regional and international cooperation on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Security Council welcomes the holding of and supports the process resulting from the Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Central and West African States on Maritime Safety and Security in their common Maritime Domain which took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon on 24 and 25 June 2013, and the adoption, during the Summit, of the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa and Memorandum of Understanding among the Economic Community of Central African States, the Economic Community of West African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission on Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa, which encourages the implementation of Code of Conduct with a view to facilitating the adoption of a multilateral agreement aimed at eradicating illegal activities off the coast of West and Central Africa.
“The Security Council further welcomes the establishment of the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) in 2014 in Cameroon, implementing the regional strategy on safety and security and creating a framework for collaboration among the regional institutions and mechanisms of cooperation, namely ECCAS, ECOWAS, GGC and MOWCA, and also welcomes the establishment of the Regional Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC) in Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo, and the Regional Centre for Maritime Security in West Africa (CRESMAO) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in order to coordinate the work of Multinational Coordination Centres (MCC), in fulfilling the task of the ICC in different zones, with a view to establishing a regional counter piracy and armed robbery at sea coordination mechanism covering the whole of the Gulf of Guinea. The Security Council encourages States in the region to clarify the mandate of and relationship among these bodies, in order to strengthen coordination and cooperation.
“The Security Council, in this regard, encourages States in the region, regional organizations, along with international partners to make fully operational all the regional counter piracy and armed robbery at sea mechanisms, including the ICC, CRESMAC, CRESMAO and MCC as soon as possible, and urges bilateral and multilateral partners to continue assisting States of the Gulf of Guinea with funds, skills, training and equipment.
“The Security Council also welcomes the holding of the Extraordinary High-level Meeting on the ICC by ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC on 8 to 12 February 2016 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which adopted the documents for the ICC with the expectation of the ICC’s full operationalization by July 2016. The Security Council notes the need for logistical and financial resources to implement the projects and programmes of the ICC, and in this regard, welcomes the meeting’s intention to organize a donor’s conference in Yaoundé. The Security Council encourages the regional organizations along with the international community to support the ICC.
“The Security Council encourages States of the Gulf of Guinea to formulate a regional framework for the prevention and repression of piracy and armed robbery at sea; reiterates its call upon States in the region to criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea under their domestic laws, and to prosecute perpetrators of piracy and armed robbery at sea, consistent with applicable international law, including international human rights law. The Security Council further reiterates the urgent need to investigate and prosecute in accordance with international law, including international human rights law, those who incite or intentionally facilitate such crimes, including key figures of criminal networks involved in piracy and armed robbery at sea who illicitly plan, organize, facilitate, finance or profit from such attacks.
“The Security Council urges States and international organizations, as well as the private sector to share information, as appropriate, related to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea in Gulf of Guinea, and to strengthen joint coordination on regional information-sharing.
“The Security Council encourages bilateral and multilateral partners to provide support, upon request and where able, in terms of personnel, funds, technology, training and equipment to States and regional organizations in the Gulf of Guinea, to assist in enhancing their capabilities to jointly counter piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region. These capabilities should include conducting effective regional joint patrols, joint law enforcement at sea, joint anti-piracy drills, joint maritime and air surveillance and other operations in accordance with international law. In this regard, the Security Council encourages States in the region and regional organizations to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with international partners, upon request and where able, to formulate and implement their action plans on countering piracy and armed robbery at sea.
“The Security Council encourages States of the Gulf of Guinea to continue building their capacities to secure waters in the region against piracy and armed robbery at sea, and urges Member States, when requested by States in the region, and where able, to assist States in improving their maritime infrastructure construction and management, including coastal ports, ship supply and repair stations, and fuel depots, as well as personnel development, in order to strengthen their capacity to carry out joint maritime operations to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea.
“The Security Council expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for the strong support provided through the United Nations Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) for the efforts on counter piracy and armed robbery at sea by States in the region; and in this regard, encourages UNOCA and UNOWAS to continue to assist States and subregional organizations, in accordance with their respective mandates.
“The Security Council expresses its appreciation to the West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for its efforts to support maritime security capacity-building in West and Central Africa; and in this regard, encourages Member States to make financial contributions to the West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund, and in cooperation with the IMO at its request, to assist States of the region to develop their national and regional capabilities to improve maritime governance in waters under their jurisdiction; to prevent, in compliance with international law, piracy and armed robbery at sea.
“The Security Council welcomes the initiative of the African Union to hold an Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa in Lomé, Togo, on 15 October 2016, which notably aims at adopting a document on maritime safety and security and economic and social development in Africa, and encourages the international community, bilateral and multilateral partners to actively participate and to support it.
“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to support efforts towards mobilizing resources to assist in building national and regional capacities in close consultation with States and regional and subregional organizations, and to continue keeping it regularly informed, through SG’s UNOWAS and UNOCA reports on the situation of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, including on the implementation of the actions described in this PRST, especially the progress made in the implementation of the regional mechanisms, the long-term maritime security, maritime governance, and maritime legal coordination, as well as regional and international cooperation on countering piracy and armed robbery at sea.”
Remarks by Assistant Secretary-General
TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs on Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea, reported a steady decline in the number of recorded incidents and illegal activities in the area over the past few years, but noted that insecurity remained a source of concern. In the first quarter of 2016, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre had recorded six attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, while cases of ship hijackings by the self-described “Biafra” militants off the cost of Nigeria and kidnappings along the coasts of Western and Central Africa had also been recorded recently.
Following an upsurge in piracy and armed robbery incidents, Heads of State and Government at a Summit in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in 2013 had committed to promoting peace, security and stability in the region, he said. Notably, the Summit had adopted a memorandum of understanding on maritime safety and security, and a political declaration on enhancing cooperation. Furthermore, the Summit had taken a decision to create an Interregional Coordination Centre, establishing a clear division of labour among the actors. The Centre’s inauguration in 2014, with the aim of coordinating all operations for the suppression of piracy and other criminal activities had marked an important and positive step in the cooperation between West and Central Africa, he noted. Nevertheless, the Centre was not fully operational due to staffing, funding and other logistical constraints.
More recently, he continued, an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) had been held in February 2016 to address the challenges of making the Centre operational. Regarding the budget, the meeting had recommended that member States contribute 40 per cent of the necessary resources, while bilateral and international partners would provide the rest. Mobilizing resources remained a key priority in ensuring the Centre’s effectiveness, he emphasized, adding that all actors had agreed to organize a conference of partners and third-party contributors in Yaoundé.
Tackling the international crimes of trafficking, piracy and theft required a combination of efforts and an understanding that suppression was not sufficient, he said, stressing that those committing illegal acts at sea were highly adaptable, using increasingly sophisticated methods, and often well informed. The task required national, regional and global efforts to be flexible and proactive. Countering current threats called for a combination of capacities, including qualitative improvements in the collection, sharing and analysis of intelligence, as well as enhancing the capacities of law-enforcement agencies. Among other things, he underlined the importance of avoiding duplication of efforts in relation to maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. He concluded by noting that Togo was scheduled to host an extraordinary summit of the African Union in October 2016, and expressed his belief that the event would provide a unique opportunity for the countries involved to renew their commitments to enhancing the maritime security architecture.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) described the Gulf of Guinea as a crossroads for international maritime transport that also reflected the interconnected nature of global challenges. Over the past decade, piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf had grown in scope, becoming an obstacle to maritime activities for countries in the region. No longer limited to the oil sector, it now included trafficking in people, drugs, weapons and generic medicine, as well as illegal fishing, further complicating the mobilization of States in the region and their international partners. Despite progress in establishing institutions and legal frameworks, several challenges persisted, including financing, the delimitation of maritime borders and the need to mobilize and pool State resources. Paying tribute to such initiatives as the Special Trust Fund of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), he said the main factors behind maritime insecurity could be found on land, and they included bad governance and abject poverty, as well as the possibility of a link between piracy and the financing of terrorist groups that had taken root in the region.
JULIO HELDR MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said the Gulf of Guinea was facing serious security threats, with increased transnational crime, drug smuggling and environmental crimes that had resulted in enormous losses for regional States. It was imperative that the international community mobilize and harmonize its efforts to find lasting solutions. Today’s Security Council presidential statement was a strong signal of the international community’s resolve in addressing the threat, he said, recalling the joint efforts already undertaken by countries around the Gulf. With its long maritime coast, he said, Angola was deeply committed to the African Union’s integrated maritime strategy, and was actively involved in IMO measures. Despite such tangible steps, however, much more remained to be done, but a spirit of cooperation and solidarity would make it possible to overcome piracy and other security threats. Angola stood ready to participate in that regard, he pledged.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that while there had been a decreasing number of attacks in West African waters, ship owners often withheld reports of such incidents to avoid the risk of increased insurance premiums. It was critical to distinguish between the forms of piracy on the east and west coasts of Africa, and to elaborate credible mechanisms to curb the threat. States should comply with Council resolutions and expand their assistance in helping countries in the region improve maritime security and infrastructure, which in turn required better coordination among those countries, the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations. Recalling that pirates had abducted two Ukrainian citizens in the Gulf of Guinea in 2015, and that the Ukrainian captain and assistant captain of the vessel Sampatiki had been captured just one month ago, he emphasized that the protection of crews in the shipping industry and post-accident treatment for survivors were of utmost concern. Ukraine urged universal application of amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, agreed in 2014.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), noting that more than 20 per cent of maritime crime took place in the Gulf of Guinea, said there had been 30 reported attacks in 2016 alone, which posed a serious security threat to the region and the world. Spain attached great importance to countering piracy and armed robbery at sea, and in that regard, supported the outcomes of the Yaoundé Summit. It had participated in both bilateral and multilateral meetings, providing police support and technical assistance. Reiterating his delegation’s commitment to maintaining peace and security in the region, he emphasized the need for the international community to step up efforts to combat piracy and eliminate such incidents.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), noting the region’s large oil deposits, said the incidents continued to pose security challenges to both regional and international peace and security. Eradicating maritime piracy and armed robbery called for developing the necessary tools, building capacity and sharing best practices. Acknowledging the clear intention of the ECOWAS and ECCAS leaders, he welcomed the creation of the Interregional Coordination Centre, saying France also looked forward to the African Union Summit to be held in October 2016.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said today’s debate provided a valuable opportunity to review past efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. For successful results, it was vital to ensure coordination among all concerned actors, and to that end, Malaysia welcomed the steps taken by ECOWAS and ECCAS. A holistic approach with a particular focus on the rule of law was of key importance, he said, emphasizing the need to address roost causes, as well as symptoms. He encouraged Member States to share lessons learned and best practices for better outcomes, adding that he looked forward to the African Union Summit in Togo.
GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) described piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as a serious drag on the economic development of countries in the region and a serious threat to regional and international peace and security. New Zealand had learned from dealing with transnational organized crime in the South Pacific region the importance of effective coordination, particularly among countries. Without it, criminal networks would move on and exploit the “weakest link” — those unable to monitor crimes at sea. Describing national efforts, he said the Royal New Zealand Navy had participated in a multinational operation focusing on counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia. Furthermore, it had participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s counter-piracy Operation Ocean Shield. One area warranting particular attention was ensuring that coastal States maximized the benefits from their natural resource base, both at sea and on land for economic prosperity, he said, adding that it was also vital to ensure national and legal frameworks were in place to enable effective prosecution of those directly and indirectly involved in privacy.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), emphasizing that there was no time for complacency, warned that criminal networks were still operating at their basic capacities. Emphasizing the role of the African Union, ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, he said the outcome of the African Summit on maritime security and development would promote cooperation. He stressed the importance of the shipping industry adhering to best practices in high-risk waters, and the importance of prosecuting those involved in piracy. The modus operandi of pirates differed between regions, so the response must also be different, reflecting different political and security situations. Describing the Convention on the Law of the Sea as the primary legal framework for combating piracy, he underlined the importance of open IMO consultations on regulating the use of security personnel on commercial vessels. He also underscored the need to clearly diagnose the root causes of piracy and armed robbery at sea, and to strengthen sustainable development programmes in Africa.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea had been increasing at an alarming rate, with at least 32 attacks off Nigeria in 2016, which affected many Member States, including her own. According to Chatham House, as much as 400,000 barrels of crude oil were being stolen every day, while illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing had resulted in economic losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. The Council had discussed the root causes of piracy many times, acknowledging that the solution lay in greater African stewardship. To that end, there was need for strong political will on the part of from African leaders, she said, urging the States concerned to implement the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, including the establishment of a “Zone E” that would permit greater integration of military efforts by regional countries.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), welcoming the presidential statement, said piracy was a global phenomenon and required a global response. Noting that the Montevideo Declaration contained provisions on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, welcomed the efforts undertaken by ECOWAS and ECCAS, emphasizing the need for greater coordination among all stakeholders in combating piracy and strengthening existing mechanisms to punish those who participated in it. Describing the Gulf of Guinea as one of the world’s most dangerous maritime areas, he stressed that it was vital to address its root causes in order to find a long-term solution.
KOICHI MIZUSHIMA (Japan) said piracy threatened the safety of sea lanes around the world, and counter-measures were vital for all benefitting from maritime trade. For its own part, Japan had actively contributed to efforts for the maintenance and stability of maritime order in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, as well as off the coast of Somalia, he said. While there had been a substantial drop in the number of piracy incidents, the threat remained high. Coastal countries bore the primary responsibility to address the issues of the Gulf of Guinea through regional frameworks. Acknowledging the lack of funds and manpower to implement the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and maritime security strategy of ECOWAS and ECCAS, he called upon the international community to support the region’s countries, pointing out that Japan had provided equipment and materials to the Regional Academy of Maritime Science and Technology, and was making the largest contribution to the IMO West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) expressed concern over two recently attacked ships, noting that the people, property and prosperity of seven Member States had been affected in just one day. It did not take a mathematician to calculate that piracy and armed robbery at sea were not limited to far-off places, but called for regional leadership and coordinated international support. Commending the efforts undertaken so far, he called for the follow-up establishment of a network of regional coordination centres, saying his country was doing its own part. However, there was not enough coordination, and the United Kingdom was, therefore, assisting through police training, port development and contributions to the IMO’s Maritime Security Trust Fund. Investigation and prosecution follow because knowing that a life of piracy would entail long-term consequences was the best deterrent.
WILMER ALFONZO MÉNDEZ GRATEROL (Venezuela) said the presidential statement underscored the Council’s commitment to keeping a watchful eye on developments in West Africa. Criminal networks had put the stability of countries in the subregion at risk, he said, calling for international cooperation to help affected States deal with the problem, including through sustainable financing methods and ensuring that States honoured their commitments. Terrorism in the area had been exacerbated by the 2011 intervention in Libya, he said, expressing hope that the Extraordinary Summit in Lomé would be a milestone supported by the international community in a very robust way.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that while piracy was a highly functional business for some, it endangered national and regional peace and security. Since most attacks had taken place close to the coast, resolving the issue required strengthened coastal defence. Furthermore, effective legal prosecution and identifying piracy channels were among the other key steps that must be taken. Acknowledging efforts and initiatives to improve existing mechanisms, he voiced hope that the Interregional Coordination Centre would soon be fully functional, adding that his country stood ready to share national experiences.
LIU JIEYI (China), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, describing the Gulf of Guinea as an important route and energy base for the region. It had witnessed frequent attacks by terrorist organizations and criminal networks, which had undermined national economic and social development. Expressing support for the efforts of regional countries and organizations to enhance coordination and formulate a common strategy, he said that, given their lack of financial resources and equipment, they needed technical assistance in capacity-building, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, logistical support and training of personnel. Furthermore, increased coordination among relevant actors was vital in preventing duplication of efforts, he emphasized. China welcomed the key role played by the United Nations, and encouraged the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to brief the Council regularly.
ROBERT DUSSEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Togo, briefed the Council on the upcoming Lomé Summit, saying it would see the adoption of an African charter on maritime security and development. Never had there been such a charter, he said, adding that the piracy problem was of such a magnitude that it required a collective and general response, he said, adding that the Lomé charter would promote a flourishing blue economy that in turn would encourage environmentally friendly development, incorporating a common fisheries policy and measures to tackle illegal fishing. It would also stimulate economic growth by creating jobs and promoting initiatives for the protection of the marine environment, thus favouring tourism. In addition, the charter would build upon the 2050 Integrated Maritime Strategy for Africa, paving the way for further initiatives and actions. Fully committed to an African renaissance, the African Union looked forward to a free and responsible Africa that would take advantages of all its potential and resources, including its seas, he said.
ANNIKA SÖDER, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, also speaking on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, said it was of utmost importance to increase international cooperation to curb the increase in pirate attacks off the coast of West Africa. Regional cooperation was essential, she said, stressing the need to operationalize and support the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and support the relevant institutions. Closer cooperation between the navies and coast guards of the region should be another priority, and States should consider methods of patrolling each other’s waters. The experiences of the European Union Naval Force Atalanta — which was pursuing counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa — should be capitalized, as they provided a clear example of how numerous and coordinated local, regional and international efforts at sea and on land could collectively reduce piracy and stabilize maritime regions. Addressing the root causes of piracy in the Gulf required a comprehensive and inclusive strategy for promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region as a whole.
ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA (Portugal) noted that although the main focus of the international community had been directed to the problem of maritime security, the Gulf of Guinea region was faced with broader security concerns that went well beyond the coastline. Transregional trafficking of drugs, arms, human beings and other illicit trade in goods and services were fuelling greater insecurity and instability in the Gulf and across West Africa. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and waste dumping were also persistent occurrences in the region that inflicted dramatic damage to ecosystems, with long-term consequences to local economies. The rising number of unlawful events in the Gulf could no longer be ignored. Three main elements should form the backbone of international support for regional efforts in the Gulf, including technological means to ensure security, coordination of different actors and initiatives, and political will and engagement with a view towards achieving concrete results.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) urged assistance for regional countries, as well as regional and subregional organizations, to enhance cooperation on joint monitoring, patrols and intelligence-sharing in order to implement the integrated maritime security strategy. While measures to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea must be in line with international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, onshore measures were also needed and he urged addressing the socioeconomic grievances prompting many to resort to such crimes by creating economic opportunities and alternative livelihoods. “Piracy is a global challenge that concerns us all,” he said, noting that the Thai navy had played a role in joint anti-Somali piracy operations.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said that acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea represented a major concern, not only for the subregion, but also for the entire African Union and the whole international community. Attacks in the region had increased in severity and scope over the last decade, which made security concerns all the more acute. Despite that, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea had only recently gained international attention and few concrete actions had been taken, he noted. Security Council resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012) on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf had had a minimal impact on the number of incidents and the technical assistance requested from the international community had yet to be deployed in full.
He went on to emphasize that the African Union continued its close cooperation with subregional actors in taking all appropriate measures to combat maritime crime and insecurity, and to address their underlying causes in order to foster long-term security and stability. At its twenty-second Summit, the bloc had adopted the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy and Plan of Action, and it would hold an Extraordinary Summit on maritime security in Togo this coming October. Such regional and continental efforts needed full support enabled by the international community, he said, stressing that the countries concerned required support in order to achieve lasting prosperity, including through the development of the maritime domain to enable greater cooperation in trade and job creation.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said that as a member of the Group of Seven Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, his country sought to facilitate implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and Yaoundé Summit declarations. It would work to establish by 2016 a maritime security and safety architecture and promote both police and judicial cooperation in the region. He stressed the importance of regional and subregional organization in that regard, as well as of the Office for Western Africa and the Sahel. The Italian Navy had carried out maritime security training on its “Nave Cavour” flagship, with more than 20 African countries and 21 ports involved in that campaign, including those in the Gulf of Guinea. Italy also supported the maritime programme of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said more piracy and armed robbery had occurred in recent years in regions other than the Gulf of Guinea, including South-East Asia. There were differences in the type of incidents between the Gulf and the Horn of Africa. Piracy and armed robbery off Africa’s west and east coasts required different solutions. Countries in the region should take the lead in addressing those issues through comprehensive strategies that considered security questions, as well as enhanced institutions and sustainable development. Noting that Brazil had taken part in international maritime exercises in the Gulf, he said any initiative must be in line with the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, which 24 countries had joined, including all on Africa’s west coast. As piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf was a matter of cooperation, the Assembly would be the appropriate forum for such discussions.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium), welcoming the presidential statement, noted that the continuing piracy threat to maritime security was a disturbing challenge, and resolving the problem would only be possible through increased coordination in the region. Belgium supported the decisions taken at the Yaoundé Summit in 2013. Sharing national experiences, he said that his country had coordinated several capacity-building activities in the Gulf of Guinea, and played an active role in developing the European Union’s strategy on the issue, she said, adding that, among other measures, Belgium had provided military training and logistical support to countries fighting illegal activities.
HEIKO THOMS (Germany) said threats to maritime safety had become an issue of increasing international concern, and without strong local and regional ownership, it would not be possible to tackle piracy and armed robbery at sea. Calling for focused and relevant regional support, he said Germany had contributed more than €1 million with a view to strengthening regional cooperation centres under the Yaoundé Process. The scope and breadth of existing partnerships must be widened, he said, welcoming efforts by the private sector to ensure greater security in the Gulf of Guinea. Under the auspices of Germany’s Group of Seven presidency in 2015, he recalled, foreign ministers had made the Lubeck Declaration, which called for a cooperative, rules-based and cross-sector approach to maritime security.
JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of Delegation of the European Union, said safe waters and safe passage at sea were of paramount importance for the economic and human development of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea. “The maritime domain is an enabler of prosperity and sustainable development,” he said, expressing concern about the complex, interconnected and often cross-border nature of the threat. The bloc had adopted its own strategy for the Gulf in support of the Yaoundé process. The Union’s strategy went beyond piracy and armed robbery at sea to also address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, trafficking and pollution, including oil bunkering. Further, it contained measures to address conducive cases on land by promoting the development of coastal economies and strengthening law enforcement. In March 2015, that strategy was complemented by an Action Plan.
Urging all concerned parties to implement the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, he noted that the bloc had provided financial and technical support to the Inter-regional Coordination Centre in Yaoundé and the Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa in Pointe Noire, Congo. Further support was under way through projects to support the Yaoundé architecture, in full alignment with the 2050 African Union Integrated Maritime Strategy. The upcoming African Union Summit on maritime security and safety and development in Africa would offer an opportunity to sustain momentum and awareness regarding the Gulf of Guinea. Noting that the threats to maritime security were growing, he said it was the right moment to assess how more could be done to prevent a further worsening of the situation in the Gulf.
WOUTER ZAAYMAN (South Africa) noted that substantial international assistance and intensified United Nations engagements were needed to build upon Africa’s own efforts to deal with piracy. Recent experiences in the Gulf of Aden showed what could happen if the root causes of piracy were not addressed in a determined and collaborative way, he said, emphasizing the need to focus on such root causes of piracy as youth unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. It would be timely for the Security Council to send a strong and unequivocal message to the end-users of pirated goods and to start exploring the nexus between the illicit pirate economy and formal global role-players, including in the area of hydrocarbons, he said.
PAUL ALEX MENKVELD (Netherlands) underscored the need to cooperate internationally to address the root causes of illegal maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea. Those activities harmed regional trade and economic development and hindered the flow of commerce between Europe and West Africa. Organized maritime crime, including drug and human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, were elements of maritime insecurity that disrupted societies, increased corruption and threatened livelihoods. In March 2014, the European Union had adopted its Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea, aiming to map threats and stressing the importance of regional and international action. That plan had evolved into an Action Plan to support Governments in the region to take on the challenge of combating maritime insecurity on several fronts. In addition, his country had organized a September 2015 meeting on maritime security in Africa with the Government of Togo and the African Union.
EKATERINI FOUNTOULAKI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union, said her country was gravely concerned about the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which endangered the lives of seafarers. Ensuring the prosecution of pirates and armed robbers would require strong international commitment and close cooperation between flag States and regional organizations, she said, adding that States must also apply the IMO’s guidelines and recommendations. The international community must help States in the region build their own maritime capacity to fight piracy, since local ownership would ensure a legitimate and sustainable strategy. Confronting and preventing the root causes of piracy, such as poverty and lack of economic opportunity, should be a priority, she said, adding that lessons learned from the fight against piracy off Somalia could be useful in addressing such issues in the Gulf of Guinea.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) noted that pirates in the Gulf of Guinea operated a well-founded criminal industry through supply networks. Their attacks occurred mainly in territorial waters, terminals and harbours, rather than on the high seas, thereby hindering potential intervention by naval forces. Given piracy’s impact on trade, economic activities in West Africa had dropped dramatically, while poverty remained a big challenge for the region. During the seventieth session of the General Assembly, Kazakhstan had signed a cost-sharing agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), aimed at providing technical assistance to 45 countries in Africa, he said, adding that his country’s goal was to support efforts to build the rule of law, good governance, inclusive political processes, and security-sector reform.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), emphasizing that the actions of terrorists were not the only threats to peace, noted that the Gulf of Guinea had become the new centre of gravity for piracy in Africa, taking the spotlight away from the Gulf of Aden. Endowed with 8 per cent of the world’s petroleum resources, as well as fisheries and significant maritime traffic, it had plenty of targets for pirates. He said that despite the hope that had followed the Yaoundé Summit, maritime insecurity persisted in the absence of a joint system for monitoring and combating piracy. The challenge lay in establishing a framework that would pool the technical and human resources of States in the region, together with an appropriate regulatory mechanism and predictable financing. It was high time the Gulf of Guinea — where pirates were reputed to be among the most violent in the world — benefited from the same international cooperation extended to the Gulf of Aden, he stressed.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey) noted that, unlike Somalia, where multilateral counter-piracy efforts had led to a steady decline in attacks, the Gulf of Guinea had witnessed escalating maritime piracy, including armed robbery and hostage-taking. The abduction of Turkish crew members and a failed attempt by pirates to board a ship bearing the Turkish flag had demonstrated that no country was spared. The international community should demonstrate the necessary cohesion and solidarity to eliminate piracy challenges, he said, calling for greater attention to tackling evolving criminal networks and effective counter-piracy measures. Furthermore, he underscored the need for all actors to engage with States in the Gulf of Guinea in a harmonized and coordinate manner, adding that it was also important to provide capacity-building assistance and enhance national naval forces.
MENELAOS MENELAOU (Cyprus), associating himself with the European Union, said measures to protect ships and crews in high-risk areas would be limited in effect unless they were combined with regional and international cooperation on law enforcement and prevention. In that regard, a renewed United Nations focus on maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea, possibly in the form of a Security Council resolution, would be helpful, he said. Endorsing all United Nations initiatives to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea, he expressed his country’s commitment to enhanced regional and international synergies and cooperation.
ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria) said criminal gangs motivated by access to crude oil and those involved in the trafficking of illicit goods and small arms and light weapons were operating in the Gulf of Guinea, which had resulted in an escalation of criminal acts, including armed attacks on ships. There was an urgent need to assist countries in the region with the necessary support to implement the integrated maritime security strategy. Governments in the region must pursue sustained enforcement actions against piracy networks on land and increase the region’s naval assets and maritime aviation to enable it to respond appropriately to maritime attacks. At the national level, the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration and the Nigerian Navy had enhanced their operational collaboration, resulting in a substantial reduction in attacks around Lagos Harbour, he said, adding that electronic assets were being used to conduct law-enforcement and anti-piracy patrols.