New York

09 August 2021

Remarks at Security Council high-level open debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security: A case for international cooperation’ [as delivered]

Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I thank India for using its presidency to shine a light on a vital and complex issue — maritime security, and how we, as a global community can and must work together to strengthen it.  

This Council has been increasingly focused on this issue over the last decade.

Today’s debate is a chance to further advance common efforts.

Threats related to maritime security affect people in every country in the world — coastal and landlocked alike.

We all depend on the world’s oceans and seas — not only for the air we breathe,  for regulating our planet’s atmosphere, and for their astounding biodiversity, but also for their wealth of natural resources, and for transportation and trade.

For more than three billion people — the vast majority in developing countries — this issue takes on a special urgency.

They count on the oceans and seas for their daily social and cultural life — and for their livelihoods.

And yet, maritime security is being undermined at alarming levels.

From challenges around contested boundaries and navigation routes that do not conform to international law. 

To the depletion of natural resources — including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

To armed attacks and crimes at sea, such as piracy, robbery and terrorist acts, as well as use of limpet mines and drones.

In fact, despite an overall decrease in the volume of maritime traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first half of 2020 saw a nearly 20 percent increase in reported acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide over the previous year.  

In Asia, such incidents nearly doubled.

West Africa, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and the South China Sea were most affected by piracy and armed robbery against ships.

The unprecedented levels of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea and recently in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea are particularly concerning.

Maritime insecurity is also compounding the terrorist threat emerging from the Sahel.  

Mr. President,

These growing and interlinked threats call for a truly global and integrated response.

A response that addresses these challenges directly as well as their root causes — including poverty, a lack of alternative livelihoods, insecurity, and weak governance structures.

And a response that brings together everyone with a stake in our maritime spaces.

From governments and regional groups, to shipping companies, and the fishing and extraction industries;  to those charged with keeping our maritime spaces secure from threats like piracy, robberies, terrorism and transnational crime, including drug trafficking and the smuggling of migrants;and always to the people living in coastal communities who count on the ocean for their livelihoods and wellbeing.

The good news is that we already have an international legal regime for maritime security, underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Convention and related instruments strike a careful balance between States’  sovereign rights, jurisdiction and freedoms, and their duties and obligations.

But this framework is only as strong as countries’ commitment to full and effective implementation.

We need to translate commitment into action.  

As the Secretary-General has said repeatedly, all States must live up to their obligations. And they must resolve any differences in relation to maritime security in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

We welcome the concerted steps taken by the Security Council and Member States so far to strengthen international and regional co-operation on maritime security. And to do so in accordance with all related instruments — including the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

We also support many regional initiatives that are gathering partners around maritime security across the globe aimed at fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia; ending armed robbery against ships in Asia; tackling the growing insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea and the Persian Gulf; and strengthening security in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representatives and Envoys are working shoulder-to-shoulder with their national, regional and international counterparts to end maritime crime and piracy, and peacefully settle competing claims.

By lending your voice and support to these initiatives, this Council can draw increased attention to these efforts and trigger action.

Finally, our global response must include working with those people most affected by maritime security challenges.

Across the United Nations family, we’re working with impoverished coastal communities to develop new opportunities for decent and sustainable work, through technical assistance and capacity-building.

We need to reduce the likelihood that desperate people turn to crime and other activities that threaten maritime security and degrade our ocean environment.

And we need to make sure that our oceans and seas can continue thriving, and support humanity’s economic, social, cultural and environmental development for generations to come.

Mr. President,

Throughout our work, we need to ensure that our response recognizes the clear link between security and sustainability. For without security, the sustainable and responsible development of the oceans and its resources is impossible.

We cannot afford to squander the future of this wondrous natural gift, nor the futures of the billions of people who rely on it.

Given the clear links between global security and our maritime spaces, we welcome efforts to further galvanize support for action.

We look forward to working with this Council, and with communities and partners like India, to unlock the full potential of sustainable, peaceful and secure oceans and seas for us all.

Thank you.