Open Debate: Peace Consolidation in West Africa: piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
25 April, 2016
On Monday April 25, 2016, under the Chinese presidency, the Security Council held an open debate under the theme, "Peace Consolidation in West Africa: piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea." The purpose of this open debate was in part to refocus Member States’ attention on Gulf of Guinea piracy since it has not been discussed by the Council for a while. Condemning acts of murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking and robbery by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, speakers stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach — led by States of the region, with international support — to address the problem and its root causes. Many speakers particularly called for greater international financial support to improve capacity building, logistical support and training of personnel, particularly at the level of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Maritime Security Trust Fund for West and Central Africa. Several speakers noted that piracy and armed robbery at sea were symptomatic of governance and development issues. Finally, the need to strengthen the legal system of the African States was emphasized to address the issue of illegal fishing and to ensure the prosecution of pirates and armed robbers. The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs on Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, noted a steady decline in the number of recorded incidents and illegal activities over the past few years. However, insecurity remained a deadly threat to the lives of all men and women working at sea.
The concept note circulated before the debate encouraged Member States to focus their statements on a number of topics. These include considering how to help regional countries implement the Integrated Maritime Security Strategy and bring existing mechanisms into operation as soon as possible; how to strengthen regional countries’ capacities; the roles and comparative advantage of regional organisations and the UN; and best practices and experiences of other regions in combatting piracy relevant to strengthening efforts in the Gulf of Guinea. Additionally, the representative of South Africa, along with other Council members, discussed that need to address the root causes of piracy and armed robbery at sea need along; therefore, speakers suggested to strengthen development programmes in Africa to support job creation, poverty reduction, etc. The representative of Nigeria highlighted an urgent need to assist countries in the region with the necessary support to implement the Integrated Maritime Security Strategy and capacity building to carry out joint maritime operations to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea. Overall, preventative measures and proactive measures suggested by speakers require significant financial resources that are not available in the region. Therefore, speakers encouraged Member States, ECOWAS, and other stakeholders to contribute Maritime Security Trust Fund for West and Central Africa. Some States highlighted the need for a military response to resolve the problem. Underscoring the need for strong political will on the part of African leaders, the representative of the United States urged 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. Finally, some representatives encouraged the importance of the environmentally friendly development of the region. According to the representative of Togo, it would stimulate economic growth by creating jobs and promoting initiatives for the protection of the marine environment. Overall, the Gulf of Guinea is facing serious security threats, with increased transnational crime, drug smuggling and environmental crimes that had resulted in enormous losses for regional States. In this vein, regional and international cooperation is essential.
Out of nearly 34 statements delivered, only two speakers (5.8%) used specific gendered language. Italy proudly pointed out women’s empowerment as a key to addressing the root causes of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Supporting this statement, the representative of Senegal reccomended to design an inclusive development policy in the region that will benefit communities, youth and women. In general, the Council warned the international community about kidnappings and violence along the coasts of Western and Central Africa. Four speakers (11.7%) have discussed the constant risk of attacks on the ground and expressed concerns about the safety of the ships’ personnel. For example, the representative of Cyprus suggested that 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. It was also underscored by 17.6% of speakers that the pirates in the Gulf are among the most violent criminals in the world. However, there was no specific reference to particular efforts to protect women in the delivered statements. The Council generally abstained from discussing the specific strategies to prevent external trafficking of women and children, along with sexual and gender-based violence directed towards women. Generally, the role of women’s participation in addressing the issues of piracy and armed robbery was put aside in the discussion even though women are recognized to be the key actors in addressing the same root causes of others crises in the African region, including the lack of political will, poverty and economic instability.