ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL MARTHA AMA A. POBEE
REMARKS TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON
THE SITUATION OF PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AT SEA IN THE GULF OF GUINEA AND ITS UNDERLYING CAUSES
New York, 22 November 2022
M. le Président,
Distingués membres du Conseil,
Mesdames et Messieurs,
- Je remercie le Conseil de sécurité de l’occasion qui m’est donnée de présenter le rapport du Secrétaire général sur la situation et causes profondes de la piraterie et des vols à main armée en mer dans le golfe de Guinée.
- Depuis la fin de la période couverte par le rapport du Secrétaire général, les cas de piraterie et de vols à main armée en mer dans le Golfe de Guinée ont continué à diminuer. Toutefois, il convient de noter qu’il est encore trop tôt pour tirer des conclusions définitives quant au déclin à long terme de cette menace singulière pour la stabilité du Golfe de Guinée.
- This steady decline in instances of piracy and armed robbery at sea, which began around April 2021, is the result of concerted efforts by national authorities, who bear the primary responsibility for countering piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region, with the support of regional and international partners. Increased naval patrols by coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea and the regular deployment of naval assets by international partners have together, successfully served as a deterrent. Enhanced regional coordination and the convictions for piracy and maritime crimes in Nigeria and Togo in 2021 are important factors in bringing about this positive development.
- Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has, however, morphed over the last decade. Pirate groups are adapting to changing dynamics both at sea and in coastal areas. In this respect, the recent decrease in instances of piracy may in part be attributable to the shift by criminal networks to other forms of maritime and riverine crime, such as oil bunkering and theft, which they likely view as both less risky and more profitable.
- It is, therefore, imperative that states in the Gulf of Guinea and regional structures, such as Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, supported by the international community, enhance and accelerate their efforts to establish a stable and secure maritime environment in the Gulf by fully operationalizing the maritime security architecture laid out in the Yaoundé Code of Conduct. At the same time, the underlying causes, such as youth unemployment and inadequate access to public services, which render coastal communities vulnerable to being drawn into illicit and criminal activities must also be addressed.
- I welcome the recent meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Gulf of Guinea Commission on 13 October to review progress made in addressing regional maritime challenges. I would further like to note the election of Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo as the rotating president of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, succeeding his Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari.
- I would also like to take note of the ongoing preparations for the first maritime conference of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on the theme of “Governance and security of the ECCAS maritime space and the development of a sustainable Blue Economy in Central Africa”. This conference, which is scheduled to take place in Kinshasa before the end of the year, is intended to develop strategies for maritime governance, security and safety, and the development of a sustainable blue economy in the ECCAS space.
- As we approach the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, in 2023, the Gulf of Guinea states have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the full operationalization of the Yaoundé maritime security architecture. An important milestone was reached on 26th October this year, with the signing of a headquarters agreement by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission and the Government of Cabo Verde, for the establishment of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) for Zone G comprising Cabo Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Senegal. Indeed, once this Maritime Coordination Centre becomes functional, it will complete the operationalization of the Yaoundé Architecture in the ECOWAS’ maritime domain. The MMCC Zone E in Cotonou and MMCC Zone F in Accra are already active.
- Another important event in the period since the Secretary-General’s report was issued is the multinational maritime exercise, “Grand African NEMO 2022” that was jointly organized by the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) in Yaoundé and the French Navy from 11th to 18th October. The exercise covered a wide area stretching from Senegal to Angola and involved 17 of the 19 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea as well as eight international partners. Participants were trained to tackle illegal fishing, piracy, marine pollution, illegal trafficking, and rescue at sea. The exercise included two real cases relating to the relocation of a boat suspected of drug trafficking and the rendering of assistance to a fishing vessel in distress.
- The United Nations system continues to provide the necessary political and technical assistance to the Gulf of Guinea states in their efforts to fully implement the Yaoundé maritime security architecture. On 15 September, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) held a workshop on Maritime Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. An important outcome of the Workshop was a call on the concerned member states to adopt the required legal frameworks to criminalize piracy. The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) continue to provide assistance to the Gulf of Guinea states towards the ratification of the relevant maritime security instruments and their incorporation into national legislation.
- At present, there is no firm evidence to suggest any potential or possible linkages between terrorist and pirate groups. However, addressing the underlying social, economic, and environmental challenges faced by communities in the region will ultimately serve to contain both threats. In this respect, the United Nations system continues to strengthen its collaboration with international financial institutions towards supporting the region in effectively addressing the underlying causes of fragility and insecurity. In Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, the United Nations and the World Bank have since early 2022, deepened their cooperation through shared analysis, alignment of strategic priorities and joint advocacy with the Government in an effort to enhance coherence of efforts and better address key drivers of fragility such as poverty and unequal access to basic services.
- I would like to underscore that to effectively eradicate the menace posed by piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, national stakeholders, regional structures, and the international community must work in close collaboration to address the underlying social, economic, and environmental challenges that underpin the recruitment of individuals into maritime crime networks.
- This requires a holistic and long-term approach, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 to address poverty and the lack of alternative livelihoods, youth unemployment and underemployment. Inclusive strategies will need to be underpinned by sex-disaggregated data on the impact of maritime crime on women, girls, men and boys. The development of the Gulf of Guinea’s blue economy offers further opportunities for sustainable economic growth for littoral communities.
- Effective national and regional strategies to tackle governance and security challenges, especially those bordering on illicit financial flows and illegal and unregulated fishing will be critical.
Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Security Council,
- In closing, I want to highlight that although the Yaoundé maritime security architecture has been functioning with increased efficiency, several significant challenges continue to impede its full operationalization. One key challenge is the lack of predictable and sustainable financing. The forthcoming tenth anniversary of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct offers an opportunity to the signatory states - together with ECCAS, ECOWAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission - to comprehensively assess the status of implementation of the maritime security architecture. This assessment will help identify priority areas for support and to develop a strategic outlook and roadmap for the next decade to complete the operationalization of the Yaoundé architecture.
- While Gulf of Guinea states carry the primary responsibility for countering piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region, the Security Council’s support for this process and its outcome would be invaluable. The United Nations entities, including through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa and United Nations Regional Office for West Africa and the Sahel stand ready to provide the necessary political and technical assistance to the Gulf of Guinea states in this endeavor.
Je vous remercie de votre attention / I thank you for your kind attention.