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More needs to be done to address the root causes of piracy, tells ASG Pobee




New York, 21 June 2023

Madam President,

Distinguished Members of the Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

Since my last briefing to the Council on this subject in November 2022, instances of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea have continued to steadily decline.  This decrease, which began in April 2021, is due to the significant efforts of national authorities, who bear the primary responsibility for countering piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region, and the support of regional and international partners.  Regular naval patrols by Gulf of Guinea coastal states and the systematic deployment of naval assets by international partners have, together, continued to serve as an effective deterrent against the actions of criminal groups.

Another key factor that has contributed to this positive trend is the ongoing operationalization of the interregional maritime security mechanism, the Yaoundé Architecture, which was established following the signing of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct in 2013.  We welcome the steady progress made by the Gulf of Guinea states and sub-regional organizations, notably ECCAS, ECOWAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, with the active support of international partners, towards operationalizing key pillars of the architecture over the past ten years.  Specifically, four out of the five Multinational Maritime Coordination Centers have been successfully activated. These comprise all three planned Multinational Maritime Coordination Centers in the ECOWAS maritime space, covering Zones E, F and G, and one out of the two projected Multinational Maritime Coordination Centers, in Zone D, of the ECCAS maritime space.

The operationalization of the Yaoundé architecture, though not fully completed, has also significantly increased maritime security cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea. More specifically, it has resulted in enhanced information sharing between all concerned parties, as well as a simplified process for disseminating actionable maritime security-related information with relevant stakeholders, including with the naval assets of international partners deployed to the region. Additionally, it has facilitated the efficient use of limited naval assets, through the formation of joint naval task groups.  This effective pooling of the resources of Gulf of Guinea states has allowed for the bridging of national and regional capacity gaps, while ensuring interoperability of maritime assets.

Madam President,

As we reflect on the laudable achievements and progress made over the past ten years, we urge increased support to address the several challenges and gaps holding back the full operationalization of the Yaoundé Architecture. These comprise insufficient staffing across various layers of the interregional maritime security architecture, including at the Interregional Coordination Centre, a lack of appropriate equipment and logistical support across the structures, and a lack of predictable and sustainable financing.

Rapidly addressing the challenges that hamper the full operationalization of the Yaoundé architecture is critical to maintaining current gains as piracy incidents continue to threaten the safety of maritime traffic in the region.  Recent figures already suggest that incidents are steadily shifting from the waters of ECOWAS towards the ECCAS maritime domain.

Madam President,

In light of these developments and in keeping with resolution 2634 (2022), I encourage ECCAS, ECOWAS, the Gulf of Guinea Commission and the Interregional Coordination Centre - in their central role as custodians of the Yaounde Code of Conduct - to bolster efforts towards the review of the status of its operationalization. The review will be essential for galvanizing further support and inputs needed to accelerate the process. In this regard, we take note that the upcoming Fourth Annual Meeting of Senior Officials of the Interregional Coordination Centre, with the participation of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECOWAS and ECCAS, to be held in Abuja, would include a discussion on the tenth anniversary of the “Yaoundé process and way forward”. 

Madam President,

The United Nations system is committed to providing the necessary political and technical assistance to the Gulf of Guinea states in their efforts to fully operationalize the Yaoundé maritime security architecture.

UNODC continues to assist in the implementation of the provisions of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, including through the harmonization of coordination and response mechanisms to maritime insecurity. Technical and logistic support is provided for the conduct of joint patrols in the ECOWAS Zones E, F and G in an effort to address challenges associated with the lack of adequate material and other logistical difficulties, which is currently hindering the establishment of the envisioned naval task groups and the conduct of joint patrols.

In line with their respective mandates to enhance regional and sub-regional partnerships to address cross-border and cross-cutting threats to peace and security, UNOWAS and UNOCA have also, at the request of the Interregional Coordination Centre, developed an interregional project, aimed at supporting the Centre to conduct the review of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct to assess the status of operationalization of the Yaoundé Architecture.  UNOCA, UNOWAS and UNODC continue to engage and coordinate their efforts with the G7++ Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, as well as with ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and are committed to further supporting regional initiatives to commemorate the tenth Anniversary of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.

Madam President,

In closing, I wish to note that any reflection and review of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct must include a focus on three key issues. First, is the legal framework. The criminalization of acts of piracy and the establishment of universal jurisdiction over such acts under national law, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, remains necessary to address the threat posed by piracy. It is, therefore, vital that all signatory parties continue their efforts to update their legal frameworks, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and any other complementary international and regional legal frameworks.

Second, is the importance of addressing the root causes of piracy as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report of November 2022. To effectively eliminate the threat posed by piracy and armed robbery at sea, national stakeholders, regional and sub-regional organizations and international partners must also actively seek to address the underlying social, economic and environmental challenges that underpin the recruitment of individuals into maritime criminal networks. Without traction on this front, overall progress in curbing this menace will be limited. In this regard, it would be important for the review process, when launched, to include a focus on prevention. Linked to this, it would be necessary to consider ways of (i) enhancing more participatory community-based engagements in the architecture; and (ii) generating sex-disaggregated data on the impact of maritime crime on women, girls, men, and boys to better inform policy options and actions.

Third, it cannot be overemphasized that enhanced coordination between the signatory parties, the Interregional Coordination Centre, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECOWAS and ECCAS remains vital. We look to their joint leadership in defining a strategic outlook and roadmap for the next decade to complete the operationalization of the Yaoundé Architecture. We call on willing partners to provide the requisite support to these regional efforts.

I thank you for your kind attention.