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  • Tayé-Brook Zerihoun (right), Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefs the Security Council on piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. At left is Liu Jieyi, Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China to the UN and President of the Council for April.
Council discusses piracy and armed robbery at sea in Gulf of Guinea. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Security Council Open Debate on Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea, Assistant-Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun

Mr. President,
Members of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank Mr. President for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

As the Council is aware, piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea is regularly covered in the biannual briefings provided by the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for the Central Africa and West Africa regions. However, this is the first time in almost five years that the Security Council has a dedicated a session on the subject matter.

Over the past few years, there has been a steady decline in the number of recorded incidents of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other illicit and illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.  However, insecurity at sea remains a source of concern in the region.  In the first quarter of 2016, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded six attacks and six attempted attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, including nine in Nigeria, one in Côte d'Ivoire, and two within the territorial waters of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Cases of hijacking of vessels for political purposes by the self-described “Biafra” militants off the coast of Nigeria and kidnappings along the coasts of Western and Central Africa have also been recently recorded.


Mr. President,

As you may recall, following an upsurge in incidents of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea, the Security Council, in its resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), encouraged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) to develop a comprehensive regional anti-piracy strategy for the Gulf of Guinea with United Nations support.

As a result, a Summit of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the GGC on Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in June 2013, with the support of UNOWAS and UNOCA.  During the Summit, the Heads of State and Government committed to work towards the promotion of peace, security and stability in the Gulf of Guinea.  Notably, the Summit adopted: i) a Memorandum of Understanding on maritime safety and security in Central and West Africa that set objectives and areas of cooperation; ii) a Code of Conduct; and iii) a Political Declaration on enhancing cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea.  The Summit also agreed on the creation of an Inter-regional Coordination Centre (ICC) to implement the Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa and established a clear division of labour which charged the  regional organizations with responsible for strategy and coordination, and the States with responsibility for operations.

The Inter-Regional Coordination Centre was inaugurated in Yaoundé on 11 September 2014 to coordinate all operations with regard to the suppression of piracy and other criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.  This marked an important, positive step in the cooperation between West and Central Africa in the fight against piracy and crimes at sea in the Gulf of Guinea region.

The Inter-Regional Cooperation Centre is expected to coordinate two Regional Maritime Coordination Centres: namely the Regional Maritime Security Centre for Central Africa (CRESMAC) located in Pointe-Noire, Republic of the Congo, and ii) the yet to be established Regional Maritime Security Centre for West Africa (CRESMAO) to be located in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

The Regional Maritime Coordination Centre for Central Africa has been operational since its official launch in October 2014, while the Multinational and Regional Maritime Coordination Centres are at different stages of operationalisation.  However, despite its inauguration in 2014, the ICC itself is not fully operational due to staffing, funding and other logistical constraints.


Mr. President,

An Extraordinary Meeting of Heads of State and Government of ECCAS, ECOWAS and the GGC was held in Yaoundé on 12 February 2016 to address the challenges towards the operationalisation of the Inter-Regional Coordination Centre. Both the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for West Africa and Central Africa attended the meeting on behalf of the UN.  The meeting reviewed the ICC’s staff recruitment and procedures, the budget for the second half of 2016 and for 2017, as well as a proposed programme of activities.

With regard to the budget, the meeting recommended that member States contribute 40 percent of the necessary resources, while bilateral and international partners would contribute the rest. The Summit also recommended that ECCAS, ECOWAS, the GGC and their member States expedite the disbursement of funds to allow for the operationalization of the ICC between July and December 2016. Moreover, it was proposed that additional sources of funding be explored through the taxation of beneficiaries of the ports situated in the Gulf of Guinea.

The mobilization of resources remains a key priority for ensuring the effective operationalization of the ICC, particularly given that a significant component of the centre’s budgetary resources is expected to come from bilateral and international partners.  For this reason, the Heads of State and Government of ECCAS, ECOWAS and GGC have agreed, in principle, on the organization of a future conference of partners and third-party contributors in Yaoundé. The conference is expected to be held immediately after the meeting of the G7 ++ and Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, which is scheduled for 6 to 7 June in Lisbon, Portugal.  The United Nations is committed to assist in this endeavour through its regional offices in Central and West Africa.


Mr. President,

Tackling international crimes of trafficking, piracy and theft requires a combination of efforts and an understanding that suppression, while necessary, is not sufficient. Those who commit illegal acts at sea are highly adaptable, increasingly sophisticated in their methods and often well-informed. This requires national, regional and global efforts to be flexible and proactive.  Initiatives aimed at addressing socio-economic development and lack of job opportunities are also required to provide prospects to marginalised populations that may be involved in piracy activities, most notably the youth.

Ultimately, countering the current threats requires a combination of capacities including qualitative improvements in the collection of intelligence; the sharing and improved analyses of intelligence; enhancement of the capacities (both infrastructure and training) of local law enforcement agencies of the Gulf of Guinea countries; and the establishment of an effective customs and border control system throughout the sub-region. 

It is also important to avoid duplication of international capacity-building efforts with respect to maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.  The G7++ and the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea groups have been serving as useful coordination platforms in this regard.

Finally, and most importantly, the African Union is scheduled to hold an Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Development for Africa on 15 and 16 October 2016 in Lomé, Togo.  We believe the Summit will provide a unique opportunity for the countries of the region to renew their commitment to jointly enhance the maritime security architecture in the Gulf of Guinea.

Thank you for your attention.