What's In Blue

Presidential Statement on Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Tomorrow, 14 August, the Council will adopt a presidential statement regarding piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The text a Togo initiative, went through two lengthy rounds of negotiations (although with very few substantive points of disagreement among Council members) and was put under silence on 7 August, with an adoption set for 14 August. (There were no Council meetings scheduled between 7 and 14 August and Council members were apparently willing to wait for a week to adopt the presidential statement.) The principal purpose for having the presidential statement is to welcome the summit on maritime safety and security held in Yaoundé, Cameroon on 24-25 June, which was attended by twenty-five countries of West and Central Africa and three sub-regional organisations. The summit and a regional anti-piracy strategy had been requested by the Council in resolution 2018 of 31 October 2011 and resolution 2039 of 29 February 2012.

The draft statement expresses the Council’s concern at the threat piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, regional security and development, and the safety of seafarers and commercial routes. It also notes with concern the reported number of attacks and level of violence associated with piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea during the first half of 2013. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s quarterly global piracy report released on 15 July, piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea have increased compared to last year, with most attacks occurring off the coast of Nigeria. In contrast, there has been an overall decline in piracy worldwide, including off the coast of Somalia, compared to 2012.

The statement welcomes the Yaoundé summit and the adoption of its three outcome documents: (1) Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa, (2) Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of Central and West African States on Maritime Safety and Security in Their Common Maritime Domain, and (3) a Memorandum of Understanding among the Economic Community of Central African States, the Economic Community of West African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission on maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa. The Council also encourages states in the region to implement the Code of Conduct, which outlines a regional maritime security strategy and may facilitate a legally binding instrument.

Much of the draft statement concerns international, regional and national anti-piracy mechanisms. The Council will stress the importance of regional coordination and the need for international assistance, while emphasising that countries in the region should take the lead in combating piracy, armed robbery at sea, and other forms of organised crime, such as drug trafficking. The Council also welcomes steps taken by regional states and sub-regional organisations to improve maritime security, including the decision to create an anti-piracy coordination centre in Cameroon. The draft reiterates the importance of national legal mechanisms to investigate and prosecute those who engage in piracy, while urging the public and private sectors to share information in order to facilitate better law enforcement.

The statement references the roles of UN member states, the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), and the Secretary-General. The Council will also encourage bilateral and international partners “upon request” to support states and regional organisations to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea (the retention of “upon request” in the draft was supported by several Council members who wished to emphasise state sovereignty). It also expresses thanks for the work of UNOCA and UNOWA in facilitating the summit, and requests the Secretary-General to support the mobilisation of resources for implementing the outcome of the Yaoundé summit and to report on the situation in the Gulf of Guinea and the implementation of summit outcomes.

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