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Although the Gulf of Guinea has witnessed a steady decline in incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, more needs to be done to fully operationalize the maritime security architecture, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as speakers called for renewed action to tackle the root causes of piracy.

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/818) on the situation of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, said such incidents have continued to decrease during the reporting period.  The steady decline resulted from concerted efforts by national authorities, with the support of regional and international partners; regular deployment of naval assets by international partners; and piracy convictions in Nigeria and Togo in 2021, among others.  However, piracy in the Gulf has also morphed during the past decade, she observed, adding that the aforementioned decline might be attributable to a shift by criminal networks to other crimes, such as oil bunkering and theft.

She urged States in the Gulf of Guinea region, alongside the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, to step up efforts to establish a stable maritime environment, including through the full operationalization of the maritime security architecture as laid out in the Yaoundé Code of Conduct in 2013.  However, she also noted that the Yaoundé Code of Conduct has faced challenges, including the lack of sustainable financing.  Its forthcoming tenth anniversary will provide an opportunity to assess its implementation and set out a strategic roadmap for the next decade, she noted, adding that the Council’s support for this process will be invaluable.

Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), commended the Council for adopting resolution 2634 (2022).  The threat of piracy has cost the region lives, stability, and over $1.9 billion in financial losses every year.  The substantial decrease in piracy incidents and victims in the Gulf of Guinea this year, particularly for kidnapping for ransom, is a welcome result of many years of work, including in the context of the Yaoundé Maritime Security Architecture.  While outlining efforts to this end, including through the first-ever piracy convictions in the region, in Nigeria and Togo, she cautioned:  “It is yet too soon to declare victory.  We need to instead capitalize on the momentum and create a sustainable framework to protect the Gulf of Guinea from pirate groups and any criminal activity they may engage in.”

Florentina Adenike Ukonga, Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, said that the adoption of resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), combined with the political will of regional Governments to take responsibility for securing the maritime domain of coastal States and better funding for regional States’ navies and maritime security agencies, to name a few, have led to a considerable decrease in acts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region.  “It is not, however, time to rest on our oars,” she emphasized.  Other crimes are ongoing in the region, which, while not having such visible effects on international maritime trade, have a greater impact on the well-being of coastal populations and the economic well-being of regional Governments.

Nura Abdullahi Yakubu, Maritime Planning Officer, Political Affairs Peace, and Security Department of the African Union, also pointed out that although the Gulf of Guinea may be considered the lynchpin for the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, it has also been labelled as the world’s “hotspot” for maritime crimes, in part due to the absence or weak legal frameworks to prosecute maritime offenders.  Spotlighting efforts to secure the region by the African Union, in cooperation with regional and subregional bodies, he underlined the importance of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its key pillars of information sharing, interdiction, prosecution, and victim support.  Highlighting the importance of effective maritime information sharing, which led to the successful interception of the hijackers of the tankers Maximus and Hai Lu Feng, he also called for more joint training and exercises to improve maritime safety in the region.

Speakers throughout the meeting emphasized the need for a comprehensive response to security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea, including policies to tackle root causes of the drivers of piracy.  Many speakers welcomed the decline in piracy and robbery incidents during the reporting period, as a consequence of enhanced coordination between international, regional and national efforts, with several underscoring the need to boost such cooperation through increased technical and financial support for the Yaoundé Architecture.

The representative of Gabon called on the Security Council to strengthen technical capacity and financial support for ECCAS and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member States, pointing out that for some years now, her country has suffered from acts of piracy such as kidnappings for ransom — sometimes with fatal results.  “This is the price required,” she stressed, for an effective response to the threat of piracy in the economic and regional communities of the Gulf of Guinea.  The direct links between climate and security are clearly visible in Africa, she said, pointing to the recruitment of coastal communities’ local populations by networks of pirates and terrorists as a consequence of decreased means of subsidence due to the climate crisis and pollution from oil and gas extraction.

Ghana’s delegate, Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, noting that, despite the decrease in maritime crimes, the implementation of crucial institutional frameworks, such as the Yaoundé Architecture, is hampered by operational, logistical, funding, technical and capacity-building gaps.  Maritime security strategies should adhere to a multidimensional, whole-of-society approach to address underlying drivers of piracy, including poverty, unemployment, and inadequate access to public services, he said.

In a similar vein, the representative of Kenya also called for a comprehensive approach to tackling the root causes of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, adding:  “It is not enough to support coastal countries to patrol their sea waters against piracy.  These countries need to be supported to invest in safe and sustainable blue economy to tackle poverty and underdevelopment.”  Citing his country’s experience in dealing with maritime piracy off Somalia and elsewhere, he said it is vital that the necessary national and legal frameworks are in place for the effective prosecution of those who are directly and indirectly involved in piracy.

The United States’ representative was among several speakers who emphasized the need to ensure the requisite legal frameworks are in place to prosecute those involved in piracy.  Less than one third of Gulf of Guinea States have enacted legislation to criminalize piracy as set out in the Convention on the Law of the Sea, he pointed out.  Highlighting his country’s support for maritime security, he said United States naval forces in Africa are conducting training throughout the Gulf of Guinea with partners and allies.

The delegate of Nigeria said that his country has invested over $195 million to establish the Deep Blue Project, which includes maritime security platforms that facilitate rapid response to piracy, kidnapping, oil theft, smuggling, trafficking of drugs and persons and other crimes within Nigeria’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone.  Underlining the importance of reinforcing the sovereignty of national waters and protecting a vital food source for the population, he said that enhanced naval capacity and presence will help address the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region.  He called on international partners’ technical and material assistance to help States address such crimes and develop sustainable blue economies.

For her part, Germany’s delegate, speaking as a co-chair of the Group of Seven Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, said that, since the group’s last plenary meeting in Berlin in July, it agreed to contribute to the implementation of resolution 2534 (2022) and will continue discussions in that regard during its meeting in Abidjan next week.  She went on to highlight the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre in Cabo Verde as a recent and important milestone in joint efforts and in the network of sub-regional coordination and information sharing centres.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, cited the enormous costs of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, totalling $1.9 billion per year.  In addition, the enormous cost of illegal, underreported and unregulated fishing, amounting to $1.6 billion per year, must be considered, he added.  In the face of such challenges, he called for a hands-on security approach, as well as efforts to tackle the root causes of piracy on land.  Spotlighting a strategy to this end, adopted by the European Union for the Gulf of Guinea in 2014, he said that such efforts are bolstered by the 2021 launch of the Coordinated Maritime Presences in the Gulf of Guinea, guaranteeing the naval presence of at least one European Union member State in the region at any time.

Also speaking today were Norway, India, United Kingdom, France, Albania, Brazil, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, China and Mexico.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:17 p.m.

Briefings

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, presenting the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2022/818) on the situation of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea and its underlying causes, said such incidents have continued to decrease during the reporting period.  The steady decline in these incidents began around April 2021, as a result of concerted efforts by national authorities to counter piracy and armed robbery, with the support of regional and international partners, she said, citing the deterrent effect of the regular deployment of naval assets by international partners and piracy convictions in Nigeria and Togo in 2021, among other factors.

However, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has morphed during the past decade, with pirate groups adapting to changing dynamics at sea and in coastal areas, she continued, adding that the decline in incidents of piracy and armed robbery might be attributable to a shift by criminal networks to other forms of maritime and riverine crime, such as oil bunkering and theft, which are considered less risky and more profitable.  Against this backdrop, she underlined the need for States in the Gulf of Guinea region, alongside Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, to step up efforts to establish a stable maritime environment, including through the full operationalization of the maritime security architecture as laid out in the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.  Moreover, underlying causes and vulnerabilities, such as inadequate public services, must also be addressed.

Touching on other developments, she welcomed the meeting on 13 October of the Member States of the Gulf of Guinea Commission to review progress in tackling regional maritime challenges, taking note of Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo-Ado’s assumption of the Commission’s presidency.  Ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, she said Gulf of Guinea States have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the full operationalization of the Yaoundé maritime safety and security architecture.  The recent signing of a headquarters agreement by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Government of Cabo Verde, on establishing a Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre, will complete the operationalization of the Yaoundé Architecture in the ECOWAS domain, she added.

She also took note of other encouraging steps, including multinational anti-piracy maritime and training exercises, such as Obangame Express and Grand African NEMO, the latter of which involved the participation of 17 of the 19 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, in addition to eight international partners.  Participants were trained to tackle challenges, including illegal fishing, piracy, illegal trafficking, marine pollution, and rescue at sea, she said.  A workshop was also held on 15 September by the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to help States in the regional adopt a legal framework to criminalize piracy, culminating in a call on concerned States to advance efforts to this end, she said.

While there is no firm evidence to suggest linkages between terrorism and pirate groups, addressing underlying challenges faced by communities in the region will serve to contain both threats, she continued.  The United Nations system is working with the international financial system to help tackle the underlying causes of fragility, such as poverty and unequal access to basic services.  Stakeholders must work in close collaboration to address challenges underpinning the recruitment of youth into maritime piracy networks, by addressing poverty, as well as youth underemployment and unemployment.  As well, the sustainable development of the blue economy can also offer opportunities for littoral communities.  Highlighting challenges that impede the operationalization of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, including the lack of sustainable financing, she said its forthcoming tenth anniversary will provide an opportunity for signatory States, in conjunction with ECOWAS and ECCAS, to assess the status of the implementation of the architecture, and to set out a strategic roadmap for the next decade, in order to complete the operationalization of the maritime security architecture.  The Council’s support for this process will be invaluable, she added.

GHADA FATHI WALY, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), commending the Council for adopting resolution 2634 (2022), said that the threat of piracy has cost the region lives, stability, and over $1.9 billion in financial losses every year.  The substantial decrease in piracy incidents and victims in the Gulf of Guinea this year, particularly for kidnapping for ransom, is a welcome result of many years of work, including in the context of the Yaoundé Maritime Security Architecture.  At sea, there are more naval patrols and stronger cooperation between regional navies, backed by navies from outside the region who have deployed assets, creating a more secure maritime environment.  On land, a greater focus on criminal justice has resulted in stronger measures, including the first-ever piracy convictions in the region, in Nigeria and Togo.  “It is yet too soon to declare victory.  We need to instead capitalize on the momentum and create a sustainable framework to protect the Gulf of Guinea from pirate groups and any criminal activity they may engage in,” she said.

Highlighting key areas for action, she said that the international community must first help Member States in the region to continue developing their capacities and legal frameworks against piracy.  Domestic laws must criminalize piracy and enable its prosecution in every country in the Gulf of Guinea, she said, spotlighting the need to help them enact such legislation, and to address the significant legislative gaps that remain in many countries.  In parallel, it is vital to continue building detection and interdiction capacities for law enforcement.  This includes training for visit, board, search, and seizure procedures, as well as improved maritime domain awareness, and technical and logistical support to facilitate joint maritime patrols.

Stressing that pirates must be held accountable, she said: “We must improve investigation and prosecution capacities, to give teeth to enforcement efforts and reach a ‘legal finish’ to every case pursued.”  The milestone convictions achieved in 2021 in Nigeria and Togo prove that it is possible.  Further, the Supplementary Act adopted by ECOWAS this year on the handover of piracy suspects is an important landmark that will pave the way for more prosecutions.  The UNODC was proud to support both of those groundbreaking achievements, she said, noting its continued assistance to countries in the region with legal reforms to prosecute piracy, including Gabon where a revised penal code is planned to be adopted next month.  UNODC is also training naval law enforcement across the region, helping maritime agencies to improve cooperation, and providing technical assistance to the key institutions of the Yaoundé Architecture.

The international community must also adapt responses to shifting trends and emerging threats related to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, she said.  The criminal profits gained from kidnapping for ransom piracy remain limited compared to other organized crimes, with around $4 million paid annually in ransom to free abducted seafarers.  New UNODC research suggests that pirate groups in the Gulf of Guinea may be moving into more lucrative maritime crimes, such as oil bunkering, theft, and smuggling.  Law enforcement in the region requires support against a wide range of illicit maritime activities and related crimes, including different forms of trafficking and illegal oil refining, among others.  In that regard, to remove options for criminals at sea, she suggested developing a regional framework to expand cooperation against illicit maritime activities.  The San Jose Treaty on counter-narcotics, applicable in the Caribbean Basin, can serve as a useful example.  Noting a growing spillover of terrorism from the Sahel into the Gulf of Guinea, as evidenced by the rising number of terrorist attacks, particularly in Benin, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire, she urged vigilance against the possibility of terrorist groups linking up with criminal enterprises at the coast.  UNODC is supporting coastal countries to strengthen criminal justice systems and law enforcement cooperation, as well as to improve prevention measures. 

The root causes of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea must also be addressed by working with communities and creating better living conditions, she emphasized.  Coastal communities are the most vulnerable and face the difficult conditions that drive those illicit activities, such as poverty and youth unemployment.  Environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity are further impacting lives and livelihoods, fuelled by climate change and made worse by illegal fishing.  Criminals at sea must be stopped and held accountable.  However, attention must be paid to the people who may become such criminals.  Community-based crime prevention strategies must include working with at-risk and marginalized youth to cultivate personal and social skills, prevent risky behaviours and grant them opportunities.  UNODC is supporting the development of community-based crime prevention strategies in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, an approach it hopes to replicate in other coastal communities.

Noting the tenth anniversary of the Yaoundé Architecture in 2023, she said more ambitious, comprehensive, and sustainable responses require sufficient funding and sustained political attention.  UNODC will count on the Security Council’s help and commitment in this regard, she said, affirming UNODC’s continued work with Member States in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as with the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECCAS, ECOWAS across the United Nations, and its partners for safer waters and safer shores.

FLORENTINA ADENIKE UKONGA, Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, recalled the adoption of resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2012), which urged cooperation between the States of the Gulf of Guinea region and subregional organizations — namely, ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission — to confront the menace of piracy.  She also recalled the summit held in Yaoundé in 2013, which established the Yaoundé Architecture for security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea region.  Detailing the success of this commitment in decreasing maritime piracy, she outlined several factors that are responsible for this decline.

Such efforts include the increased political will of regional Governments to take responsibility for securing the maritime domain of coastal States; better funding for regional States’ navies and other maritime security agencies; greater collaboration between such entities; and more impactful cooperation between regional States and others in the sponsorship of programs, review of legal texts and prosecution of offenders, she continued.  While these measures have led to a considerable decrease in acts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region, she emphasized that “it is not, however, time to rest on our oars”.  Other crimes are ongoing in the region, which, while not having such visible effects on international maritime trade, have a greater impact on the well-being of coastal populations and the economic well-being of regional Governments.

On that point, she stressed that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing deprives those coastal populations of their means of food and livelihood.  This creates hunger, underemployment and unemployment among such populations, pushing them either to join criminal gangs with promises of quick rewards for illegal activities or to embark on the risky journey across the Mediterranean to Europe.  She also spotlighted increasing oil theft — especially in the Niger Delta; environmental pollution caused by unacceptable methods of hydrocarbon exploitation and pipeline vandalism; and the trafficking of arms and persons.  Further, coastal erosion and flooding due to climate change are affecting coastal populations, as are governance challenges and a lack of basic services.

Against that backdrop, she underscored that, to maintain and increase the level of security already achieved, regional States — along with regional and international organizations — must intensify their efforts to continue the actions that have produced these “heartwarming” results.  “Criminality at sea begins on land,” she pointed out, urging national efforts to provide for populations’ basic needs and to create and maintain conditions for employment.  At the regional level, she called for sustainable cooperation among States’ navies and other maritime security agencies, along with a mutualization of assets for effective monitoring, surveillance and deterrence activities.  She also called for collaboration between the African Union, United Nations agencies and other international stakeholders and the Governments of the region.  If such efforts are continued, increased and made sustainable, “piracy and other criminal activities will be a thing of the past in the region,” she said.

NURA ABDULLAHI YAKUBU, Maritime Planning Officer, Political Affairs Peace, and Security Department of the African Union, said a secure maritime environment is warranted for economic prosperity.  However, sea piracy and robbery, among others, has made the maritime environment around the Horn of African and the Gulf of Guinea insecure.  Although the Gulf of Guinea may be considered as the lynchpin for the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, the region has also been inundated with maritime security challenges.  Along with the absence or weak legal frameworks to prosecute maritime offenders, it has been labelled as the world’s “hotspot” for maritime crimes.  He recalled that, in 2020, the region recorded the highest number of kidnappings with about 135 crew kidnapped.  This number represents about 95 per cent of the global kidnappings at sea.  Following resolution 2634 (2022), this number has drastically decreased and could be attributed to the concerted efforts of States in the region and the international community.

Spotlighting efforts undertaken by the African Union, its member States, and their cooperation with regional and sub-regional bodies, he underlined the importance of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and its key pillars of information sharing, interdiction, prosecution, and victim support.  In addition, information sharing led to the successful interception of the hijackers of the tankers Maximus and Hai Lu Feng.  This incident highlights the potential of effective maritime information-sharing capacity for maritime operations.  More joint training and exercises are also necessary to improve maritime safety in the Gulf, he continued.  This includes the African Partnership Station, Obangame Express and Grand African NEMO.  Further, the African Union, in its efforts to improve African navies, will conduct AMANI Africa III next year, aimed at enhancing continental and regional maritime cooperation and creating a stable maritime environment for economic prosperity within the continent.

He went on to highlight the European Union’s pilot concept, the Coordinated Maritime Presence, which currently encompasses the naval assets of five Member States.  He also noted the proposal by some Gulf of Guinea States for the creation of a maritime task force of the region.  The proposed Combine Maritime Security Task Force for the Gulf of Guinea could serve as a regional, multilateral mechanism for the deterrence and crimes, rapid intervention, and operational responses to security threats and law enforcement, he said, calling for stronger legal frameworks in the Gulf of Guinea, increased presence at sea and continued collaboration and coordination in trainings and exercises.

Statements

MONA JUUL (Norway) said her country, as a maritime nation, knows the importance of safe waters for trade and socioeconomic development.  In addition to stopping pirates and armed robbers, putting an end to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is also key to a sustainable blue economy.  She commended Gulf of Guinea States for their strong leadership in improving maritime security, pointing to Nigeria’s “Deep Blue” project as well as the adoption of laws allowing for the prosecution of pirates by several countries in the region.  She further commended Council members Gabon and Ghana for leading the way by implementing important new regulations and laws.  Pointing to the underlying root causes of piracy, she said opportunities for youth must be created so that they do not get lured or pushed into piracy or other forms of crime.  Norway will continue its support for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea during and after its term on the Security Council, she said, pledging its continued capacity-building support through the UNODC, as well as its support for ECOWAS, Group of Seven Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, and the Yaoundé.

LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon) pointed out that while until recently piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region focused on attacks on oil tankers, it now mainly consists of kidnappings for ransom.  For some years now, Gabon has suffered from such acts of piracy — sometimes with fatal results — and she called on the Council to strengthen technical capacity and financial support for ECCAS and ECOWAS member States.  “This is the price required,” she stressed, for an effective response to the threat of piracy in the economic and regional communities of the Gulf of Guinea.  Further, coastal communities’ decreased means of subsistence due to the climate crisis and pollution from oil and gas extraction facilitate the recruitment of local populations by networks of pirates and terrorists.  In this regard, climate and security are directly linked, she pointed out, adding that this is clearly visible in Africa.  While the Gulf of Guinea is one of the world’s most dangerous maritime areas, she spotlighted regional States’ efforts to strengthen maritime security, such as increased piracy convictions, bolstered naval patrols, enhanced regional cooperation and deployment of international navies.  Urging the Council’s vigilance on the issue of piracy, she also called on actors at sea to comply with international maritime law, resolution 2634 (2022) and the domestic maritime law of concerned States.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the problem of piracy is as old as the history of maritime navigation, threatening freedom of maritime navigation and destabilizing global trade and security.  However, within the past two decades, its growth has been unprecedented.  While the Secretary-General’s report notes the reduction of incidents, the international community should not lower its guard and should continue to take robust anti-piracy measures.  Similarly, he also urged that the international community continue to look for links between extremist, terrorist, and pirate groups, “a lethal nexus” with the potential to reverse recent gains.  The low conviction rates and impunity of pirates remains a cause of concern and he encouraged regional countries to enact legislation for criminalizing piracy.  To this end, the Convention on the Law of the Sea remains the main legal framework for address piracy in the Gulf of Guinea; States should take steps to enact legislation as set out in the Convention to combat piracy.  As well, the Yaoundé Architecture plays a significant role in enhancing regional cooperation but faces severe challenges like a lack of predictable and sustainable financing, adequate expertise, equipment and logistical support, and timely information sharing.  He called on the international community to enhance their efforts in supporting the region to overcome these bottlenecks. 

ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom) said her country is proud of its collaboration with partners to promote security and stability, from putting the issue at the heart of its Group of Seven (G7) presidency to the naval visit by HMS Trent to defer a tax on maritime trade.  Noting the complex drivers of piracy, she encouraged a continued focus on the impact of poverty, youth unemployment and environmental degradation in contributing to criminal activity.  Engagement is needed at all levels, including community-based responses, she said, affirming that her country will continue to work closely with partners in support of a holistic approach in the Gulf of Guinea.  Efforts to tackle piracy and armed robbery must comply with the Law of the Sea Convention and align closely with the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, she emphasized.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) stressed that maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is essential for maintaining an Atlantic Ocean that provides for the safety and prosperity of Atlantic nations.  For its part, the United States is committed to assisting regional States in countering piracy and armed robbery at sea and holding perpetrators, facilitators and key figures of criminal networks accountable.  Through the collaborative efforts of many nations – including piracy convictions in Nigeria and Togo and the leadership of the Nigerian navy – the frequency of incidents of piracy has dramatically decreased.  However, less than one-third of Gulf of Guinea States have enacted legislation to criminalize piracy as set out in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The international community cannot let down its guard to all threats to maritime security – such as piracy, transnational organized crime, climate change, environmental degradation and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing –all of which pose a threat to livelihoods.  To that end, the United States will increase its collaboration with nations across the Atlantic, he said, also noting that United States naval forces in Africa are conducting training throughout the Gulf of Guinea with partners and allies, he reported.

ALEXANDRE OLMEDO (France) said the coastal and landlocked States are equally dependent on a strategic link to the sea in the Gulf of Guinea.  He welcomed the significant drop in piracy acts in the Gulf, pointing to recent security, legal and judicial improvements in the region.  Highlighting the cooperation frameworks, most notably the Yaoundé Architecture, he urged that those initiatives receive robust support.  He also spotlighted France’s participation within the European Union, which is the only partner to deploy a sustained and coordinated maritime presence in the Gulf of Guinea.  His country is also working bilaterally with several countries, including Gabon, where France’s navy is carrying out exercises with its Gabonese partners.  The Council should closely follow the Gulf’s security challenges, he stressed.  The links between piracy, climate change and illegal fishing call for a broad-based approach that includes development and ecological preservation elements.  As well, the international community cannot let its guard down, particularly in regard to organized crime and terrorism.  To that, he emphasized the importance of regional organizations like ECOWAS, G5 Sahel and the Accra Initiative in implementing security initiatives, and urged that such efforts receive sustained funding, including mandatory contributions from the United Nations.

ARIAN SPASSE (Albania), recalling that resolution 2634 (2022) spotlighted maritime security, stressed that the Council must sustain this momentum.  He also commended the recent decrease in piracy and armed robbery incidents at sea in the Gulf of Guinea which can be attributed to national, regional, and international initiatives.  However, he called for more intra-regional cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and fully operationalize the Yaoundé Architecture.  States in the region must also enact relevant domestic legislation and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable, he said emphasizing that strengthening the rule of law must be a priority.  At the same time, national, regional and international efforts must focus on addressing underlying social, economic and environmental challenges, while also creating opportunities for women and youth.  In addition, regional and international collaboration is essential to prevent the flow of revenues generated by piracy and armed robbery at sea from contributing to the financing of terrorism in the wider region, he said.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) drew attention to his country’s membership in the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic, as well as its navy’s participation in patrols and joint exercises in the region.  “We are working towards the goal of making the South Atlantic a Zone of Peace,” he said, citing the report’s outlining of a decrease, since April 2021, in instances of piracy and armed robbery in the region.  This trend stems from a series of factors, including the deterrent effects of increased naval patrols.  However, he also highlighted the multidimensional factors that contribute to piracy and armed robbery, including poverty and unemployment, adding that the costs of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea steal resources that could otherwise be used for development.  He went on to say that States in the Gulf of Guinea region must continue their efforts to ensure that their legal frameworks align with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said that while the number of piracy and robbery incidents in the Gulf of Guinea has declined during the reporting period, the root causes of such phenomena have not yet been eliminated.  This has unfortunately led to the persistence of risks to the safety of international shipping, including kidnapping for ransom.  He welcomed the valuable efforts of UNODC to lend technical assistance to States, including through the Global Maritime Crime Programme.  Stressing on the need for capacity-building of coastal States to help suppress piracy, he touched on his country’s participation in such efforts, including through targeted technical assistance lent to Gabon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana, aimed at enhancing the combat capabilities of their maritime forces.  Turning to incidents of robbery at sea, he reiterated his support for a specialized entity to be responsible for the spectrum of issues involved in combating maritime crime.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the significant decline in the number of piracy incidents illustrates that international, regional and national efforts can improve the maritime security landscape in the Gulf of Guinea.  However, she pointed out that the drop in the piracy threat could also be due to a shift in the focus of criminal groups active in the region.  To protect the gains made so far and to remain united on the issue, the Council must continue to support implementation of resolution 2364 (2022), including by coordinating with other stakeholders such as the Peacebuilding Commission.  The burden of confronting terrorism cannot and should not be borne by any single country or region alone, she stressed, voicing her country’s support for coastal West African countries in their counter-terrorism efforts.  Regional anti-piracy efforts are also important and regional leaders are best placed to address threats posed by piracy and to alert neighbouring States to piracy activity.  Community-based prevention efforts must take into account the unique challenges women and girls face in those environments.  Anti-piracy solutions in the Gulf of Guinea must also include measures that help improve regional collaboration on climate change and climate resilience of the most exposed communities.

CÁIT MORAN (Ireland) highlighted the European Union’s support for regional efforts, including its Strategy and Action Plan.  Voicing concern that the hiring of private military and security companies to provide maritime security elevates the risk of human rights violations, she stressed that suppressing piracy must be done in accordance with international law.  Increased coordination and enhanced cooperation among national, regional, and international initiatives are needed to continue to address maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.  Pointing to various drivers of piracy, including widespread poverty, high unemployment and climate change, she said a comprehensive, holistic and inclusive solution is needed to address underlying causes.  The Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.  However, less than one third of the Gulf of Guinea countries have enacted legislation that criminalizes piracy to the full extent set out in the Convention, she noted.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya) said that the root causes of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea must be approached in a comprehensive manner.  “It is not enough to support coastal countries to patrol their sea waters against piracy.  These countries need to be supported to invest in safe and sustainable blue economy to tackle poverty and underdevelopment,” he added.  Citing Kenya’s experience in dealing with maritime piracy off Somalia and elsewhere, he said it is vital that the necessary national and legal frameworks are in place for the effective prosecution of those who are directly and indirectly involved in piracy.  Those States in the Gulf of Guinea region which have not yet done so must institute domestic laws that criminalize piracy and armed robbery at sea, in line with resolution 2364 (2017).  In addition, Member States should cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of suspected pirates while respecting fair trial guarantees, he said.

GENG SHUANG (China), underlining the Gulf of Guinea’s importance as an international waterway, said that maintaining stability there is crucial for regional and global peace and development.  Thanks to joint efforts by the regional and international communities, incidents of piracy are visibly declining.  However, as piracy still seriously affects the peace and development of coastal countries and their landlocked neighbours, the international community should continue to work to strengthen security in the Gulf of Guinea and wider region.  Piracy is a cross-border crime, and only through strengthened coordination and cooperation can it be effectively combated.  He also underscored the need to respect the sovereignty and leadership of coastal States, calling on the international community to support regional organizations — such as ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission — in playing a leading role to enhance the capacity and efficacy of the fight against piracy.  Further, it is necessary to guard against the spread of terrorist forces from the Sahel into the Gulf of Guinea.  Recalling the Secretary-General’s report indicates that 242 million people in the Gulf of Guinea live below the poverty line, he stressed that this is a significant underlying cause of piracy.  The key, therefore, lies in translating the advantages of coastal countries’ natural endowments into job opportunities and socioeconomic development.

JOSÉ DE JESÚS CISNEROS CHÁVEZ (Mexico) said the international community should broaden its commitment to respond to the security challenges facing coastal countries in the Gulf of Guinea.  Prosecution and punishment have played a key role in reducing piracy incidents and States should continue to adapt their national legal frameworks.  He voiced concern about the spread of terrorism from Central Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea, and the attacks in Togo and Benin.  The international community should support anti-terrorism measures and the Accra Initiative to control the wave of violence, he said, urging members of ECOWAS and ECCAS to share best practices.  The Interregional Coordination Centre is an example of what can be done in this area.  He also urged that States consolidate the Yaoundé Code of Conduct Architecture.  A comprehensive response to security challenges requires public policies aimed at reducing poverty and inequality, he asserted.  The Gulf of Guinea population needs development strategies to make them less vulnerable to recruitment by criminal groups and radicalization.  Further, because the consequences of climate change on the fishing activity and extreme weather events have an impact directly on the livelihoods of these coastal communities, international cooperation is key to mitigate these effects and strengthen the resilience of these communities.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity to stress that the Council has been an important enabler of global solidarity for combating piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.  While giving an overview of the decrease in maritime crimes, he underscored that challenges persist.  While institutional frameworks, regional and continental blueprints, including the Yaoundé Architecture, have proven critical in mobilizing national actions, implementation is hampered by operational, logistical, funding, technical and capacity-building gaps.  In regard to underlying drivers of piracy, he highlighted the increasingly levels of poverty, unemployment, inadequate access to public services, and climate change and the disproportionate impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  He advocated for a multidimensional, whole-of-society approach, involving the private sector, civil society, and donor parties and including gender, and youth perspectives in maritime security strategies.  Turning to enhanced partnerships, he stressed that it is important for Member States in the region be supported to formulate their respective national maritime strategy and implementation plan and strengthen the investigative capacities of maritime law enforcement agencies.  In addition, although the report did not identify empirical evidence of any links between the pirates and extremist groups, he called for coordinated efforts aimed at curtailing any potential linkages between extremist, terrorist and pirate groups.

SILVIO GONZATO, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea are global problems, with wide-ranging repercussions beyond countries and people living in the Gulf.  He expressed hope that increased attention to the region will give new impetus to implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and lead to closer regional cooperation.  The direct and indirect costs of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea are enormous, totalling $1.9 billion per year, as highlighted by the Secretary-General’s report, he continued.  In addition, the enormous cost of illegal, underreported and unregulated fishing, amounting to $1.6 billion per year, must be considered, he said.

He went on to say that tackling these challenges requires a hands-on security approach, as well as efforts to tackle the root causes of piracy on land, he went on.  Spotlighting a strategy adopted by the European Union for the Gulf of Guinea in 2014, he underlined the need to address socioeconomic development, institutional and legal frameworks as well as defence and security aspects.  Outlining available tools to tackle such challenges, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he noted the positive impact of the increased naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea, in particular the impact of the Deep Blue Project in suppressing piracy.  To bolster such efforts, in 2021, the European Union launched the Coordinated Maritime Presences in the Gulf of Guinea, guaranteeing the naval presence of at least one European Union member State in the region at any time.

ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany), speaking as one of the two current co-chairs (together with Côte d’Ivoire) of the Group of Seven Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, said the group is a multilateral coalition of countries of the region and international partners in support of the Yaoundé Architecture and the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.  Since its last plenary meeting in Berlin in July, the group agreed to contribute to the implementation of resolution 2634 (2022) and will continue discussions in that regard during its meeting in Abidjan next week.  She highlighted the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre in Cabo Verde as a recent and important milestone in joint efforts and in the network of sub-regional coordination and information sharing centres.  In view of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and Architecture next year, the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea will focus its efforts on codification, making the Code of Conduct legally binding.  Additional progress is expected by next summer in the fields of regional governance, operational cooperation and the harmonization of legal frameworks for maritime operations and the prosecution of piracy. 

Speaking in her national capacity, she said Germany will remain engaged, multilaterally and bilaterally, to support the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.  In addition to supporting a robust and sustained regional response to the immediate risks and dangers posed by piracy and other illegal activities at sea, more efforts and funds must be invested for prevention as well as mitigation of their effects.  The root causes leading to piracy can, for example, be addressed through investments in the blue economy, creating livelihoods and economic opportunities in local coastal communities, she pointed out.  Mitigation can be achieved by environmental protection and conservation, she said, welcoming the Peacebuilding Commission’s very specific recommendations to the Council on Maritime Security on where to focus joint preventive and peacebuilding efforts.

NNAMDI OKECHUKWU NZE (Nigeria) said that his country is committed to improving the efficacy of its responses to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and fulfilling its obligations under the Yaoundé Architecture, which remains the most-viable instrument for international cooperation to combat piracy and other maritime crimes in the region.  Nigeria has invested over $195 million to establish the Deep Blue Project, which includes maritime security platforms that facilitate rapid response to piracy, kidnapping, oil theft, smuggling, trafficking of drugs and persons and other crimes within Nigeria’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone.  Further, domestic law has enabled the holding of perpetrators of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea accountable for their crimes. 

He went on to say that Nigeria seeks to amplify such efforts through local shipbuilding, which will guarantee fleet ability to effectively carry out inter-navy cooperation under the Yaoundé Architecture.  Underlining the importance of reinforcing the sovereignty of national waters and protecting a vital food source for the population, he said that enhanced naval capacity and presence will help address the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region.  Such fishing adversely impacts coastal communities’ livelihoods and economic opportunities, he said, adding that international partners must continue to assist States with technical and material support to address this crime and develop sustainable blue economies.

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