By Lisa Otto
Visiting Researcher – Greenwich Maritime Institute
D.Phil Candidate – University of Johannesburg
The World International Studies Conference, convened 6 – 9 August at the Goethe University in Frankfurt hosted a maritime security panel series, entitled Maritime Securityscapes. This saw three panels and two roundtables discussing a variety of maritime issues.
The three maritime security panels comprised discussions on contemporary piracy, non-state actors in maritime security, and the securitisation of the maritime; while the two roundtables discussed lessons from the Contact Group on Piracy and off the Coast of Somalia, and the future of maritime security studies.
This initiative has been to the great credit of Christian Beuger of Cardiff University (and formerly of the GMI), who put in a lot of work to propose, put together and coordinate this panel series, effectively bringing together the small but flourishing group of researchers in the field of maritime security studies.
Lisa Otto, a visiting researcher at GMI who attended the conference and presented a paper there, now offers a snapshot of some of the interesting discussions made on the various maritime security panels.
* * *
Lessons from the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia:
This roundtable was perhaps one of the more interesting discussions had by maritime security experts in attendance and discussed the successes and failures of the CGPCS and interrogated whether there were opportunities to transfer lessons learned to address piracy in other regional contexts.
The CGPCS was established to address a finite problem, and came about in response to inertia or slow-moving responses to the piracy problem off the Somali coast. Given United Nations resolutions on the matter, the scope was there for the creation of such a body, essentially legitimised by the United Nations.
The discussants agreed that the CGPCS’ successes came primarily as a result of its limited geographic and sectoral focus, and the informal nature of its structure, engaging a large number of state and non-state stakeholders. This meant few barriers to entry for stakeholders, limited red tape, all the while granting ownership and legitimacy to this uncommon exercise in global governance in the eyes of the 600+ stakeholders involved.
These, however, are also described as being the characteristics responsible for the Contact Group’s weaknesses, as large membership created a duplication of efforts.
Nonetheless, several positive outcomes resulted from the CGPCS including shared awareness between multi-national forces present in the Gulf of Aden, as well as the Best Management Practices manual, the maritime security centre for the Horn of Africa, and multi-national agreements for prosecution.
Currently, questions abound regarding what to do with the mechanism now that piracy off the coast of Somalia has declined dramatically in recent years. Speakers noted that pirates may still be present in Somalia, albeit dormant at present, which raises the risk for a great resurgence of piracy there should naval forces present there leave.
One suggestion put forward, was the establishment of a small secretariat that could act as a meeting point for stakeholders, which could convene when necessary to address threats and concerns related to maritime security, and sea piracy in particular. Furthermore, capacities will need to be transitioned, such that functions currently performed by international partners may be taken over by local institutions, who are then supported in their efforts by these partners.
As for the transferability of idea and template of the CGPCS, discussants and participants noted that lessons and successes in this instance are not likely to be applicable in other geographical settings where piracy currently presents a problem to the differing contexts in which they occur. In Somalia, one was dealing with a failed state and a threat within international waters, which thus rendered the issues within the remit of the international community to respond to. In other regions of the world, West Africa for example, the breadth of piracy crosses the waters of various territories, affecting states that may be weak but are certainly not failed. Furthermore, in this instance, the threat does not emanate from the high seas but from territorial waters, placing the concern under the jurisdiction of individual sovereign states rather than the international community.
Ultimately, while the initiative of the CGPCS has been widely considered as a success, it seems that this is unlikely to be duplicated in other contexts.
* * *
Look out for further installments this week for more insight into current debates in maritime security studies, as discussed at the WISC Conference.