Security Council Open Debate "Peace Consolidation in West Africa: Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea”
Statement by H.E. Paul Menkveld, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations New York, 25 April 2016
Thank you Mr President.
At the outset I would like to express my deep appreciation for the People’s Republic of China for organizing an open debate on this important topic, and, together with the Republic of Angola and the Republic of Senegal, for providing us with a thoughtful concept paper.
The threat to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is not only a threat to the security and prosperity of African states. This threat affects seafaring states like the Netherlands and others around the globe. It is therefore of the essence to solve this problem. This can be done most effectively through close international cooperation that also addresses the root causes. After the important steps that have already been taken with the Yaoundé agreements, it is now time to push forward.
The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union. In my national capacity I would like to add a few remarks regarding the problem of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, the response to it and the importance of an integrated approach.
1. The problem of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea
The situation in the region remains worrisome. In the first months of 2016 we have seen violent attacks on mariners, we have seen kidnappings and we have seen theft. The need to address the situation is thus clear.
As I said before, illegal maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea are not only a problem of West-African states. They are our problem as well. Because these activities harm regional trade and economic development. Because they hinder the flow of commerce between Europe and West-Africa and thus prosperity at a larger scale.
Within the countries of Western Africa lack of maritime security poses a threat on various levels to both coastal and inland communities: Organized maritime crime, including drug and human trafficking, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, are elements of maritime insecurity that go beyond the act of piracy and disrupt societies across the continent, increase corruption and threaten the livelihoods of communities. A comprehensive response is required.
2. The response to maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea
In June 2014 the members of ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission gathered. They expressed their commitment to improve collaboration in the region. The result was the Yaounde Code of Conduct, which is being implemented right now. We look forward to the rapid operationalization of the Interregional Coordination Centre.
As most illegal activities take place within the territorial waters, West African coastal countries have the responsibility to coordinate a response. As such, we very much appreciate the efforts that are made and the progress on the Yaoundé agenda.
In March 2014, the European Union adopted its Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea, aiming to map threats and stressing the importance of regional and international action. [Ambassador Vale de Almeida also mentioned this in his on behalf of the European Union and it Member States.] This initial plan is now transformed into an EU Action Plan in order to support governments in the region to take on the challenge of combatting maritime security on several fronts. The Netherlands is an active supporter of this strategy.
3. The importance of development and an integrated approach
In order to tackle the multifaceted challenges of maritime security in an effective way, we need a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes at various levels.
Developing coastal communities and removing incentives for these communities to resort to maritime crime is pivotal in a long-term approach. In addition to a strong response to criminal activities we should strive for inclusive economic growth in the region.
To achieve this, the Netherlands actively supports the implementation of the aforementioned Action Plan of the European Union and its development activities in the region. Within this framework and as part of the integrated approach, the Kingdom of the Netherlands focusses its efforts in the countries of the Gulf of Guinea on maritime capacity building. We undertake exercises and provide training in the countries on the prevention of criminal activities such as drugs smuggling and human trafficking.
In September 2015 we organised, together with the government of Togo and the African Union, a meeting in New York on maritime security in Africa in the run up to the AU-summit on maritime security in Togo this Fall. We will also actively contribute with Dutch experts to the seminars at this upcoming AU-summit.
In the strive for a safe and secure maritime environment, cooperation is of the essence. We have to work together. The Kingdom of the Netherlands therefore aims to be a partner for African countries. Only through equal and respectful partnerships can we strengthen the maritime security in the region.
I thank you.