European Union Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Peace and Security in Africa: Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

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November 22, 2022

Mr  President, Members of the Security Council, Excellencies,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Yaoundé Architecture, we welcome today’s discussion in the Security Council and commend Ghana for their leadership on this issue. I want to thank the briefers for their insightful presentations. We also want to thank Ghana and Norway for steering the successful adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea earlier this year, which has in turn led to the Secretary General’s report.

Mr President,

The problem of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea has wide-ranging repercussions beyond the countries and people living in the Gulf. This is why the problem is a global one that concerns us all. We hope that the increased attention paid to the Gulf of Guinea will give new impetus to the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct and lead to closer regional cooperation. Mr President,

The Secretary General’s report highlights the enormous costs of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The estimate of $1.9 billion per year in direct and indirect costs  gives us a concrete figure of the level of resources that should have gone into development and benefitted communities. The combined cost of anti-piracy measures, fiscal revenue losses, direct damages to the shipping industry, higher insurance premiums and lower trade volumes poses a threat to the whole region.

We should also consider the enormous cost of illegal, underreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing amounting to USD 1.6 billion a year. IUU also poses a serious environmental threat to fish stocks and future livelihoods. Other serious threats to maritime security are the trafficking in narcotics, arms and human beings, oil bunkering and petro piracy. There is a need to better understand the links between these crimes, which also take place on land, and piracy and armed robbery at sea.

Tackling piracy and armed robbery at sea requires a hands-on security approach, but we also have to tackle the root causes of piracy on land. This is also shown by the fact that as the instances of piracy have decreased, we have seen an increase in certain illegal activity on land such as oil bunkering. These problems need to be addressed through an integrated approach that takes into account the need for economic development and strengthened governance in the region. The European Union adopted a strategy for the Gulf of Guinea back in 2014, which we have recently  updated. The approach taken is comprehensive and reflects the European Union’s long-lasting engagement at all levels: we need to address socio-economic development, institutional and legal frameworks as well as defence and security aspects.

Mr President,

We have a number of tools to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

First of all, while it may seem obvious, we should mention UNCLOS, the ‘Constitution for the Oceans’. It has guided every aspect of maritime affairs and set out a balance of rights and duties over the past 40 years, reflecting customary international law. It is the fundamental pillar for ocean governance as it establishes the overarching legal framework within which all activities in oceans and seas must be carried out. It is of strategic importance as the basis for national, regional and global action and cooperation in the marine sector.

Second, the Yaoundé Code of Conduct signed in 2013 is the main regional framework to promote cooperation around maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. The European Union actively supports both individual member states and regional organisations (ECOWAS, ECCAS and GCC) to implement the Code of Conduct.

Third, the increased naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea has proven successful in tackling piracy. We commend the efforts of Nigeria in this respect, recognising the positive impact that the DEEP BLUE project has had on suppressing piracy. In 2021, the European Union launched the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) in the Gulf of Guinea, meaning that the naval presence of at least one EU member state is guaranteed at any time and can be coordinated with regional and country bodies. The European Union is also considering an assistance measure under the European Peace Facility to support military actors in some coastal states.

Fourth, there is a need to strengthen legal frameworks and institutional capacities in the region. The European Union commends those countries that have already introduced legislation that allows the prosecution of suspected pirates, and urges others to follow suit. The European Union has a number of projects aimed at strengthening the institutional, legal and operational capacities in Western and or Central Africa, representing a total amount of EUR80 million.

We commend the agreement reached by ECOWAS States on the Supplementary Act[1]. We will continue to support the legal reform that is ongoing in several Coastal States of Western and Central Africa. The European Union supports UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme with EUR5.9 million, which goes towards strengthening prosecution and adjudication of maritime crimes as well as driving legal reforms of the Gulf of Guinea countries.

Finally Mr President, let me assure you that the European Union remains committed to supporting the Gulf of Guinea countries in their efforts to strengthen maritime security, based on the Gulf of Guinea Strategy and Action Plan. We especially look forward to working together on further strengthening the Yaoundé Code of Conduct as it celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2023.

Thank you

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