What are the opportunities and challenges for small island state foreign policy in the changing world political environment? This was the key question that I explored at a talk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles on the 20th of December. The event was hosted by the minister who gave a short welcome address.
In my talk I started in revisiting an article on the Seychelles co-authored with Anders Wivel. In the article we explored how Seychelles has managed to gain a global reputation and status despites its very low capacity. As we argued this can be explained by the ways that the country adopts productively the principles of smart small state foreign policy and by its style of diplomacy of diplomacy driven by pluralism and pragmatism – what we dubbed ‘creole diplomacy’.
On this basis, I discussed current world political master trends that are likely to influence the status and diplomatic action space of Seychelles, emphasizing 1) the return of geopolitics, in particular given the rise of Indo-Pacific thinking, 2) the rise of informal governance and 3) the ocean revolution. Each of these trends creates new challenges and opportunities. The analysis is forthcoming as a short article in the Seychelles Research Journal.
Based on this analysis I made five proposals for how Seychelles can seize opportunities and continue its entrepreneurial style of diplomacy. Firstly, Seychelles should look east and strengthen its bilateral relations to Maldives and Sri Lanka, but also seize opportunities to work closer with Southeast Asia and the islands of the South Pacific.
Second, the government would benefit from issuing a paper in which it outlines its own understanding of the Indo-Pacific, the role of Seychelles therein, and its vision for the future of this regional construct.
Thirdly, the country could benefit from better coordinating its ocean-related diplomacy under the notion of ‘blue diplomacy’. This could entail the creation of the post of an ocean ambassador who coordinates participation in ocean summits, adds a face to Seychelles ocean politics and speaks on behalf of Seychellois marine life.
Fourthly, I argued for the need to continue strong advocacy and campaigning work on core ocean issues. This could particularly focus on three issues: Plastic pollution and the global campaign against plastics; the prevention of and response to shipping accidents, that requires more surveillance of shipping activities but also capacity building on a regional level; and supporting the ban of deep sea mineral mining.
Fifthly, I suggested that Seychelles can draw on its reputation as an innovator in developing the blue economy and maritime security agendas to drive forward the discussion of how synergies between both can be build.
The event continued with a discussion of creole diplomacy, the implications of the Indo-Pacific construct for Seychelles and which issues the foreign policy might want to focus on.
From the 15th to 23rd of Decemberr I will be visiting Seychelles. During my visit I will meet with stakeholders concerning ocean governance in Seychellois waters as well as the region. I will also give a talk to the ministry of foreign affairs on smart small island state foreign policy and the Indo-Pacific.
Together with Jan Stockbruegger I have written an op-ed on green shipping and the need to incorporate accident prevention and resilience into the green agenda. It was originally published by Maritime Executive on 10.12.
“The shipping industry is the backbone of global trade and supply chains, with 90 percent of all goods transported by the sea. The Suez Canal closure or logistical challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis have demonstrated our dependency on maritime supply chains.
Yet the shipping industry is also a major polluter. It contributes up to three percent to global CO2 and greenhouse gasses. Reducing these emissions is vital to reach the climate targets of the 2015 Paris agreement. Yet shipping was not included in the Paris Agreement. The basic problem: Since shipping implies the transfer of goods from one country to another, to which one should the emissions be attributed?
Drawing on the efforts at the main regulatory body for global shipping, the International Maritime Organization, at a new milestone in shipping’s green energy transition was achieved at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.Continue reading
On December the 8th I had the pleasure to speak at an event titled “Europe in the Indopacific – Key challenges for a mutually beneficial partnership in the region”. At the event I provided a pessimist outlook on the Indo-Pacific and what it might mean for the European Union.
The International Relations and Defense Committee of the UK Parliament is currently discussing the state of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UK’s position towards it. AS part of that process the committee has invited written evidence. Leading scholars and NGOs have contributed to the process.
As part of the SafeSeas network we have submitted a commentary that focuses on the maritime security dimension. Read our evidence here.
The oceans are becoming increasingly a key theme across disciplines. In what is sometimes called the blue or oceanic turn, scholars ask what is particular about the maritime, how does it differ from land, and what does it imply if we ground our thinking in the sea. The conference titled “Maritime Conflicts and Promises in History and Present” held on the 19th and 20th of November was an interesting contribution to this line of thought. Working and thinking across different disciplines to better understand the oceans.
I had the pleasure to give a keynote address at the conference titled “Global Ocean Politics. A short history of current paradigms.” In my talk I was drawing on recent research on global ocean politics and the paradigms, problematizations and communities of practice driving it.
Yesterday we celebrated the launch of the Copenhagen Ocean Hub. The Ocean Hub is a cross-faculty initiative of the University of Copenhagen that aims at facilitate the debate among scholars working on the oceans from disciplines such as political science, history, anthropology and law.
The Ocean Hub’s main goal is to provide an intellectual space for the rich community of 30 ocean researchers at the University, to act as an incubator for innovative ocean-related research projects, and to translate our insights to broader Danish and European publics and policy processes.
As one of the co-directors of the initiative I was delighted to open the evening program. Following welcome notes from the Head of the Department of Political Science and the Deans of the Social Science, Humanities and Law faculties we explored the theme: Is the land more important than the sea?
Today I had the pleasure to give a talk at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH). In my talk titled “Inside the global maritime security assemblage” I drew on the model of pragmatic ordering outlined in recent article to explore how maritime security implies a new problematization of ocean space. I then discussed how maritime security spurs regime complexity and fragmentation drawing on insights from the TOCAS project. I ended in discussing whether and how we might witness a re-ordering process on an institutional level that would eventually lead to a consolidation and settlement process on a global level.
In a new commentary co-authored with Jan Stockbruegger we demonstrate the need for more cooperation between the global seapowers to tackle blue crimes. Taking our point of departure in the August 2021 high level open debate on maritime security in the UN Security Council, we argue that it is time to think beyond the sea as a space of geopolitical competition and start to address common challenges at sea. The commentary is available here.