Christian Bueger


Commentaries on UN Security Council debate on maritime security

The UN Security Council held its first ever open debate on maritime security on August the 9th. While the Council discussed maritime crimes in earlier debates, and has been pro-active in addressing crimes, such as piracy, the open debate was a high level exchange focusing on the broader strategic picture. The fact that the meeting was held at the level of heads of state and minister, with among others India’s prime minister Mr. Modi, and Russian president Mr. Putin addressing the Council, documents that maritime security is increasingly a top priority.

The Security Council debate is an important yardstick for how the international community thinks about maritime security, what priorities are in the discourse and what responses and institutional developments it is likely to spur. To investigate the key take away points from the debate, I have written a series of comments on the debate.

In the first commentary, published with Maritime Executive on August,12th, I discuss consequences for the shipping industry. I argue that the debate indicates that the center of gravity of the maritime security debate is increasingly shifting away from the International Maritime Organization towards New York. This raises the question if and how the shipping community will want to engage with the UN debates. The commentary was also taken up in a story in Lloyds List.

The second opinion piece asks whether the United Nations require a new institutional set up for maritime security. This was one of the issues raised in the debate. In the comment I investigate different scenarios of how such a structure might look like. It was published with the Global Observatory.


Workshop on the E3 in the Indo Pacific

What is the future role of the E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – in the Indo Pacific region? This was the core question explored at an online expert workshop on 22.6. organized by four think tanks from the three countries. The focus was on two areas: 1) maritime security and 2) climate change and environmental policy.

The workshop participants discussed what the major challenges in these two areas are and whether and how the E3 would be the right format to take concerted action.

In my own contribution I stressed the importance of not narrowing down maritime security in the Indo-Pacific to inter-state affairs, but to pay full attention to the wider spectrum, in particular counter-terrorism and the fight against blue crimes, such as piracy, smuggling, illegal fishing and pollution. It is these problems where the E3 can make a major impact, rather than investing the majority of resource in signaling and freedom of navigation operations. I recalled the 2015 Luebeck Declaration on Maritime Security by the G7 which strikes a useful balance in terms of the different maritime security challenges.

I also stressed that any role for the E3 needs to be seen in the light of the European Union’s recent Indo Pacific Strategy, as well as the current experiments of the European Union in establishing Coordinated Maritime Presences as a new concept, at the moment tested in the Gulf of Guinea. How the UK can contribute to a future coordinated maritime EU presence in the Indo Pacific is the crucial question that needs to be addressed. Another institutional question is certainly in how far any response should be rather coordinated and carried out in the frame of NATO or the G7 rather than the mini-lateral E3 format.

The second session focused on climate change policies and highlighted in particular energy policy and decarbonization as ongoing coordination challenges. As the discussion revealed climate change and maritime security need to be seen as a inter-linked policy fields, in terms of the emissions from naval forces, new challenges for maritime security caused by climate change, as well as the importance of maritime security forces in enforcing environmental regulations at sea and securing biodiversity in particular in the face of disasters such as oil spills.


Smart Foreign Policy: Seychelles has a new think tank

Good politics does not only require solid ideas and plans, but also evidence of what works, and a public debate on what options to pursue. This holds true in any policy field, including foreign and security policy and diplomacy – the areas that Seychelles newest think tank addresses.

On Friday the 11th of August, I had the pleasure to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Sir James Mancham International Centre for Peace Studies and Diplomacy (JMPC). Seychelles newest think tank is part of the University of Seychelles and the launch brought together a range of high level policy makers and supporters of the project.

Why is a think tank on peace and diplomacy needed? Peering to other countries that have similar institutions provides answers. In London, Paris, Singapore, Pretoria and elsewhere, think tanks play an important role in developing evidence and ideas for foreign and security policy, in offering a public space for the debate of crucial challenges, but also in training diplomats and policy makers on the basis of state of the art research. These are some of the core roles that the centre will play not only in Seychelles, but also the wider Western Indian Ocean.

Seychelles has an extraordinary foreign policy record. Its diplomats belong to the most successful in the region. Leading the coalition of small island developing states, promoting the blue economy, mediating between positions in organizations such as the African Union or the Southern African Development Community, or chairing the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia successfully for two years, are some of these success stories. With Seychelles now having joined a new club, the club of high income countries, it is time that also its foreign policy progresses to a new level of professionalization. This is where the new centre comes in.

Debating crucial challenges for Seychelles and the region, feeding in expertise to the foreign policy of the country and offering training opportunities are the core objectives of the new centre. While the training programme is under development, and research in areas such as maritime security has just kick-started, the centre has already shown how its events can make a difference in offering thinking space. Earlier this year the centre held one forum on foreign policy strategy and one on reconciliation – core questions for the future of the country. Future events will tackle critical issues such as how to contain illegal fishing activities, or how to interpret the geopolitical situation in the Western Indian Ocean.
The centre is destined to become an intellectual hub for Seychelles and for the Western Indian Ocean region. As an informal tool of diplomacy, it will allow Seychelles to continue its track as a leader in the region. As a knowledge provider, it will inform the regional debate, but also ensure that international actors draw on the adequate expertise of the region.

The centre is destined to become an intellectual hub for Seychelles and for the Western Indian Ocean region. As an informal tool of diplomacy, it will allow Seychelles to continue its track as a leader in the region. As a knowledge provider, it will inform the regional debate, but also ensure that international actors draw on the adequate expertise of the region.


The Future of the CGPCS: New Blog Post

In a new blog post published with Piracy-Studies.org – The Research Portal for Maritime Security I discuss the future of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The CGPCS is the core global governance mechanism by which the fight against Somali piracy is coordinated and I have studied it extensively in the frame of the CGPCS lessons learned project. In the blog I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of three options that have been articulated by the international community: Extend the work to cover either other regions, or other threats, or further streamline it. Please read the full blog here.


The G7 High Level Meeting on Maritime Security

G7_Logo_Luebeck_bildOn December 14th the G7 held a High Level Meeting on Maritime Security under the presidency of Germany. The meeting titled “Enhancing Maritime Security – Connecting Regions – Governing the Commons was a follow up to the Lübeck Declaration on Maritime Security of the G7 Foreign Ministers from April this year. At the one day event over 150 experts discussed four vital themes in maritime security: Maritime domain awareness and information sharing, maritime dispute settlement, illegal fishing, and the role of regional organizations in the provision of maritime security. I had the pleasure to participate in the meeting and chair the roundtable on regional organizations. The roundtable featured representatives from the International Maritime Organization, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, as well as the government of Togo which is currently organizing a major African Union summit on the theme. In the closing discussion I presented a summary of the roundtable themes. I stressed four vital points for furthering the discussion on maritime security.

The Luebeck declaration already highlighted the importance of the global oceans for economic prosperity. Further elaborating the link between maritime security and the blue economy is vital for promoting security at sea. If maritime security stands for the risks presented by the oceans, the blue economy emphasizes its opportunities. Recognizing the economic potential of the sea will enable to address the problem known as “sea blindness” and to present a convincing case to national publics, governments and states, including landlocked states, that maritime security is a priority area that needs investment and the will to cooperate.

Maritime security does not have a clear institutional home. It is an Inter-agency challenge and requires military-civil and inter-sectional cooperation. Stronger institutions at the country, regional as well as global level are required. But there is also the need to better clarify roles and responsibilities of each level. Country ownership is vital, yet, maritime security is a transnational challenge and many states will require assistance through capacity building and technology transfer from the international community. The G7 will continue to play an important role in driving the discussion on the global maritime security architecture forward and clarifying the rules and responsibilities of different national, regional and global institutions.

If maritime security requires better cooperation between states, trust and confidence building mechanisms, in particular at the regional level, are the key. There is clear evidence for the importance of mechanisms which include, but are not limited to, informal governance processes, such as the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, Codes of Conduct, such as those signed in Djibouti and Yaounde, joint exercises, but also intra-regional transfer of skills and technology, through capacity building, training, education and research. These mechanisms should be strengthened to build regional maritime security communities.

The fight against piracy is not over yet. Both the Gulf of Guinea and the situation in the Gulf of Aden will require continued attention and sustained efforts of the international community. The regional maritime security architecture in both regions will need to be strengthened. The participants welcomed the financial contribution of Germany for the implementation of the Yaounde Code of Conduct and the efforts of the government of Togo in preparing the Lome Summit on maritime security and development. In particular the Lome Summit of the African Union to be held next year will be an important milestone for African maritime security and ensuring that all forms of maritime crime in the continents waters will be effectively addressed.

The participants welcomed the strong leadership of the G7. The Luebeck declaration presented an important step for the discourse on maritime security. It was, however, emphasized that if the 21st century is a maritime century, the current discussion can only be the beginning. Sustained efforts in particular on elaborating the future of the global maritime security governance architecture will be required and the dialogue among maritime security experts, including university based scholars, needs to be intensified.


Understanding the African Standby Forces

stellenboschWhat is the state and future of the African Standby Forces (ASF)? And what should be the main purpose of the forces, peacekeeping, rapid crisis responses, or addressing the broader range of security risks? This was the core theme of the 4th international conference on strategic theory held in Stellenbosch from 16th to 18th September. The event was organized by Stellenbosch University in conjunction with the Royal Danish Defence College and broad together academics, analysts, diplomats and military representatives to discuss the ASF. It quickly emerged that there are quite different viewpoint on the ASF, in particular whether it should be seen as success or failure. From a military viewpoint, the way that the ASF could potentially respond to contemporary crisis situations remains limited. Yet, on the positive side, a substantial number of troops have been trained, and forces have gained much experience in collaboration. In my own contribution to the conference, I asked for the role that the ASF can play in maritime security. I argued for the importance of mainstreaming maritime security and that the issue domain should be part of the discussion of the ASF. The ASF could be a major institutional structure for strengthening maritime security collaboration, in particular for joint law enforcement operations or maritime domain awareness. Further Information and the full conference agenda is available here.


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Maritime Domain Awareness in Action: Visiting the UK’s NMIC

NMIC logoContinuing my tour to centres which share and fuse information in order to enhance maritime security, two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre, in short: NMIC. The center is located near Portsmouth, a place it moved to last year in September, having been based prior within the Royal Navy’s headquarters in Northwood. The centre itself was created in 2011 in the run up to the London Olympics. Initial it was meant to facilitate the protection of the UK against threats from the sea during the event. The core idea behind the centre is hence that the rapid response to emergencies at sea is enhanced through a shared information infrastructure. Yet, the work of the center was soon extended to focus on improving the information available for regular law enforcement in ports, coastlines and the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. All of the ten ministries and agencies of the UK that deal with the sea are participating in the centre whose role is to facilitate conversations and joint actions among these.
NMIC started as an institutional experiment. Yet, its work was institutionalised with the conclusion of the UK’s first ever National Maritime Security Strategy (NMSS) in 2014. The NMSS provides an overarching framework for maritime security in that it identifies a range of maritime security risks, sets out the institutional architecture to respond to these. It also outlines four core tasks the architecture has to perform: understanding, influencing, preventing, protecting, and responding (UK 2014: 11-12). As the director of NMIC explained the centre primarily contributes to the task of understanding by collecting and sharing information, but also providing a space for the joint interpretation of what happens at sea. The centre however also works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a collaboration which intends to contribute to the task of influencing. If this wasn’t foregrounded by the director, the center also contributes to prevention, which according to the NMSS implies the sharing of information with international partners (NMSS 2014: 11).

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Summary of 18th CGPCS Plenary

PictureLast week I attended the plenary of the CGPCS at the UN headquarters. I published summaries of the main discussions of the working group meetings and the plenary on the website of the CGPCS. Find them published here. For the first time the plenary has also been recorded and is available on UN web tv (part 1, part 2). During the plenary I gave an update on the Lessons Learned Project and also presented our forthcoming article on the future of the maritime security architecture in the Western Indian Ocean.


Does the Mediterranean need a contact group?

In a new comment published on the CIMSEC Blog, I discuss what might be learned from counter-piracy for the current migration crisis in the Mediterranean. I argue that there are at least three major lessons: 1) a Contact Group following the CGPCS model is required that brings all stakeholders together, 2) an operational, information sharing and coordination mechanism that follows the role model of SHADE will improve the response, 3) solutions lie on land and not at sea, hence more efforts will be required to assist the littoral states, notably Lybia.