Christian Bueger

At UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon

This week I am attending the UN Ocean Conference. These type of conferences are increasingly important in ocean governance, and it will be an exciting opportunity to learn more about how such events unfold, and if and how they have an impact on global ocean governance.
As part of the conference we are also hosting together with the Atlantic Center of the Portuguese Ministry of Defense and the Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria) an expert workshop on subsea data cable protection. The workshop is part of our DACANE project and will reflect on the insights gained in our recent study on data cables for the European Parliament.

We are also co-hosting a public panel, which is part of the UN Ocean Conference Programme. In the public event we will explore the relation between marine infrastructure protection and marine conservation. The panel is opened by the Portuguese Secretary of State for Defence, Marco Capitão Ferreira, as well as Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. It is chaired by Martin Koehring, Head, World Ocean Initiative, Economist Impact and features Steve Dawe, Chairman European Subsea Cable Association, Kaitlin Meredith, UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme, Philippe Dumont, CEO EllaLink, Leendert Bal, Head of Safety, Security and Surveillance Department, European Maritime Safety Agency and myself.

How to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea

On April 27 and 28 two key events of our collective research project AMARIS (Analyzing Maritime Security in Ghana) will take place in Accra. On day one we will have an internal meeting and review the set of current drafts for academic articles and how to drive them to publication. Papers, include a discussion of the problem of inter-agency coordination, the effect of maritime security strategies and on the impact that the concept of maritime security had for governance and organization of the maritime sector in Ghana.

On day two, the AMARIS team will present our key policy insights to the major stakeholders and agencies in Ghana. We will investigate how the maritime threat landscape has been evolving, what the key hurdles are in creating effective maritime security governance, and what best practices can ensure the effective delivery of capacity building. The event is hosted by the Center for Maritime Law and Security Africa one of the member institutions of AMARIS.

Presentations at EU in Brussels

From the 25 to 26th of April, Tobias Liebetrau and I will be visiting Brussels to present the key recommendations of our recently completed study on the security of subsea data cable infrastructures in Europe. We will be giving a presentation to the Security and Defense Committee of the European Parliament that commissioned the study.

We will also meet with the team from DG Mare and the External Action service that is drafting the update of the EU Maritime Security Strategy. We will present the results of the study on cables and also the key take away points of another forthcoming study on the EU’s maritime security policy (with Tim Edmunds).

EU – India Seminar on Maritime Security

The Indian National Maritime Foundation and the EU project ESIWA (Enhancing Security Cooperation In and With Asia) held an online EU-India seminar on maritime security and UNCLOS on April 11th. The key question addressed was how India and the EU can cooperate better to provide maritime security in the Indo-Pacific. I had the pleasure to chair the second session of the event.

SafeSeas visit to Lisbon

The SafeSeas team held meetings with partners in Lisbon on the 1st and 2nd of March. We first had a meeting with the Atlantic Center a key new knowledge production and capacity building initiative of Portugal’s Ministry of Defense. SafeSeas is in the process of forming a partnership with the Center to discuss strategic issues, such as subsea infrastructures, but also to work together in capacity building and the maritime security academy. We also visited the Maritime Operations Center of the Portuguese Navy which is the country’s maritime domain awareness center that integrates and coordinates search and rescue, border, police and other maritime functions.

In the afternoon we visited the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) headquarter. We received a briefing on EMSA’s surveillance work and how it uses satellite data and discussed the future of the agency in the EU’s overall maritime governance architecture. We also met with the UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme’s local representative.

Presentation at SHADE Meeting

SHADE – an acronym for Shared Awareness and Deconfliction — is the key forum in which the activities of navies in the Western Ocean are coordinated. Originating in the response to Somali piracy, SHADE know has a wider outlook on maritime crime and naval activities.

On the 2nd of February, SHADE held its 49th meeting, and I had the pleasure to address the participants. In my short presentation, I investigated the current and future role of the forum in the maritime security architecture of the Western Indian Ocean. I argued that SHADE is becoming more and more important because of the growing insecurity in the region as well as new naval activities which are geopolitically motivated and for instance linked to the rise of the Indo-Pacific as a geo-strategic region. SHADE will be important as a way out of the militarization dilemma in the region, to complement the diplomatic work of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, but also to address future tasks related to e.g. maritime accident responses.

Small Island State Foreign Policy – talk at Seychelles MFA

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.

IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille

I am back from a short visit to Marseille where I had the pleasure to visit the IUCN World Conservation Congress. It was great to see so much attention for the state of the oceans and to learn about ongoing and planned conservation projects. The support for the moratorium on deep sea bed mining and the call for a reform of the International Seabed Authority was one of the important outcomes.

It was also great to learn about the “Great Blue Wall” Initiative which will be an important experiment in regional integration to follow over the coming years. Most certainly regional integration is part of the answer, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of national capacity and local expertise as these initiatives unfold.

The Congress left me with two thoughts. IUCN is a world of enthusiasm and hope that indeed the oceans can be better protected. What I missed is perhaps a bit more pragmatism. ‘Blue economy’ and ‘blue finance’ – ocean science driven, new planning and innovative finance models – are ambiguous concepts. Some of the initiatives appear to be a continuation of technocratic planning models or liberal market dreams.

It seems that the question of distributive justice, how the costs, risks and revenues are distributed (blue justice!) does get too little attention. While the world most certainly needs blue economy entrepreneurs, some more caution for counter-intuitive consequence and the impact on communities would be welcome.

The congress also showed how far apart the worlds of ocean conservation and maritime security are. Those interested and in charge for maritime security meet at very different sites than the conversation community. There is little crossover or dialogue.

The gap continues to puzzle me. Isn’t it obvious that protected areas require agencies that ‘protect’ and enforce regulations? We will need marine rangers, coast guards and navies to do this job. And isn’t it obvious that the most immediate threats to marine biodiversity come from environmental crimes such as illegal fishing or deliberate pollution, or shipping accidents and oil spills as we could witness in Mauritius and Sri Lanka in the last year?

Better integrating the different ocean agendas – maritime security, blue economy, blue justice – will be one of the key challenges in the year to come. It would be great news if the next IUCN Congress or one of the several upcoming international ocean conferences would send a signal in this regards.