Christian Bueger

Lecture at Military Academy of South Africa

On January 31st, I gave a lecture to the staff and students of the Military Academy of South Africa. Drawing on the core insights from SAFESEAS, in particular, the current draft of the best practice toolkit and the recent article in International Affairs, I contextualized maritime security and spoke about the dedicated challenges of it. I addressed the experiences with maritime security strategies, inter-agency challenges as well as the promises and perils of information sharing and maritime domain awareness.

Visiting Fellow at SIGLA

From the end of December 2017 until February 2018, I will be an in resident visiting fellow at the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa (SIGLA). SIGLA is a research institute of Stellenbosch University located with the Faculty of Military Science, Saldanha, South Africa.  I have been a research fellow with SIGLA since the beginning of 2017 to contribute to its ongoing work on maritime security and governance.

During my residential period in Saldanha, I will focus on finalizing the research outputs of the British Academy funded research project SafeSeas and work on my manuscript on international maritime security practices.


Briefing of Maritime Security Strategy Working Group of the Government of Seychelles

At the 2017 Our Oceans Conference, Seychelles president Danny Faure announced that the country would soon begin drafting a maritime security strategy:

“Maritime security is an extremely important component of the sustainable development of the ocean economy. One of the expected results of the blue economy strategy is greater protection for Seychelles’ ocean space and resources through better coordination across different sectors, application of protective measures and greater use of surveillance and enforcement tools. This is certainly a formidable challenge for a SIDS like Seychelles. But, because of our limited and competing resources, it is particularly important that we have a well thought-out maritime security strategy”.

On December 15th the governmental working group that will draft the Seychelles Comprehensive Maritime Security Strategy held its inaugural meeting. At the meeting, I gave a short briefing on the lessons from other maritime security strategies for Seychelles. I also introduced some of the results of the project SafeSeas so the research outcomes can inform the planning process.

SAFESEAS workshop in Stellenbosch

From the 9th to the 11th of November we held our first SAFESEAS workshop at the University of Stellenbosch. With participants from Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Seychelles, South Africa and the UK we discussed our first results of our research on maritime security governance and maritime capacity building. The workshop revealed the power of comparison and we discussed how different countries develop responses to the challenges of maritime security, such as its cross-jurisdictional and institutionally complex character. Countries organise their maritime security sector quite differently and also deal with external assistance in various fashions. The results will be published in an edited volume forthcoming in 2018. Initial results and drafts are available on the project website.

Presentation at Indian Navy symposium

On November the 1st I am giving a presentation at a symposium of the Indian Navy. Hosted by the Indian Navy Naval War College in Goa the two-day event is focussed on “Addressing Regional Maritime Challenges” and brings together over one hundred representatives from Indian and Indian Ocean navies. Held for the first time, the Goa Maritime Enclave intends to strengthen collaboration and joint learning across the Indian Ocean. As such it is a further addition to other formats such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium or the Sri Lanka Navy’s Galle Dialogue strengthening the maritime ties in the region.

My talk draws on my recent research on maritime domain awareness and capacity building. I firstly contextualize maritime domain awareness historically, arguing that we have witnessed a series of revolutions in “knowing the sea”, starting out from the British Empires approach to turn the oceans into governable and knowable zones, the rise of attempts to track and monitor maritime traffic for search and rescue as well as environmental management purposes, up to the current day big data revolution in which advanced surveillance technology and anomaly detection is geared at supporting maritime security operations. Zooming in on the Western Indian Ocean I then investigate the claim that maritime domain awareness by virtue strengthens cooperation. I argue that on the one side, the competition between architectures points to a strong geo-political motive in building maritime domain awareness, on the other side we can observe the rise of communities of practice with the objective of working together. I conclude by arguing that advancing shared maritime domain awareness will imply to provide some order to the current complexity of architectures, to re-politicize these projects, to work towards more trust and confidence to enable sharing of information (between agencies and countries), as well as to avoid living in technological fantasies and rely on pragmatic low tech work instead. The slides of the talk are available as pdf here.

Two new articles published

In the last week, two new articles were published as online first. The article titled Territory, Authority, Expertise: Global Governance and the Counter-Piracy Assemblage”, came out in the European Journal of International Relations and is available here: doi: 10.1177/1354066117725155. In the article, I investigate how the cooperation in counter-piracy off the coast of Somalia can be theorized. Studying the making of the Best Management Practices and the controversy around the High Risk Area – two of the core devices of counter-piracy – he argues that assemblage theory spurs important insights on how cooperation works in practice. The article in particular highlights the advantages and disadvantages of deformalized politics and working with best practices.

The other article is co-authored with Tim Edmunds, and the first major output of our shared project SafeSeas. Titled “Beyond Seablindness: A New Agenda For Maritime Security Studies” the article came out with International Affairs and is available here:  doi: 10.1093/ia/iix174. In the text we discuss the recent developments in maritime security and sketch out an agenda for maritime security studies.

Attending EISA in Barcelona

From the 11th to 16th of September I was attending the annual conference of the European International Studies Association held in Barcelona. The primary focus of my activities this year was current research in international practice theory. I co-convened a section with ten panels on the topic together with Dr. Alena Drieschova. Three of those panels presented first drafts of the chapters of the edited volume Conceptualizing International Practices we are working on since a year.  I also acted as one of the senior discussants of a one-day Young Researcher Workshop on methodology and presented some of my recent work on ocean governance and the contemporary maritime security agenda.

At University of Toronto

From the 7th to the 9th of September I was visiting the University of Toronto’s Political Science Department. My visit was primarily to attend the oral examination of a splendid PhD thesis on normative transformations written by Simon Pratt. As external examiner, I had the pleasure to read and comment on a thesis that succeeds in offering an alternative framework to study the change of normative structures by drawing on pragmatist assumptions and empirical material from US security policy.  I also gave a talk in the department’s seminar series titled “The deformalization of global politics: Insights from a praxiography of counter-piracy governance”. In the talk, I summarized some of my core findings on counter-piracy governance in the light of the debate on informal governance.

Thinking the blue economy as kaleidoscope: Review published

My short review of James Alix Michel’s Rethinking The Oceans – Towards the Blue Economy is available as online first with the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region. In the review, I highlight the productivity of interpreting blue economy as a kaleidoscope, rather than striving for a universal definition. I then argue for the importance of paying more attention to the link between blue economy and maritime security. Free pre-print copies of the review are available here. 

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.