Christian Bueger

Inside the capacity building mess: Visiting MARSIC and EUCAP Nestor


DSC_0835Capacity building is one of the most important responses to curb piracy and other forms of maritime crime. The international community has long recognized this. If the majority of capacity building projects were initially concerned about the prosecution and detention of piracy suspects the emphasis has gradually shifted towards maritime security sector reforms, and developing regional integration mechanisms in information sharing and developing collective responses. Two important missions in this regards are the EU’s MARSIC project and the civilian CSDP mission EUCAP Nestor both headquartered in Djibouti City. Both form part of a complex thicket of projects and programs, many of which are on a bilateral level. Today I had the opportunity to learn more about both of these missions.

Together with the Project Implementation Unit of the International Maritime Organization MARSIC is the backbone of the training programme of the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC), a regional agreement concerned about developing a joint response to piracy. MARSIC, one of the least known EU capacity-building projects, assists the DCoC countries in developing and delivering their training program. If the building of the Djibouti Regional Training Centre (DRTC), which is supposed to become the core regional facility where training is conducted, is, after four years, still under construction, MARSIC has brought the training programme to life. MARSIC’s training consultant explained to me today, how course contents are selected through a prioritization procedure with national training coordinators, course content is developed with partners such as the World Maritime University based in Sweden, and how they are delivered. Courses usually take place in local hotels, are run 5 days, and are comprised of morning lectures as well as a practical day. MARSIC also runs regular piracy exercises together with the national focal points using the VENUS platform, a training version of MERCURY. Together the aim of the project is to develop a community of skilled counter-piracy practitioners. To do so MARSIC also has plans to establish a research facility, a library and online resources, although implantation suffers from technical difficulties (such as internet access) and a lack of funding, for instance for library resources. How the DRTC will be run, once construction is completed also remains an open question. This concerns not only intellectual support but also long term funding. With the closure of the Project Implementation Unit of the IMO and MARSIC ending in summer 2015 the question remains how the centre will be supported in the long run. If IMO continues its everyday support through its Maritime Security division, in the long run the centre will require a permanent donor. Yet, there are also some good news. Training coordination will be soon taken over by a local staff member and there are many indications that the training and exercises show effect. Maritime crime is a transnational problem, it is hence pivotal that DCoC as the main project emphasizing a regional responses receives ongoing support.

My second meeting was with EUCAP Nestor. Nestor is a mission that runs since 2012 and was supposed to prep up the level of capacity-building provided. As I wrote in an earlier blog it was long a mission in “search of a mission” as it faced staffing problems and it was unclear what gaps Nestor was supposed to fill. Capacity building is, as I wrote in my last lessons learned paper, one of the areas in which coordination has more or less failed so far. When Nestor was introduced this enforced the multiplicity of activities, and, one is tempted to say, the chaos and over-activity in the area. During my meeting with a representative from Nestor I was re-assured that the mission is increasingly finding its place. Nestor conducts a rich training program and following a strategic review in 2013, Nestor has a new mandate and is increasingly focused on Somalia. Offices in Mogadishu and Hargeisa will soon be opened and seven weeks training courses are run for the different coast guards of the regional entities and the Federal government. The emphasis of Nestor has shifted to a 60:20:20 formula. 60% of the activities devoted to Somalia, 20% to Djibouti, the Seychelles, and Tanzania, and the last 20% for support to the region, e.g. in the frame of DCoC. Discussing the coast guarding course revealed the many practical challenges capacity building faces. My interlocutor described the course as a “basic one”. And basic indeed it is, as part of the course content are skills such as swimming, marching or handling cameras for evidence collection.

Capacity building is one of the areas that will require ongoing investments, not only to stop piracy, but also to fight other maritime crimes. Getting the region to act together, and making nations realize what economic potential the blue economy holds and why they should care about the maritime domain will be important objectives. The coordination of capacity building is a failure. And one does not have to be a pessimist to state that it will continue to be a mess. But perhaps coordination is not the biggest issue. As Michel Soula from NATO highlighted at this week’s maritime security workshop in Geneva, duplication under the conditions of the scarcity of resources can be a virtue. Then the true issue is that the diverse capacity building missions start to learn from each other, including practical lessons, such as how to implement courses, or share facilities. Rather than coordination, the second issue might be seen in contradiction, that is, in trying to avoid that the content of training and the support in institution building and law drafting do not contradict each other.