Since more than a decade the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) has been one of the guardians of maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean. An informal governance forum with a direct link to the UN Security Council the group has been the key platform for strategizing the response to piracy among the international community. Bringing together senior diplomats, international and regional organizations, the industry, NGOs and academics, the success in containing piracy in the region can be directly attributed to the group.
I have been following the work of the group very closely, first, in leading on a Lessons Learned Project for the group, then as a strategy advisor for the chairmanship of the Republic of Seychelles (2016-2017). In 2019 we produced a strategic review of the group, which was discussed at a meeting co-hosted by the University of Copenhagen, Danish Shipping and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More recently I have been involved as an expert in the Strategic Planning Steering Group, supporting the chair, that produced a new strategic vision for the platform.
The Contact Group has been grappling over the last years with its future role, considering the international consent that piracy off the coast of Somalia has been contained but not eradicated, and that there continues to be a risk of a large scale return of pirate operations threatening international transport. Gradually the group has reduced its work, in the light of the declining threat. It delegated some of its core functions, including the coordination of legal harmonization, capacity building or operations at sea to other regional entities, yet maintains an annual plenary at which the risk of piracy is discussed. This remains important not the least to ensure ongoing awareness for the risk of piracy in the region.
On the 27th of January the group is scheduled to hold its next plenary in hybrid format under the current chair the Republic of Kenya. I very much look forward to attend and follow the debates. The key issue on the agenda is the future role of the group in addressing maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean region. We can expect a debate on changing the name of the group and on different ways of how to broaden the focus on other blue crimes. This is not necessarily an easy challenge, given the number of institutions and organizations already active in addressing those issues, there is hence a risk of duplication, and the Contact Group needs to specify what it can actually add to these efforts.