Christian Bueger

New study on maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean

Together with Jan Stockbruegger I have conducted a review of the current security situation in the Western Indian Ocean. We show which insecurities are on the rise and argue that the rise of geopolitical concerns increasingly produces a militarization dilemma: foreign naval forces are needed to address insecurity on the one hand, but they might become a source of insecurity in their own right due to growing tensions on the other. We discuss if and how the current security architecture can cope with the problems, pointing in particular to SHADE and the Contact Group. The study is now available with African Security Review as online first.

Webinar on ‘Fish Wars and Blue Conflicts’

What is the relation of fish and security? On the 6th of April I had the pleasure to contribute as a discussant to a webinar that explored that important question. The event was organized by the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries of the University of British Columbia.

Conference of the International Studies Association

From 28th to the 2nd of April I will be attending the annual conference of the International Studies Association, which is the major conference in the field of International Relations. This year the conference will be held in a hybrid format with a physical component in Nashville, U.S. and I will be attending in person.

I am involved in a range of panels as chair, presenter and discussant:

  • In “MVA24: Communities of Practice in World Politics: Advancing the Research Agenda” I will be presenting joint research with Maren Hofius and Scott Edwards on ocean governance and the interaction of communities of practice
  • At the panel “MVC15: Objects of Expertise: The Politics of Socio-Material Expert Knowledge in World Society”, I am presenting recent works on epistemic infrastructures and the making of objects.
  • In the roundtable “MVD28: Concept at Work: On the Linguistic Infrastructure of World Politics” we will be discussing the insights from our recent book on concepts, in which I have a chapter on the Blue Economy.
  • I am the discussant at a panel titled “WB24: Issues in Human and Environmental Security” which features an interesting set of paper on contemporary security politics.
  • At the Junior Scholar symposium “TD01-A: Diplomacy & IOs, I am one of the discussants.
  • In the roundtable “SA13: Beyond a terra-centric discipline: The return of the oceans in global politics” we are investigating why International Relations should pay more attention to the oceans and maritime space.
  • I am also chairing the panel “SB06: New Theoretical Perspectives on Great Power Politics II”.

New article: Maritime security and the Western Indian Ocean’s militarization dilemma

In a new article forthcoming with African Security Review, I analyze together with Jan Stockbruegger the situation in the Western Indian Ocean and develop the concept of the militarization dilemma. Here is the link to the pre-print, and the abstract below:

Ten years after the last large scale piracy attacks in the Western Indian Ocean, other maritime crimes such as illicit fishing and maritime smuggling have emerged. The spill over of conflicts in Yemen and Mozambique and maritime grey-zone activities have also become major maritime security issues. Yet, perhaps the most worrying-though largely underappreciated-trend is the surge of naval activity and strategic competition in the region. This is a major dilemma for the region: The region relies on external military actors to protect vital shipping lanes, but the presence of these actors also risks importing geopolitical tensions that could undermine regional maritime stability. How can the region address these maritime insecurities and the evolving militarization dilemma? We investigate the regional maritime security architecture to identify institutions that can help the region manage the militarisation dilemma. We argue that only the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) mechanism and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) can help mitigate geopolitical competition in the region. Preparing these mechanisms to deal with the militarisation dilemma will be vital for the long-term prosperity of the Western India Ocean

Presentation on Illicit Fisheries

Illicit fisheries is one of the key issues on the maritime security agenda. As part of the Norwegian Blue Crime Dialogue Series I gave a presentation on the 11.3. in which I discussed the different dimensions of the problem and how it interlinks different ocean agendas. Drawing on our research on blue crimes, I firstly argued that illicit fishery is often a facilitating crime, that does not only pose harm to the environment but can create larger situations of insecurity and maritime security hotspots. Illicit fishery has also an important state dimensions, in that some countries might use their fishery fleets for political objectives or tolerate illicit fishing. Secondly, I alerted the audience to the opportunities that the fight against illicit fishery presented for reconnecting key ocean paradigms and agendas.

Webinar on Maritime Security Strategies

What are the benefits and effects of maritime security strategies? Should South Africa develop one? These were the two key questions that were addressed in a webinar organized by the Sigla (University of Stellenbosch) and the Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria). Titled the “Perspectives on an Integrated Maritime Security Strategy for South Africa” the event featured Professor Francois Vrey (Sigla), Rear Admiral D. Mkhonto (South African Navy), Timothy Walker (ISS), Dr. Lisa Otto (U Johannesburg), Dr. Ali Kamal-Deen (CEMLAWS) and Dave O’Connell (UNODC).

In my own presentation I was introducing some of our results on maritime security strategies from the TOCAS and the AMARIS projects:

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Conference on security in the Indian Ocean

On the 4.3. I had the pleasure to speak at the Pathfinder Indian Ocean Security Conference. The conference is part of the long term endeavor of the Pathfinder Foundation for a high quality discussion on the future of the security architecture of the Indian Ocean. The conference focused on confidence building measures, options for improving the current institutions and Maritime Domain Awareness with speakers from the region, China, the U.S., Russia, and Europe.

I addressed the audience as part of the panel on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). In my short intervention I flagged the importance of having good knowledge of the sea by sharing information on an everyday basis. I argued that MDA is important for three reasons. 1) it provides a measure for trust and confidence building; 2) it enables and coordinates rapid transnational operational responses to maritime incidents which not only includes crimes, such as piracy, but also environmental incidents, such as oil spills; 3) it allows for a common understanding of what the key security problems at sea actually are.

In the light of the ongoing turn to geopolitical thinking and naval competition, in particular the third rationale for MDA seems to be important. MDA might be here a key instrument to manage the emerging militarization dilemma in the region. As we show in a forthcoming article, co-authored with Jan Stockbruegger, the Indian Ocean is increasingly confronted with such a dilemma, where on the one side more naval force is needed to deal with maritime crimes, while on the other growth of naval employment within geo-political strategies re-enforces tensions.

I also recommended that more attention is payed to what kind of information is actually shared through MDA. Here we need to go beyond AIS data, and consider satellite imagery or remote sensing data. Also algorithms that are effective in identifying suspicious maritime behavior should be shared, and categorizations of issues, threats, and suspicious behavior should be harmonized.

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.

Kick off meeting of new Ocean Infrastructure research project

On the 28.2. we held the kick off meeting of our new research project on Ocean Infrastructure. The project is a collaboration between the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen and the Ocean Governance group of the Helmholtz Center for Functional Marine Biodiversity (Germany). It is a four year project funded by the Velux Foundation to explore the role of different infrastructures in the governance of the oceans. In the project we investigate infrastructures that ensure freedom of navigation, routing schemes, environmental protection (e.g. oil spills) and subsea cable networks. After an initiation phase we will start our work in summer 2022, and our starting conference will be held in October 2022.