On the 21st of March I had the pleasure to give a talk at the Global Governance Centre of the Graduate Institute in Geneva. In the talk I was revisiting the framework of epistemic infrastructures and asked what it tells us about the evolution of maritime domain awareness and how it renders the oceans knowable as a security space.
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.
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).Continue reading
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.
What are the threats, risks and challenges linked to subsea data infrastructure in the Atlantic region? This is the key question that I explore at a presentation in an Atlantic Centre Seminar titled “Shifts in world geopolitics: cooperation and competition in the Atlantic” on 25.2.
I argue that subsea infrastructure is too often a neglected object on both the maritime security and cyber security agendas, although it is vital for the digital economy. I discuss some of the threats to the infrastructure as well as ideas of how the cables might be better protected. The presentation draws on the research on subsea data cables that I am currently carrying out with Tobias Liebetrau, and that is also one workstream in the Ocean Infrastructures project. The recording of the event is available here, with my talk starting at
On the 18th of February I had the pleasure to participate in the evaluation of Dr. Esme Bosma’s Phd dissertation at the University of Amsterdam. In what is a stellar analysis Dr. Bosma investigated how banks increasingly assume a role in counter-terrorism and rely on new digital technology to do so. The thesis advanced an innovative framework based on ideas from Science and Technology Studies, Security Studies and Ethnography and offers a rich empirical account of the changing practices within banks.
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.
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.
From the 15th to 23rd of Decemberr I will be visiting Seychelles. During my visit I will meet with stakeholders concerning ocean governance in Seychellois waters as well as the region. I will also give a talk to the ministry of foreign affairs on smart small island state foreign policy and the Indo-Pacific.
The oceans are becoming increasingly a key theme across disciplines. In what is sometimes called the blue or oceanic turn, scholars ask what is particular about the maritime, how does it differ from land, and what does it imply if we ground our thinking in the sea. The conference titled “Maritime Conflicts and Promises in History and Present” held on the 19th and 20th of November was an interesting contribution to this line of thought. Working and thinking across different disciplines to better understand the oceans.
I had the pleasure to give a keynote address at the conference titled “Global Ocean Politics. A short history of current paradigms.” In my talk I was drawing on recent research on global ocean politics and the paradigms, problematizations and communities of practice driving it.