Today I had the opportunity to speak at an hybrid event organized by the Indian Ocean Commission and the Charles Telfair Centre on maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean (https://lnkd.in/dz2URFYP). The lively discussion revolved around issues of which maritime security issues to prioritized, whether regional institutions deliver, and how to interpret the new geopolitical thinking in the region.
In my comments, I drew on our recent analysis, published in African Security Review, coauthored with Jan Stockbruegger (https://lnkd.in/d2KXBj24). My key take away points from the event:
1) We need continued efforts to increase the level of awareness for maritime security challenges among political elites and citizens, this requires better education, media work and civil society engagement.
2) We need better data on the full spectrum of blue crimes. While we know a lot about piracy, and have some data on smuggling and illegal fishing, the situation on other crimes is bleak. Systematic data collection is needed here, and incentives for countries to collect it.
3) Too many capacity building efforts fail, because of short-termism, focus on low hanging fruits, lack of attention to needs and context, and a too high degree of politicization. We need to work towards smart capacity building. Perhaps we even require minimum standards and regional watch dogs, whether capacity building projects meet these standards. (see our capacity building best practice tool kit here: https://lnkd.in/d5UNqHgZ)
4) The region needs working institutional formats for coordination and political dialogue. In the absence of a global body for maritime security, this is required to avoid duplication and fragmentation. Forums such as #SHADE will also be key to manage growing geopolitical tensions and the consequences of #militarization in the region. It is not great news that the new contact group in the region does not deliver (see my recent comment:
5) We need more leadership from small states in the region. These are not only most affected by maritime security threats, they can also be good brokers and facilitators for establishing the regional maritime security architecture. Let’s not forget how successful the small island states of the Pacific were in bringing us Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.
6) The maritime security agenda and the ocean protection agenda need to speak to each other. If we want to protect #marinebiodiversity and maintain the ocean’s function as a carbon sink, we need to stop illicit maritime activities. Marine protection requires maritime security.