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:
- It is remarkable how many national and regional maritime security strategies have been produced starting out from 2013. Together these express the fundamental re-evaluation of the oceans as a security space and that today dedicated maritime security strategies are seen as a key tool to deal with insecurities at sea.
- The proliferation of strategies, however, comes from different directions, and it is useful to differentiate between three kinds of strategies:
- Bottom down strategies, that is when a strategy is initiated on a high political level and then one or several agencies are tasked to carry out the work.
- Bottom up strategies, that is when maritime security agencies agree on the need to have a strategy and see benefit for their work.
- Externally driven strategies, where there are either push factors in that external actors ask for a strategy, or pull factors in the sense that donors make available financial resources or consultants to write a strategy. Many strategies are, for instance, part of capacity building projects or are funded by external donors.
- A core difference across countries is also how special the production of a maritime security strategy is. Often the production is part of a culture of continuous strategy production. For instance, the UK or the EU continuously produce different kind of strategies. This is also a factor in terms of the content and purpose of strategies, since it determines the ‘nestedness’ of a maritime security strategy, that is to how many other strategies it relates to or is embedded in.
- Maritime security strategies have very different purposes and objectives. At least seven different purposes can be distinguished:
- Symbolic: to be able to show that a political unit has a strategy and hence can claim to be a reliable and organized international maritime security actor.
- Sense making: to develop a shared understanding of what a political unit means by maritime security, and to define the boundary of maritime security towards other issue areas (e.g. international security, blue economy).
- Prioritization: to identify what the most important issues are that should be dealt with under the maritime security agenda.
- Gap spotting: to identify gaps in current responses, including capacity gaps, and to propose projects and activities to fill these gaps.
- Framework: to provide a framework for already ongoing maritime security activities and demonstrate how these relate to each other without proposing institutional changes.
- Organizational reform: to devise new ways of how agencies should work together and distributes roles and lines of collaboration for instance through inter-agency coordination mechanisms or new committees.
- Resource allocation: to allocate resources to different maritime security activities and agencies.
- A crucial variable and difference in maritime security strategies lies in the drafting process. Indeed in many ways the power of a strategy should be seen as lying in its production process. This concerns:
- Who the lead agency is in the drafting process (military, civilian, NGO, consultant)
- How participative the process is and hence ownership is established.
- Whether and how non-state actors are included (e.g. maritime industry, fishing associations, marine protection NGOs, leisure users,