I commend you, Madame President, and the Secretary-General for having taken the initiative to organize today’s debate on an issue that has taken on worrisome proportions in the Gulf of Guinea and along the West African coast.
Naturally, I thank the preceding speakers for their briefings and welcome the representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission.
We share the recognition that maritime insecurity has increased in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea.
This phenomenon involves many factors. Insecurity in the Niger delta, in particular the attacks on oil installations, has now extended to neighbouring territorial waters. This transnational threat has been compounded by the rise in trafficking activity along the West African coast, for example in drugs, migrant smuggling and illegal fishing. Finally, an ever-growing number of hostage-taking incidents and the rising costs of maritime trade and extraction activities threaten the growth, development and, in turn, stability of States on the Gulf of Guinea.
The attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have their own features, however, and cannot be compared with the rampant piracy off the Somali coast. Indeed, this insecurity affects States whose sovereignty is not in question, must be respected and should form the basis for our actions. Thus, the guiding principle of our policy should be that the Gulf of Guinea States bear the primary responsibility for ensuring security in the maritime areas under their jurisdiction.
We should operate in a framework of cooperation among the States and organizations of the region and on the basis of capacity-building for its stakeholders.
That is why we fully support the proposal of President Boni Yayi of Benin to organize a regional meeting on this issue that would focus on dialogue among the concerned States and help to better distribute tasks among donors of funds and assistance.
We welcome the first instances of operational coordination between Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon, in particular the conduct of joint maritime patrols. Finally, we commend the initial efforts made by regional organizations, particularly the Economic Community of Central African States and its regional coordination centre for maritime security.
A related issue for the Gulf of Guinea countries is improving inter-ministerial cooperation, as well as adapting legislation and the institutions responsible for carrying out coast guard activities. That is the spirit of the West Africa Coast Initiative, launched in 2009 by the United Nations to strengthen local entities in the fight against trafficking on the West African coast. The Initiative brings together various sources of police, customs and judicial expertise to that end. In that connection, we could also consider extending this model from the Atlantic Arc to the eastern Gulf of Guinea.
In that regard, we welcome the Secretariat’s plan to deploy a piracy assessment mission to the Gulf of Guinea. We also hope that the two United Nations offices in Dakar and Libreville can coordinate their efforts so as to regularly brief the Council on developments in piracy and efforts undertaken to fight it.
The international community can further improve its support to regional initiatives. France and the European Union have spared no effort in helping the concerned States to enhance their capacities and maritime cooperation.
France’s navy is using its ports of call in the region to carry out training activities. On 11 October, the authorities of Equatorial Guinea opened a new national naval academy in Bata. The academy has a regional focus and is supported by French cooperation. Finally, in September we launched a priority solidarity fund project for maritime security sector reform in the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.
The European Union is also active in this area. It funds a project aimed at establishing a regional training and information-sharing framework and at bolstering coast guard activities in the States of the Gulf of Guinea. The Strategic Sealift Contingency Planning System is focused on strengthening efforts to fight maritime trafficking and on ensuring the safety of ports and goods.
We believe that these international initiatives to support local capacities and regional coordination represent a coherent approach to preventing and effectively suppressing acts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. These actions should be based on the sovereignty of the States of the region, national ownership of the responses to piracy and, finally, respect for the law of the sea and freedom of navigation. We are, of course, prepared to give close and favourable consideration to a draft resolution on that basis.