Thank you, Mr. President,
At the outset, let me join others in commending you and your delegation for organizing this meeting on an issue that is becoming a major threat to maritime navigation, trade and economic activities in the Gulf of Guinea. I would also like to thank USG Lynn Pascoe for his briefing and for the Secretary General’s report on the UN Assessment Mission on the subject. I would like to place on record our appreciation for the representatives of the Gulf of Guinea and the Economic Community of West African States for their valuable statements.
Mr. President, the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was first discussion in the Security Council during the Indian presidency of the Council in August last year. Since then, there have been several new acts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the problem has assumed greater proportion. Its impact is being increasingly felt by all littoral states and the seriousness is demonstrated by the participation of a number of delegations in today’s Debate. I thank all participants for sharing their assessments with us.
Mr. President, piracy off both coasts of Africa shows the instability prevalent in the regions and the reach of organized terrorist and criminal groups. They are targeting oil and chemical vessels as well as oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Guinea and employing severe violence against their captives. The region produces more than 5 million barrels of oil per day and three-quarters of world’s supply of cocoa. Pirate attacks are thus adversely affecting the emerging oil industry of the region as well as the commercial shipping and mariners.
The Secretary General’s report states that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is already causing economic loss of US$ 2 billion, which is a significant amount when compared to annual GDPs of countries in the region. As the regional stakeholders have said in their statements today, a large number of unemployed youth are becoming attracted to the business of piracy and maritime robbery. The evolving business model of piracy involves low cost and risk, but yields high returns.
While socio-economic issues like poverty, unemployment, etc may be abetting piracy, main reasons have to do with limited institutional capacity of the countries in the region. Addressing problems like proliferation of weapons, poor naval infrastructure, weak law enforcement and prosecution systems, etc have to become integral to counter-piracy efforts. Otherwise, like piracy off the coast of Somalia, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea can fast assume intensity and proportion of an organized cartel in the countries of western Africa.
Mr. President, India has been at the forefront of highlighting the menace of piracy off the coast of Somalia and stressing the urgent need for the international community to work towards a comprehensive counter-piracy strategy. India is also concerned about the surge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, including its economic and social cost. While the two situations are quite different in proportion at this stage, it is quite possible that the failure of the international community to act decisively against piracy off the coast of Somalia could have spawned a new surge in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Time has now come for the attention that this Council has been paying to the problem to translate into a concrete plan of action. This being a regional problem, it is necessary that action should involve full cooperation of the international community, led by the United Nations, with the countries of West Africa and regional and sub-regional organizations.
In this connection, we welcome the steps that have been taken like establishment of sub-regional coast guard network in West and Central Africa, ECCAS strategy on maritime security, establishment of Regional Centre for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC), creation of Gulf of Guinea Commission (GCC) and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA).
These initiatives have helped to create a platform for the governments to formulate a collective approach to the problem. Also, ECCAS maritime security strategy has yielded positive result in the Zone comprising Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Pricipe. These efforts should be intensified and include joint counter-piracy efforts like patrolling and surveillance of the coastal waters, sharing of information and intelligence and capacity building of naval forces. In addition, strengthening of legal system to ensure effective and expeditious prosecution is also critical.
Sustained and full implementation of these efforts, Mr. President, will be helped by greater coherence among the regional states and organizations. In this connection, we welcome the Secretary General’s proposal to facilitate a regional summit of Heads of State.
The United Nations should also assist in mobilization of resources. UN agencies in the region, particularly UNOWA and UNOCA along with UNODC and IMO, have an important role to play in regional counter-piracy efforts, as also in addressing related problems of terrorism, illicit trafficking of drugs and proliferation of weapons as they all conspire together to destabilize the region.
In conclusion, Mr. President, India stands ready to contribute to international efforts aimed at increasing effective cooperation among States in the region to tackle the threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea.