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Maritime Crime as a Threat to International Peace and Security: Arria-formula Meeting

Tomorrow (13 June), there will be an Arria-formula meeting on maritime crime as a threat to international peace and security. The meeting is being organised by Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, and the US, and moderated by Simone Monasebian, the Director of the New York office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) .

The meeting will be open to all UN member states and accredited civil society organisations. The permanent representatives of the Council members co-organising the meeting are expected to make introductory statements. These statements will be followed by presentations by four panelists: Sagala Ratnayake, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister and Minister of Youth Affairs and Southern Development in Sri Lanka; Enrico Credendino, Commander of the EU Naval Force Mediterranean Operation Sophia; Hajara Yusuf, Public Prosecutor in the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice; and Alan Cole, Head of the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme. Council members (in addition to the organisers) will have the opportunity to make interventions following the panelists. Time permitting, other member states and civil society representatives may also deliver remarks.

In preparation for the meeting, the co-organisers have circulated a concept note describing the purpose of the discussion. It states that the meeting will allow member states the opportunity to address “the common and interlinked emerging crimes at sea, including piracy and armed robbery, arms and drug trafficking, fisheries crime, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons”. The concept note maintains that such crimes are "among the most serious threats to our security and global economy." It further invites member states to identify good practices and challenges with regard to international cooperation in combating maritime crime. The concept note presents some issues that members may wish to discuss in their interventions. Among others, these include:


  • addressing the root causes of maritime crime;

  • considering how preventing and countering maritime crime can contribute to preventing conflicts and sustaining peace in post-conflict environments;

  • considering how to improve international and regional cooperation and build the capacities of authorities in preventing, investigating and prosecuting maritime crime;

  • identifying gaps in the legal frameworks governing maritime crimes;

  • considering the role of the private sector, civil society, or other non-state actors in addressing maritime crime.; and
  • addressing the need for regular coordination meetings and joint operations in order to improve strategic and operational interagency coordination.

Piracy off the coast of Africa is expected to be an important focus of the Arria-formula meeting tomorrow. The Council has had piracy off the coast of Somalia on its agenda for over a decade now. It has addressed piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the vast coastal stretch from Ghana in West Africa down to Gabon in Central Africa, since 2011. Each year, it reauthorises international naval forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia, most recently through resolution 2383. In April 2016, following an open debate on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (S/PV.7675), the Council adopted a presidential statement encouraging regional states, regional organisations and international partners to make fully operational Gulf of Guinea counter-piracy mechanisms as soon as possible (S/PRST/2016/4).

The three African members of the Council--who are co-organising the meeting—may highlight piracy and armed robbery at sea, given the significance of these threats to their respective sub-regions. The concept note states that: “The Gulf of Guinea…has in recent years experienced an escalation of piracy and armed robbery”. Côte d'Ivoire is near the Gulf of Guinea, while Equatorial Guinea is on the Gulf. On the other side of the continent, Ethiopia borders Somalia. One or more of these members may emphasise the importance of addressing the root causes of piracy, underscoring the need to create economic opportunities to prevent people from turning to criminal activities.

The Council has also focused a spotlight on the various aspects of maritime crime in the Mediterranean region in recent years. Addressing the Council at the 17 November 2017 open debate on security challenges in the Mediterranean, Secretary-General António Guterres referred to “the illicit trade in narcotics, weapons and petroleum products; large movements of refugees and migrants…and maritime piracy” as some of the various peace and security threats facing the region. Many of these threats will most likely be discussed in tomorrow’s meeting in the context of the Mediterranean region.

The use of sea routes for drug trafficking is expected to be another issue addressed tomorrow. In this regard, two countries that have long been on the Council’s agenda, Afghanistan and Haiti, might be referenced in the meeting. As the concept note states, opiates originating in Afghanistan are increasingly being transported through sea routes to Africa and then over land to European and other markets, as a result of improved “law enforcement and cooperation between States in relation to policing land borders”. Furthermore, as instability in Central America and enhanced law enforcement efforts make it more difficult to transport drugs over land from South America, Haiti has become a transit point for drug traffickers.

Council members recognise that the broad range of peace and security threats related to maritime crime require coherent and effective multilateral approaches given the transnational implications of this issue. Depending on the results of tomorrow’s discussion, there is a possibility that the co-organisers of the meeting will consider pursuing a presidential statement on maritime crime.

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