Transnational organized crime at sea : necessity of international cooperation [fr]
Transnational organized crime at sea as a threat to international peace and security
Statement by Mr François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 5 February 2019
I thank Equatorial Guinea for taking the initiative of organizing this meeting on transnational organized crime at sea, and I welcome the presence of the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. I also thank Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and Mrs. Florentina Adenike Ukonga, Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, for their especially informative briefings. I wish to make three points.
First, maritime insecurity caused by transnational crime at sea represents an even greater security threat given the significance of the related economic and social challenges. The following statistics suffice to illustrate the risks posed by maritime insecurity: 90 per cent of world trade is maritime. As previously mentioned, the Gulf of Guinea is one of the largest offshore oil fields in the world, with estimated reserves of 24 billion barrels, or 5 per cent of the world’s total reserves, while almost 40 per cent of world’s maritime traffic passes through the Strait of Bab Al-Mandab. Transnational organized crime therefore has found a natural if not ideal milieu at sea, while the threats posed to maritime security are anything but theoretical. Maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden and acts of robbery in the Gulf of Guinea perfectly illustrate the threat that transnational organized crime at sea poses to individuals, States and businesses. Moreover, some criminal groups know how to take advantage of maritime insecurity in order to engage in other forms of trafficking, including trafficking in migrants, as we have seen in the Mediterranean Sea. Drug trafficking on the high seas, whether of heroin from Afghanistan or cocaine produced in South America, fuels terrorist groups and destabilizes entire economies by fostering corruption. The plundering of fisheries resources is another harsh reality that destabilizes coastal regions and inflicts harmful environmental and socioeconomic consequences.
Secondly, the alarming observation I just made makes it all the more necessary to act robustly at the international and regional levels to contain the threats identified. France is fully committed to combating maritime insecurity in many regions, in particular in the Gulf of Guinea, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. In our national capacity, to give just one example, we have maintained a presence in the Gulf of Guinea for 25 years through Mission Corymbe and related cooperation activities in the areas of security and defence. We rely on a permanent network of partners to help partner countries strengthen their coastal surveillance and response capacities and, since 2015, we have been training experts at the Interregional Institute for Maritime Security in Abidjan. We are also participating in European Union activities in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Atalanta, which has played a key role in reducing the number of acts of piracy in the region and is currently conducting numerous programmes to strengthen the capacity of States. Operation Atalanta therefore represents a true success story that has made a significant contribution on the ground, for which the European Union and the States concerned should be commended.
In the Gulf of Guinea, the States of the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission have been particularly active since 2013. Through the Group of Seven Group of Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, France has robustly supported the establishment of an interregional maritime security architecture as part of the Yaoundé process. The establishment of the Interregional Coordination Centre for Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea, which is a unique mechanism for the implementation and monitoring of the regional strategy to combat maritime insecurity, represents a major step in that direction.
Thirdly, and in conclusion, I would like to make three priority recommendations to strengthen our commitment to combating maritime insecurity. The first recommendation is to strengthen the capacities of vulnerable States, which is crucial for preventing and combating the full spectrum of maritime crime — piracy, trafficking in drugs, oil and human beings and the smuggling of migrants. In that regard, it is necessary to focus on the development of a judicial and prison system that is capable of addressing those phenomena within the framework of the rule of law; UNODC clearly has a central role to play in that area. The second recommendation is to promote better cooperation among all State actors and regional and international organizations, in particular to step up information-sharing. Close cooperation with economic and non-governmental actors, beginning with the maritime industry, is obviously necessary in that regard. The third recommendation, as a broader priority, is to ensure that coastal populations are provided with alternatives by pursuing ambitious development policies. The combination of those three lines of action will make it possible to effectively combat transnational crime at sea.
Rest assured of France’s commitment to continue to spare no effort in that regard.