On July the 8th the 18th plenary of the CGPCS met at the UN in New York. Following up on the working group meetings the day prior, the plenary had a rich agenda. Three core issues emerged. Firstly, the importance of illegal fishing in maritime security, secondly, how the piracy king pins can be efficiently prosecuted. Thirdly, how the High Risk Area as defined in the industry’s Best Managment Practices 4 should be reviewed and revised. This issue continued to be very controversial and hence occupied much of the meeting’s agenda. It was also announced that the Government of the Seychelles will become the new Chair of the CGPCS.
The day, which was webcasted via UN Web TV for the first time, started out with a range of welcome statements, after which attention focused on the problem of illegal fishing and its link to piracy. It is well known since years how crucial the problem of illegal coastal fishing is and that it does not only threaten the food security of coastal communities, but also contributes to radicalization. Indeed the prevalence of fishery crimes was one of the issues that pirates could use to mobilize support from local communities. As the presentations by the Federal Government of Somalia and the Food and Agricultural Organization highlighted, with the decline of piracy, fishery crime has increased. In many ways the Somali coast is in a similar situation as it was in 2005 before piracy became big business. Recent incidents involving fishing vessels being captured, as underlined by the SHADE briefing, bare similarities to that time. The fact that the issue featured high on the plenary agenda, proves that fishery crime and the concerns of Somali communities finally start to be taken serious.
The second core issue concerned how to handle the still existing piracy networks. Several assessments highlighted that many of the piracy networks are still intact. The masterminds of these networks still have not been prosecuted and the risk that they find ways of how to get back to business remains high. A crucial element in addressing this is the Law Enforcement Task Force, a subgroup of the former Working Group 5. Following a report of the chair of the subgroup, the group is working well, but much still needs to be done. A controversial issue concerned whether the working group (titled disrupting piracy networks) overseeing the work of the subgroup should be maintained. The working group might be important in particular to keep the pressure on Somalia high to actually prosecute known king pins.
Several statements and negotiations concerned the process of how the HRA revision should be handled. While industry agreed to take the next step and conduct a review, the main object of congregation concerned whether this would imply that the CGPCS could actually devise the industry working group that they should revise the coordinates of the HRA. A wording for the communique, after lengthy negotiations, was finally found and the industry working group will conclude their discussions on how to revise the BMP by October this year.
The statements of delegations, finally, revealed that there are mixed feelings about the future of the CGPCS. If everyone agrees that the risk of a return of piracy remains and hence activities, such as the patrols by CMF, will continue, some delegations argued for fading out the CGPCS work soon. The argument for closure is based on the view that piracy is primarily a Somali problem. Since several coordination mechanisms dealing with the security sector in Somalia, such as those created under the New Deal, exist, the work of the CGPCS could be merged with these. The case against closing the CGPCS is based on the recognition that piracy is a transnational problem and that the coordination of international activities in the Western Indian Ocean region will remain vital. Organizing the debate will be in the hand of the new incoming Chair which will take over from January 2016, the Government of the Seychelles.The full text of the communique reflecting the meeting will be available soon in the CGPCS archives. A video of the accompanying press conference is available here.
The full Commumique is available here.
The summary reflects the observations of the author and not necessarily those of the entire CGPCS community.