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What Future for the Contact Group on Somali Piracy? Options for Reform

 Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

2016 marks the beginning of the transition of the counter-piracy response in the Horn of Africa. Many states have already significantly reduced their involvement in counter-piracy. Recently, the High Risk Area has been revised, which documents that international stakeholders are altering the approach they take to contain piracy. While the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) have announced in July 2015 to continue their operation, the mandates of the two other missions, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, are under review. There are clear expectations that the EU will continue the mission in one form or another and maintain the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, important for situational awareness in the area. These developments need to be seen against the backdrop of the assessment that no large scale piracy attack was successful since 2012. Notwithstanding, the threat of piracy in the region persists. This is clearly highlighted by the 2015 threat assessment of the military missions and further evidenced by recent reports of low scale hijackings and hostage taking attempts.

The revisions of the counter-piracy architecture raise the question of what the future holds for the main coordination body, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). The CGPCS is a major cornerstone of the response. It ensures that the activities of diverse stakeholders are in sync and gaps are spotted and filled. The CGPCS is a flexible, informal, and multi-lateral mechanism, and over the evolution of the fight against piracy it has been frequently reformed and redesigned. The CGPCS stakeholder community, however, so far lacks a clear strategic vision, and the debate on the future of the group is in full swing. Indeed, the Government of the Seychelles, the Group’s 2016 chairman, announced to make the question of how the legacy of the group can be secured one of the top priorities.

In February 2016, the CGPCS held a strategy meeting in Mumbai. At the meeting, the stakeholder community was in agreement that the group should be reformed. Yet, what direction this reform should take and how the legacy could be secured remains an open question. What are the options for reform? Three proposals were made by the stakeholder community: Firstly, a functional extension that implies to widen the mandate to include other maritime security issues while maintaining the current regional focus on the Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean. Secondly, a regional extension in that the group starts to work on other piracy hot spots; and thirdly, a further streamlining of the work of the group with the perspective of transferring the plenary to another institution in the long run. Each of these options requires further scrutiny. The following provides a short analysis of each.

Functional Extension: A Contact Group on Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean?

By now, it is widely acknowledged that piracy is a maritime security issue which can only be understood in a wider socio-economic context. Piracy is part of a maritime insecurity environment in which different threats and forms of transnational organized crime, in particular fishery crimes, are linked. Also, current capacity building projects can hardly be understood as isolated piracy responses. Initiatives geared at maritime security sector reform, regional law enforcement operations, maritime situational awareness, or training of maritime security forces by virtue deal with the broader maritime security environment. Indeed, the majority of current capacity building projects, including the Djibouti Code of Conduct’s training activities, the EU’s Crimario, MASE and EUCAP Nestor projects, address maritime security more broadly. Over the last two years, the agendas of the CGPCS working groups and the plenary have substantially considered such a broader focus. The Working Group on Capacity Building, de facto, deals with general maritime security sector reform in Somalia. The Working Group on Mitigation and Operations at Sea has regional maritime situational awareness as its primary agenda item. During the chairmanship of the European Union (2014-2015), the plenary discussions included other substantive issues than piracy, with presentations concerned with fishery crimes and the broader maritime security capacity building projects. In practice, the CGPCS, hence, has already broadened its mandate and started to act as an oversight and coordination body for maritime security in the region more widely.

From this backdrop the proposal to formally widen the mandate of the CGPCS to include other issues than piracy, brought forward in particular by states from the Western Indian Ocean region, appears not only to reflect actual working practice better but also develops the CGPCS in a promising way. In this scenario, the CGPCS would become an innovative type of regional organization, particularly concerned with the governance of maritime security in the region, regional cooperation and capacity-building in collaboration with the international community. The option could be initially pursued by adding new working groups (e.g. on fishery crimes, maritime situational awareness, or joint law enforcement). The downside of this option is that broadening out the mandate in a systematic manner would imply to widen the stakeholder community participating in the group significantly. It would mean, for instance, to include actors that deal with the fishery sector or environmental regulation in the area. The revision would also entail to re-brand the group including a new name. This might raise potential concerns over the legitimacy and the status of the group given its link to the UN Security Council mandate (see below). Considering the decreasing momentum of the international community, this option would only be realistic with strong regional leadership.

Functional Extension
++ Recognizes the inter-linkage between piracy and other maritime security issues (in particular illegal fishing)
++ Maximizes synergies in maritime security capacity building
++ Provides overarching forum for maritime security in the region
++ Allows integrating blue economy and development concerns (the “root causes”)
+ Reflects actual working practice
  Strong regional leadership required
Significantly widens the stakeholder community
Blurs mandate
Concerns over legitimacy and status

Regional Extension: A Contact Group on Piracy?

At present, there are three major piracy hot spots. In addition to the Horn of Africa, these are the Western African Coast and Southeast Asia. It is widely acknowledged that the type of piracy activities, as well as the scale of attacks, differ considerably. Piracy in West Africa or Southeast Asia tend to be incidents of theft and robbery at sea rather than hostage taking. Also, the local political situations in which piracy is embedded differs. State failure is not necessarily an issue, and incidents tend to take place in territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones, rather than on the high sea. There are, however, also a range of similarities. The victims of piracy are the same (the international shipping industry); many stakeholders are active in all three regions (e.g. Oceans Beyond Piracy, the International Maritime Organization, or the International Chamber of Commerce), and the responses that have been developed have a similar character. With the G7++ mechanism, Western African piracy is the object of a coordination mechanism similar to the CGPCS. That cross-regional thinking is productive has become particularly visible in capacity building. Both, the Djibouti Code of Conduct as well as the West African Yaoundé Code of Conduct processes, have been inspired, if not directly copied, from the South East Asian Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). The Maritime Situational Awareness Centre, installed through the MASE project, takes the Singaporean Information Fusion Centre as a role model. Moreover, there are discussions in how far the Best Management Practices introduced for the Horn of Africa can provide a tool in other piracy-infested areas as well.

Creating a global piracy contact group, that is, extending the mandate of the CGPCS to cover other regional hotspots, is a proposal put forward by international actors. The plenary would address cross-cutting issues while working groups would be dedicated to distinct regional hot spots. The main advantage of this option is that it would allow for streamlining counter-piracy work across regions and ensure the speedy transfer of best practices, lessons learned and ideas. Discussions on how to organize the relation between states and the industry or on the content of global best management practices could be effectively pursued in such a body. A global piracy contact group would, moreover, be in a better position to react to any future piracy outbreak. Thus far, piracy is an international issue that still does not have an appropriate home in the global security governance architecture. Regional extension of the group could provide an ideal solution to this problem. Pursuing this option would, however, require a broad international consensus and strong global leadership from the G7 or BRICS states. The main challenge of this option lies in the substantial increase in the numbers of actors involved. While there is an overlap in stakeholders to some degree, additional regional states, regional organizations, and capacity building agencies will have to be included. Many governments do not have cross-cutting maritime security agencies, but deal with piracy only in regional departments, and would hence have to send larger delegations. Extending the work to other regions, moreover, adds considerable complexity and hence might undermine the likelihood that the group can achieve consent. Finally, and as further addressed below, such an extension would also raise concerns about the legitimacy and the overall mandate of the group.

Regional Extension
++ Streamlines works across regions
++ Ensures transfer of lessons learned
++ Can react to new piracy outbreaks in other regions
++ Allows integrating blue economy and development concerns (the “root causes”)
+ Reflects actual working practice
  Strong global leadership required
Significantly widens the stakeholder community
Blurs mandate
Concerns over legitimacy and status

The relation between the UN Security Council and the CGPCS

Critiques of the former two options have argued that extending the mandate would require external authorization by the UN Security Council. Whether formal approval in the form of a UN Security Council resolution is indeed needed, remains an open question as legally the relation between the UNSC and the CGPCS is ambiguous.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1851 on 18 December 2008. It encouraged, “all States and regional organizations fighting piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia to establish an international cooperation mechanism to act as a common point of contact between and among states, regional and international organizations on all aspects of combating piracy and armed robbery at sea off Somalia’s coast” (UN Security Council 2008). Although this indicates that the CGPCS has a mandate from the UNSC, participants in the CGPCS have frequently emphasized that it is not a UN body. While the first communique of the CGPCS notes that it was established, “pursuant to UNSCR 1851”, for instance, the former CGPCS chairperson Donna Hopkins highlights that, “the CGPCS was deliberately established outside the UN system to ensure that it was as inclusive, apolitical, issue-driven, result-focused, efficient and flexible as possible”.[1] The deliberate distance to the UN is also reflected in the working procedures of the CGPCS, which are not following UN rules, but are ad hoc and informal. However, a case to the contrary can be made as well. Arguably the CGPCS gains its legitimacy from the UNSC resolution. Given that it has become a custom by current CGPCS participants to interpret the CGPCS as having a UNSC mandate, we might face a case of customary international law. In principle, however, the mandate of the CGPCS could be extended if participants are in consent (or there are no objections). A UN Security Council resolution is no requirement.

Streamlining to transfer

The CGPCS assumed its work in 2009 with four working groups. Part of the organizational evolution from 2009 to 2012 was to add new bodies, such as the Capacity Building Coordination Group, or Working Group 5 and its technical sub-body the Law Enforcement Task Force. Starting out with the 2013 counter-piracy week in Djibouti, and in particular since the strategy meeting held in Paris in January 2014 the CGPCS has been continuously streamlining its work. At the Djibouti meeting, working groups were held for the first time back to back with the plenary, rather than independently. This has become an established practice since. Following the Paris meeting, the number of working groups were reduced to three. Since 2015, the number of plenaries has been reduced to one annually. The 2015 plenary was the first that was streamed online, allowing stakeholders to follow procedures from a distance. Overall the workload of the group has considerably decreased. This reflects the fact that the counter-piracy system put in place works, and that the number of challenges and issues that require attention have been reduced. Streamlining also took account of the fact that several of the issues on the CGPCS agenda are in the meantime also handled by other bodies, including initiatives such as the maritime security strategy of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the African Union’s 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy, the Indian Ocean Maritime Crime Forum, and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia.

A third option for the group, put forward in particular by G7 states, is to continue further streamlining with the scenario of transferring the remaining tasks in the medium turn to another institution. This option would imply to reduce the number of working groups and sub-bodies gradually. Initially, this could mean to have two working groups (one on Somalia and one on the Western Indian Ocean region) while the Law Enforcement Task Force would report directly to the plenary. In the next step, all activities could be condensed in one annual plenary. This annual plenary then would be transferred to another institutional body. Such an option would acknowledge the work done by other organizations and reduce the overall workload. It remains pivotal to strategize which of the plenary functions could be transferred to other institutional bodies. Potentially the annual plenary could be held in the frame of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, the UN Adhoc Committee on the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace, or eventually UN Oceans. None of these organizations, however, seem at present ready to take over such a role. A further streamlining of the CGPCS, moreover, might reduce the group to a skeleton in which the political momentum needed to address piracy in a sustainable manner is lost, and the consensus among the international community becomes fragile.

Streamline to transfer
++ Reduces workload and increases efficiency
++ Allows focussing on what is needed
++ Acknowledges the work of other bodies and avoids overlap
  Consent among CGPCS stakeholders required
Undermines cohesion of community and political momentum
Transfer question unresolved

The Future of the CGPCS

It is a well-known fact from International Relations scholarship that international organizations die hard. Once they have established routines, they tend to perpetuate themselves independently from how the problem for which they have been designed develops. Without a doubt, also the CGPCS will show this tendency. If the group has established routines over the years, it, however, remains an informal ad hoc body that has shown considerable flexibility and adaptability. The current chairmanship of the group has declared securing the legacy of the group its main objective. Yet, what this legacy is remains unclarified. Definitely, the CGPCS has proven how effective multi-lateral governance can be if it is inclusive, informal and experimental. This has been clearly shown by the CGPCS lessons learned project. Part of the legacy is hence the development of a working tool that can be used to address other global issues. To make a fully convincing case that the tool works, however, also implies to demonstrate how the CGPCS is further transformed and how the elements of its work still required are continued. The discussion on the long-term strategy, whether in the form of reform and transferring the CGPCS or extending its work, has started in 2013. So far, however, this debate has not reached the centre stage, with stakeholders being busy with pragmatic, short-term politics, rather than seeing the big picture. The success of the current chairmanship will be measured in how well it can organize this strategic discussion, and eventually bring it to a conclusion. Each of the options outlined are plausible ways to go ahead. Extending the mandate will require big thinking and considerable efforts. If streamlining offers the easy and pragmatic solution, it does little to solve the future quest, if the issue of a transfer is not addressed.

[1] Swarttouw, H. and Hopkins, D.L. (2014) ‘The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia: genesis, rationale and objectives’ in Tardy, T. (ed) Fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. Lessons learned from the Contact Group. EU Institute for Security Studies, report No 20. October 2014, p.12.

About the Author

Christian Bueger is Reader in International Relations at Cardiff University. He can be contacted at buegercm@cf.ac.uk. Further information is available at http://bueger.info.

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A thank you and invitation

Piracy-studies.org was launched in 2010. It was at the heydays of the Somali piracy crisis. Creating the portal and blog was motivated by the observation that great scholarship on piracy was carried out, but that this expertise was hardly accessible to those practitioners that had to deal with the piracy problem. Making academic expertise available was our first intention.

Another one was that scholars interested in piracy came from different disciplines, such as international law, security studies, peace research, criminology or development studies, but there was a lack of cross-disciplinary dialogue and little sense of a common research agenda. Hence, piracy-studies.org wanted to facilitate this dialogue.

Over 80 blog posts and comments, a shared bibliography and a series of events were the outcome of these efforts. Over the years it was less and less the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia that needed attention. It was other regional piracy hot spots, such as the Gulf of Guinea, but centrally also very different maritime security issues, ranging from inter-state disputes to illegal migration or illegal fishing. Piracy-studies.org widened its focus to cover such issues, and also increasingly aimed at covering broader questions of ocean governance and naval strategy.

With the global academic blogosphere growing, also other website increasingly were discussing maritime security, such as the blog by the Center for International Maritime Security. But also we the editors moved on. In 2017 we were part of the creation of a new platform, the SafeSeas network. SafeSeas has very similiar goals to piracy-studies.org: Translating research to practice and facilitating dialogue among maritime security researchers.

While SafeSeas and piracy-studies.org operated in parallel for some time, it is now time to say good bye to piracy-studies.org. For scholarly insights on maritime security, the opportunity to publish your research to a wide specialist audience, and to get connected with other researchers, please visit the SafeSeas website, in particular its commentary section.

The piracy-studies.org website, while not updated, will remain online. This is not the least to ensure that all links remain intact and content continues to be available through these. The same time SafeSeas will take over the archive of piracy-studies.org and republish the most important blogs and comments. Watch out for our compilation of the best of piracy-studies.org.

We look forward to see you at SafeSeas, to receive your comments and to engage with you. Please do subscribe to the new newsletter. Join us on twitter as well.

We like to thank all readers and contributors that made piracy-studies.org a success story,

The Editors

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Africa’s Lomé Charter on maritime security: What are the next steps?

Edwin Egede, Cardiff University

The African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa (the Lomé Charter) is the outcome of the African Union Extraordinary Summit held in Lomé, Togo in October 2016. The idea of the Lomé special session was to build up on the results of previous summits held in Yaoundé (June 2013) and the Seychelles (February 2015) and to take the African blue economy and maritime security agendas forward.

The Lomé Charter is a momentous document in three main ways. First, it moves the African maritime security agenda from a mainly soft law, non-binding approach, as reflected in vital instruments such as the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct, the 2013 Yaoundé Code of Conduct or the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIM Strategy) adopted in 2014, to a hard law, legally binding treaty approach. Second, it seeks to accentuate the crucial linkages between maritime security and safety, and the huge prospects of utilising the marine spaces and resources as a key driver of Africa’s economic and social development. Third, it provides a legally binding definition, though framed in rather general terms, of Blue/Ocean Economy. Article 1 of the Charter defines the Blue/Ocean Economy as “sustainable economic development of oceans using such technics as regional development to integrate the use of seas and oceans, coasts, lakes, rivers, and underground water for economic purposes, including, but without being limited to fisheries, mining, energy, aquaculture and maritime transport, while protecting the sea to improve social wellbeing”.

In this blog, I argue that although the Lome Charter is a positive achievement, to effectively progress on the African Blue Economy there is a need to develop the annexes to the Charter to highlight the developmental aspects of the Blue Economy. Also, I identify some challenges that would arise as regards the actual implementation of the Charter. Read more →

Why be a pirate? Understanding motivations for piracy

Zamzam Tatu, M&C Saatchi World Services, Kenya

Following primary research recently conducted at Montagne Posse Prison, Seychelles, little has changed behind the drivers to commit maritime crime. To prevent piracy, a more nuanced approach to understanding the behaviour might be key to a solution.

Maritime crime, piracy and Somalia have become seen as synonymous in East Africa’s geopolitical narrative following years of prolific and highly profitable hijack for ransom activity of vessels in the Indian Ocean. Attacks have abated over the recent past, but the motivators to attack and seize a vessel remain unchanged. Arguably the intervention of international navies, the adoption of vessel protection measures and some resumption of the rule of law ashore have created an environment of prevention, but not necessarily a cure.

With special access to the Montagne Posse Prison, Seychelles in March 2017, courtesy of the Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs, M&C Saatchi World Services determined to find out why young Somalis commit Maritime Crime. M&C Saatchi World Services, like its parent company, is in the ‘persuasion business’; one that adapts established advertising communication principles into behavioural change programmes within fragile and conflict-affected states. In commercial advertising, understanding the audience is crucial; therefore gaining an appreciation of the factors that motivate young Somali men to put to sea, and motivate Somali societies to tolerate such behaviour, is critical in our opinion, to changing attitudes and behaviours towards maritime crime in the very communities that nurture it. Read more →

The contact group at 20: Challenges for the upcoming plenary

Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

In July 2017 the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the main global governance body steering the international campaign to address Somali piracy, will hold its 20th plenary meeting in Mauritius. What issues will the CGPCS have to face and what should we expect from the meeting? In this comment, I discuss some of the core questions that the international community under the leadership of the current chair of the group, the Government of Seychelles, will need to tackle. The CGPCS will have to examine the current situation, further the transition agenda, and consider a number of housekeeping issues. Read more →

Towards Blue Justice: Common Heritage and Common Interest in the Maritime

Peter Sutch, Cardiff University

The importance and complexity of our political, economic and environmental relationship to the sea makes the evolution of a contemporary normative vision of the maritime essential. We need Blue Justice for the blue economy and for the increasingly contentious politics of the maritime. In this blog I want to make a plea for a renewed political theory of the Maritime – A second Grotian moment that generates a Mare Iustitia rather than a Mare Liberum.

In a recent and fascinating piece on this website, Barry J. Ryan urged a critical engagement with the sea and its architecture of freedom and argued persuasively for a normative vision for the sea. Because readers of this blog will have access to that work I want to start there and begin to outline the contours of blue justice. Barry Ryan took the tensions between the freedom of the sea and the idea that the sea is the common heritage of mankind (as well as our outdated distinction between politics on land and politics at sea) as the starting point for his critical and normative argument. He also showed how powerful states carve up this common heritage securing for themselves, rather than mankind, the commercial and military benefits of our common freedom of the sea. We can learn a lot from this – we clearly need normative principles that encourage us to pursue activities in the maritime with at least some concession to the common good. But the foundations of blue justice are such that determining the common good is even more complex than this suggests. The multiple and fragmented legal frameworks that apply to the sea divide the maritime as much as the freedom grabbing of littoral states. Read more →

Towards Blue Justice: Common Heritage and Common Interest in the Maritime

Peter Sutch, Cardiff University

The importance and complexity of our political, economic and environmental relationship to the sea makes the evolution of a contemporary normative vision of the maritime essential. We need Blue Justice for the blue economy and for the increasingly contentious politics of the maritime. In this blog I want to make a plea for a renewed political theory of the Maritime – A second Grotian moment that generates a Mare Iustitia rather than a Mare Liberum.

In a recent and fascinating piece on this website, Barry J. Ryan urged a critical engagement with the sea and its architecture of freedom and argued persuasively for a normative vision for the sea. Because readers of this blog will have access to that work I want to start there and begin to outline the contours of blue justice. Barry Ryan took the tensions between the freedom of the sea and the idea that the sea is the common heritage of mankind (as well as our outdated distinction between politics on land and politics at sea) as the starting point for his critical and normative argument. He also showed how powerful states carve up this common heritage securing for themselves, rather than mankind, the commercial and military benefits of our common freedom of the sea. We can learn a lot from this – we clearly need normative principles that encourage us to pursue activities in the maritime with at least some concession to the common good. But the foundations of blue justice are such that determining the common good is even more complex than this suggests. The multiple and fragmented legal frameworks that apply to the sea divide the maritime as much as the freedom grabbing of littoral states. Read more →

International Relations Must Challenge the Freedom of Security at Sea

Barry J Ryan, Keele University

We should be embarrassed that so little has been written about the politics of the sea in the field of International Relations (IR). Traditionally limited to the study of relations between states, even the cultural turn that so reinvigorated scholarship in IR a few decades ago has maintained the focus of research on political phenomena that occur on land. Flicking through a basic textbook in IR one would be forgiven for concluding that IR is a landlocked discipline. As a discipline, its knowledge of the role played by the sea in global history is, simply put, too basic and thus dangerous. More often than not it comes down to simplistic statements about the freedom of the sea that are too rarely critically challenged. The danger lies when maritime commentary bases its analysis on this freedom, writing about it as though it has always existed, that it is sacrosanct and that it must be maintained for the good of humanity. Military intervention is usually justified on the basis that the freedom of the sea is a fundamental principle of human progress. The open sea, we are told, must be secured, for commercial reasons, for environmental reasons, and for moral reasons. Read more →

What Future for the Contact Group on Somali Piracy? Options for Reform

Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

2016 marks the beginning of the transition of the counter-piracy response in the Horn of Africa. Many states have already significantly reduced their involvement in counter-piracy. Recent revisions of the counter-piracy architecture raise the question of what the future holds for the main coordination body, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).

panel

Recently, the High Risk Area has been revised, which documents that international stakeholders are altering the approach they take to contain piracy. While the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) have announced in July 2015 to continue their operation, the mandates of the two other missions, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, are under review. There are clear expectations that the EU will continue the mission in one form or another and maintain the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, important for situational awareness in the area. These developments need to be seen against the backdrop of the assessment that no large scale piracy attack was successful since 2012. Notwithstanding, the threat of piracy in the region persists. This is clearly highlighted by the 2015 threat assessment of the military missions and further evidenced by recent reports of low scale hijackings and hostage taking attempts.  Read more →

Contemporary Piracy as an Issue of Academic Inquiry: A Bibliography

Jan Stockbruegger, Brown University, & Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

We have compiled a new version of the Piracy Studies Bibliography, which you can access as PDF here.

The aim of this bibliography is to gather a comprehensive collection of academic works on contemporary (post WWII) maritime piracy, with a focus on academic books, journals and working paper. In addition the bibliography includes some titles on the history of piracy, and some general interest literature on piracy. The present version includes almost 600 entries. It documents the extent to which piracy has become a serious issue of academic inquiry, and how investigations of piracy contribute to general discourse and debates in International Relations, Area Studies, Maritime Studies, International Law, Criminology, and other disciplines. We hope that this bibliography helps you a little bit to find your way through the piracy studies literature. Please access the bibliography here.

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Economic Factors for Piracy: The Effect of Commodity Price Shocks

Alexander Knorr, University of Colorado

The_Battle_of_Trafalgar_by_William_Clarkson_StanfieldModern maritime piracy has become a significant issue which costs the global economy $24.5 billion per year. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) reports that attacks in major waterways have increased over the past decades. Extensive research has been done with regard to countering piracy and understanding the resurgence of attacks since the early ‘90s. What are the mechanisms which drive different people in different countries across the globe to all participate in such illegal activities? One of these mechanisms is addressed in a research notes article recently published in the journal Studies in Conflicts and Terrorism.

Read more →

Norm Subsidiarity in Maritime Security: Why East Asian States Cooperate in Counter-Piracy

Terrence Lee and Kevin McGahan, National University of Singapore

Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are the three key littoral countries that border the Straits of Malacca, a major waterway and transit area in Southeast Asia which has traditionally witnessed a fair amount of maritime piracy through the ages.  While these countries generally hold many things in common, such as historical, linguistic and cultural ties, they are also differ significantly in terms of strategic and economic interests.  Despite these important differences, why have Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia been able to cooperate in implementing and enforcing an anti-piracy regime that has been relatively effective? In a recently published article in the Pacific Review, we seek to engage this research question. We initially draw on theories in international relations that are informed by rational choice to explain international cooperation, namely neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism. We argue that key developments of the anti-piracy regime are not fully explained by such rationalist theories, which often stress strategic and material interests of states. In fact, despite rising levels of piracy in the Straits that threatened commercial and strategic goals, for many years the littoral states demonstrated only modest cooperative initiatives.

Read more →