The New Public Face of the Contact Group

By Christian Bueger

The Contact Group goes public

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the main governance arrangement for coordinating and organizing the global fight against piracy, has finally launched its website today. As was  announced in a UN press declaration the website will serve as a “cyber secretariat offering a sphere of communication for Contact Group participants; a database storing Contact Group documents and other piracy-related materials; and an information centre promoting the work of the Contact Group to the general public.”  The website will be jointly operated by the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The website makes for the first time the documents of the Contact Group’s plenary, its five working groups and its Trust Fund (meeting protocols, declarations) available to the public. It explains the work of the CGCPS in digestible terms in an About section and a FAQ. It provides a list of links to the main other organizations dealing with piracy. The CGPCS completes its public face, with a Facebook and a Youtube account. For an international organization the website is quite impressive in the way it organizes its material and it will indeed be an important tool to make the work of CGCPS transparent. Moreover, it will become a valuable tool for researchers observing and analyzing the work of the Contact Group. Read more →

International Conference on Piracy at Sea

(forthcoming event, October 2011)

The World Maritime University organizes the “International Conference on Piracy at Sea” (ICOPAS 2011) will be held in Malmö 17-19 October 2011. The Conference is addressed at the maritime industry, public officials and academics alike. The three day conference aims

to exchange views and ideas on the complex web of underlying factors behind the phenomenon of maritime piracy, to examine and review current responses and initiatives, as well as to discuss ways whereby industry stakeholders and the many disciplines engaged in maritime research might better work towards an integrated approach to control or eradicate piracy and other violent crimes at sea.

More information on the event is available here.  The conference program is available here . Attendance to the conference is however pricey, with a conference fee of €400.00 being charged. Hence the conference will be primarily a forum for industry and policymakers.

Pirates, terrorists and local politics: the professionalization of Somali piracy, next episode?

By Jan Stockbruegger

Last year in March 2010 we published a blog titled “Gunmen, Fish and Puntland: the Professionalization of Piracy?“ outlining the findings of the UN Monitoring Group on Somali piracy (Report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, S/2010/91 (10 March 2010)). Its results were that pirates are indeed becoming more professional by adapting their tactic and by corrupting local authorities and regional administrations. Last week the UN Monitoring Group published its new report. Covering security related events and development in Somalia and Eritrea in 2010/2011 (its mandate started in March 2010) it again contains some very interesting insights into piracy. In fact the report is the most recent and most consistent official piece of information on that issue. So what does it say (and not say) about Somali piracy? How has  piracy developed in the course of the last year? Read more →

The Contours of Piracy Studies in International Relations: Some observations from the ISA Annual Conference, Montreal, 2011.

By Jan Stockbruegger

Piracy is a growing field of academic inquiry and is analyzed from various perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds in International Relations, including global governance research, international law, security and strategic studies, area studies and behavioral sciences. As pointed out in our last blog, around ca. 30 papers on piracy were presented at this year’s annual convention of the International Studies Association (ISA). Below we offer some observations from this meeting. Read more →

Maritime Piracy & Global Governance: New Perspectives on an Old Problem

(March 2011)

Workshop at the International Studies Association Conference, March 15, 2011, Montreal, Canada, organized by Jon Carlson,Michael Struett and Donna Nincic.

Workshop Summary:

While the pirate has been romanticized in modern pop culture (everyone likes pirates!), modern maritime piracy occupies a challenging intellectual space for scholars.  As such, maritime piracy is an exemplar of many of the challenges implicit in global governance.  Accordingly, this workshop brings together scholars operating in three overlapping intellectual spaces or areas of IR. First, many

scholars approach the topic from an international organization or international regime perspective, recognizing the many layers of obligations and authorities that arise from UNCLOS, the International Maritime Organization, international human rights law, fisheries agreements, shipboard security regimes, anti-terrorism treaties or freedom of the seas doctrine.  Subsidiary to this are legal questions more explicitly linked to the prosecution and punishment of pirates, historically drawing on the principal of universal jurisdiction, though it also opens up questions of local jurisdiction, territorial waters or national sovereignty.  A separate set of scholars tend to treat piracy through the lens of security studies, focusing on interdiction, use of force, possible deterrence, and the pursuit of pirates as little more than aquatic terrorists.  Finally, piracy exposes some shaky foundations for IR theorists: how do we conceive of sovereignty and legitimacy when they are delinked from the territorial aspect of the modern nation-state? What happens to prospects for cooperation when we get to the nitty-gritty questions of practice related to paying for trials, imprisoning and maintaining captured pirates, bearing the burden of policing sea-lanes, or even determining what constitutes a pirate?  Does anyone have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and how is this determined? These approaches have tended to compete with each other along sub-disciplinary conceptual-theoretical boundaries, and this workshop seeks to explore a more holistic, comprehensive conceptualization of the multiple challenges posed by maritime piracy.

Read more →

Piracy and International Relations – The ISA conference

By Christian Bueger

At this year’s conference of the International Studies Association an impressive number of more than 30 papers investigating piracy will be presented. The conference is the major annual meeting point for scholars interested in international relations (IR), broadly understood. The papers presented not only reveal the relevance of IR scholarship in understanding this contemporary phenomenon, but also the complexity of the piracy problematique. While papers address piracy from very different angles, the following themes shine through:

  • Piracy as a problem of global governance and international cooperation;
  • Piracy as a legal problem and a question of how modern, universal international law  is developing;
  • Piracy as an operational problem, of military coordination, surveillance and deterrence;
  • Piracy as a problem of failed states and the relation between civil war and transnational threats;
  • Piracy as a problem of commercial security and the relation between public and private security providers.

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).


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.

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 →