UN Assistant Secretary General for Africa, Martha Pobee, has urged for increased action to combat pirate in the West African Gulf of Guinea.
Ms Pobee made the request when briefing the Security Council on Wednesday at UN headquarters.
She stated that while international collaboration was making strides in countering piracy in West Africa, addressing its core causes and guaranteeing long-term support were critical to preventing the issue from spreading to other regions.
Despite progress in combating sea-faring criminal gangs, the UN official stated that “piracy incidents continued to threaten the safety of maritime traffic in the region.”
She stated that since her previous briefing on maritime security in November, there has been a continuous drop in pirate occurrences in the Gulf of Guinea, owing primarily to interventions by national authorities, regional and international partners.
“Together, these effective deterrents against criminal groups have been bolstered by the ongoing operationalisation of the so-called Yaoundé architecture, established in 2013 with the signing of the related Code of Conduct by actors in the region,” said a UN official.
She mentioned that four of the five inter-regional coordination centers were now operational.
“Such efforts, including the formation of joint naval task groups,” the source noted, “have enhanced cooperation and information sharing while forging a centralized process for maritime security that bridges national and regional capacity gaps.”
However, she stressed that gaps still exist and that additional help is needed to address them. These include issues such as a lack of sufficient equipment and long-term funding to facilitate the full implementation of the Code of Conduct.
“Immediately addressing the challenges impeding full operationalisation of the Yaoundé architecture is critical to maintaining current gains,” she said.
According to her, current data indicate that events are gradually transferring from West African seas to the UN Economic Community of Central African States’ maritime domain.
According to the UN Secretary General’s assessment on piracy in the region, pirate organizations in the region changed their practices from 2016 to 2021, turning their attention to “kidnapping for ransom” piracy.
According to a survey conducted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Maritime Crime Programme, “kidnapping for ransom” piracy peaked in 2020, with around 140 people being taken at sea.
According to the report, pirate gangs acted indiscriminately, targeting vessels of all sorts, including fishing vessels, and expanded their operations further offshore. Several incidents were documented over 200 nautical miles from shore at the time.