UNSC unanimously adopts Presidential Statement on maritime security
United Nations: The UN Security Council, currently being presided over by India, on Monday unanimously adopted a presidential statement on maritime security that recognised the importance of enhancing international and regional cooperation to counter threats to maritime safety and security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level open debate on maritime security attended virtually by Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh.
The high-level open debate on Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case for International Cooperation’ was one of the three signature events being hosted by India during its month-long Presidency of the powerful 15-nation UN body.
The UNSC unanimously adopted the Presidential Statement, the first such Presidential Statement (PRST) of the Council on Maritime Security. It is significant to note that PRST reaffirmed in categorical terms that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (UNCLOS), sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans.
This is the first UN Security Council document that deals with the issue of maritime security holistically and comprehensively. The earlier documents of the Security Council had focused the issue from a limited perspective of maritime piracy – particularly off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Guinea and in the Gulf; maritime crime in the Mediterranean region; drug trafficking; and transnational organised crime.
“The Security Council reaffirms that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 (UNCLOS), sets out the legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea.”
In the PRST, the Council noted with concern the “ongoing threats to maritime safety and security posed by piracy, armed robbery at sea, terrorists’ travel and use of sea to conduct crimes and acts against shipping, offshore installations, critical infrastructure, and other maritime interests.”
It notes the continuing problem of transnational organised crimes committed at sea, including illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and illicit trafficking in firearms, and also notes the other illicit activities.
The Security Council noted the deplorable loss of life and adverse impact on international trade, energy security and the global economy resulting from such activities and, emphasised the importance of safeguarding the legitimate uses of the oceans and the lives of people at sea, as well as the livelihoods and security of coastal communities.
For India, counter terrorism has been one of the top priorities and the country has been in the forefront to mobilise the international community to address the issue.
The PRST assumes significance against the backdrop that India has also been victim of terrorist acts carried out from the seas, in particular the dastardly November 2008 terror attack carried out by terrorists from Pakistan who landed in the city through the sea.
The Security Council acknowledges that terrorists may benefit from transnational organised crime in specific contexts and regions, and calls upon Member States, to consider the ratification and implementation of global instruments as well as their participation in national, regional and global initiatives that aim to build capacity to prevent and counter the illicit trafficking, including through seaports and at sea, of natural resources, arms, drugs, cultural property, and illicit trade in direct support of terrorism networks, as well as trafficking in persons.
“The Security Council acknowledges that terrorists may target vulnerable targets, including critical infrastructure and public places, and specifically the transportation sector, including seaports and maritime transport, as well as interconnected critical infrastructure which underlines the importance of enhanced cooperation to protect critical infrastructure, including cross-border infrastructure and calls upon Member States to implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the PRST said.
It also recognises the importance of enhancing international and regional cooperation to counter threats to maritime safety and security.
The Council recognised the need to strengthen the capacity of Member States, upon their request, to take effective measures against transnational organised crimes at sea, and invited Member States to share their experiences with other Member States, the UNODC and the International Maritime Organization on the possible gaps and vulnerabilities in that regard.
“The Security Council encouraged the United Nations, as well as regional and subregional organisations to continue their endeavours in assisting Member States in their capacity-building and in sharing effective practices to prevent and combat terrorism at sea.
“The Security Council further encourages the relevant UN Global Counterterrorism Compact entities to continue their capacity building programmes, the PRST said.
“The Security Council encourages Member States to continue building and strengthening their capacities to enhance maritime safety and security, including against piracy and armed robbery at sea and terrorist activities, as well as against all forms of transnational organised crimes and other illicit activities in the maritime domain through the competent organisations and instruments.”
This marks the first ever outcome document by the UNSC on the issue of maritime security. As per practices, the Presidential Statement has to be adopted unanimously. The process was not smooth, with one P-5 country holding out till the very end (on language related to UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS).
India’s negotiators were able to find language acceptable to all, without dropping reference to UNCLOS (which other P-5 countries insisted on retaining).
President Putin’s participation at UNSC Debate after nearly 16 years at Prime Minister Modi chaired event sends out a clear political message on the importance Russia places to the Indian initiative on Maritime Security in the UNSC and on bilateral relationship. Putin has participated in UNSC Debates only twice before, in September 2005 and September 2000.
The US Permanent Representative to the UN holds Cabinet rank. Yet the participation by Secretary of State Blinken, who is the senior-most Secretary in the US Cabinet, is also an important message.