Maritime security: Implementing the AU's AIM strategy
8 June 2018
Maritime security has become a key issue in international politics with a number of states and regions adopting and publicising their maritime security strategies. Yet, it is is still a contested concept which may vary in emphasis depending on the state or region of the world. For instance, Natalie Klein in her book Maritime Security and the Law of the Sea points out that “[t]he term ‘maritimesecurity’ has different meanings depending on who is using the term or in what context it is being used.” She argues that it may best be understood from two key viewpoints, namely, traditional security concerns and responses to perceived maritime security threats. The former, she asserts, primarily refers to border protection, preventing incursions into areas that are considered as the sovereign domain of a state, as well as power projections, involving a state exercising naval military power in its relationship with other states. The latter reflects steps taken by states to reduce the risk of certain crimes or activities which they believe would prejudice or injure their interests and society.This article aims to address two key points. First, how the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy) has influenced the shift in the focus of maritime security in Africa i.e. from a bi-dimensional approach to a multidimensional one. Second, it identifies challenges with implementing the integrated strategy and offers some suggestions on how this could be addressed. The 2050 AIM Strategy From the early 2000s, the Horn of Africa (HoA) has attracted international attention due to the piracy and armed robbery at sea situation, which led the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt a number of resolutions authorising international action to combat piracy as a threat to international peace and security. Apart from the international naval patrols deployed under the UNSC resolutions to protect ships transiting seas adjoining the HoA, another notable initiative was the adoption of the 2009 Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (the Djibouti Code of Conduct), under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), by certain African and Arab states, which focused solely on the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships.In January 2014, the African Union (AU) adopted the 2050 AIM Strategy, an Africa-wide integrated maritime strategy. The strategy engages with maritime security from a multidimensional perspective, in the sense of not limiting its engagement solely to piracy and armed robbery at sea, but also including other illicit activities at sea, as well as putting sustainable development of the African Blue Economy and Maritime Safety at the core of dealing with maritime security. In essence, it emphasises the need to adopt an integrated approach to tackling maritime security. It must be noted that this approach has been influenced by the thinking that a maritime security agenda concentrating solely on piracy and armed robbery at sea would be skewed in favour of the developed maritime states agenda of protecting their trading interests. Furthermore, such a bi-dimensional approach would not address other maritime security threats and concerns that may adversely impact the blue economy developmental growth of African states.The 2050 AIM Strategy’s multidimensional approach has influenced subsequent maritime security instruments, for instance the Intergovernmental Authority on Development's (IGAD) Integrated Maritime Strategy 2015. Even the Djibouti Code of Conduct has been developed and revised by the 2017 Jeddah Amendment to ‘address wider maritime security issues, as a basis for sustainable development of the maritime sector’ and to recognise the critical importance of the Blue Economy in the Code. Furthermore, many aspects of the 2050 AIM Strategy have been incorporated in a legally binding treaty, the Lomé Charter, adopted by the AU in 2016. Implementation An integrated maritime strategy like the 2050 AIM Strategy is quite complex, and implementation would be rather challenging. It has been argued that ‘… while it is currently fashionable to argue that “policy silos” should be replaced by policy integration such efforts are fraught with risks; notably the very real possibility of creating ineffective instrument mixes or incomplete reform efforts with resulting poor outcomes at the macro, meso or micro-level.’ In essence, the challenge with the implementation of the 2050 AIM Strategy is how to achieve coherence as it engages with wide-ranging maritime security threats, whilst reconciling this with achieving maritime safety, as well as resource development to achieve blue economy developmental goals and at the same time ensuring that the marine environment is protected.Although, on paper the 2050 AIM Strategy is described as an ‘overarching, concerted and coherent long-term multi-layered plans of actions’, the article argues that coherence would only be achieved if three core issues are addressed – effective coordination, information flow and the nexus approach.