Mr. President of the UN Security Council, Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand,
Mr. Secretary General of the UN Security Counci, Mr. Ban Ki Moon,
The Hon, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, The Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, H.E the President of Kiribati, Mr. Anote Tong, Your Excellencies Heads of delegation of the UN Security Council, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of President James Michel, and the people of Seychelles, I would like to express our appreciation to the President of the UNSC, the Hon. Foreign Minister of New Zealand, for providing this platform to discuss the security challenges of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
I would also like to convey our appreciation to the United Nations for the recognition of the specificities of SIDS- as outlined in the SAMOA pathway adopted in 2014- and for situating this event as a continuation of efforts to improve the framework available to build the resilience of SIDS.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The security challenges of SIDS are situated in the context of our unique geographic character. Surrounded by oceans, we are our planet’s ‘blue guardians’. But the governance of the world’s oceanic spaces is far removed from the security expectations that the world has regarding its terrestrial spaces. Lawlessness and impunity are more often than not the norm on the high seas. International criminality is often tolerated- prosecutions of international crimes at sea remain uneven. Most of the world’s illegal traffic is conducted at sea- whether it be people, drugs or weapons. Illegal fishing continues to undermine both national and international regulation. Respect for this shared space is often only extended to the degree that economic interests are not put into question. Meanwhile, the threat of climate change undermines the productivity of traditional marine resources and limits opportunities for growth.
Let us be clear- Climate Change is the foremost security threat for SIDS. And ultimately it undermines the security of every country- large or small.
For SIDS, our smallness and our isolation are structural elements of our vulnerability. The increasing threats around our oceans and the relative lack of governance enhance this vulnerability.
With 75% of our planet being made up by oceans, the weak global governance of our oceanic spaces undermines our global security. We are all vulnerable.
Seychelles, like many SIDS, has not accepted however to simply be an observer to these processes. We are embracing the opportunity of being large oceanic nations. We are aiming to better manage our oceans- setting an example of good oceanic governance. In the context of Seychelles- our Exclusive Economic Zone extends to 1.3 million sq. km- while we have also agreed a shared extended continental shelf with our neighbour Mauritius extending to 395,000 sq. km.
Earlier this year, we created the Blue Economy department which is part of my portfolio as the Minister of Finance. We are staking our economic future on better harnessing the development potential of our ocean. To achieve this- we must recognise that moving towards sustainable development goals requires breaking the existing moulds of economic development and forging new opportunities from previously unsustainable practices. In relation to African and Indian Ocean SIDS- this is what the Blue economy promises.
In practical terms, we are implementing the blue economy through the development of a marine spatial plan, whereby we define the economic and conservation activities to be developed throughout our EEZ. We are also committing 30% of our EEZ as protected areas. We are developing enhanced fisheries management tools to implement appropriate stock management and we are in discussion with international financial institutions to raise a ‘blue bond’ to help provide affordable financing for such initiatives.
These initiatives are also situated within a regional move to bolster the Blue Economy- notably through the African Union’s Blue Economy commitments under Agenda 2063 as well as the AU’s African Integrated Maritime Strategy. The Indian Ocean Commission, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association are also developing blue economy approaches that build sustainable economic opportunity through research, trade, renewable energy and maritime infrastructure.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The phenomenon of piracy in the Indian Ocean has underlined the challenges of security in our region- but also of implementing the rule of law at sea. At the start of the problem, many naval ships were frustrated by the fact that while they could interdict pirate vessels, the lack of prosecution meant that pirates had to be released allowing them to regroup and attack shipping on future occasions.
Despite our capacity constraints, Seychelles took a lead role in piracy prosecutions, because we recognise that the rule of law is the first step towards economic stability and growth. As long as we allow our oceans to be ruled by lawlessness- we will not be able to properly harness their development potential.
Through our concerted effort with international partners such as the EU and NATO, we have effectively broken the piracy business model, by ensuring that prosecutions take place systematically. But we cannot afford complacency. While piracy is on the wane, we are seeing increased activities relating to drug trafficking.
Which leads me to also mention another major security concern for many SIDS, which is the influx of trafficked substances that create domestic demand for narcotics. Our small societies are often inordinately affected by the impact of addiction among young people and the consequences in terms of reduced productivity and increased criminality. We are actively engaged in twin strategies of reducing local demand while also aggressively targeting shipments into the country.
As we work to address these issues, we must also maintain vigilance in relation to potential terrorist threats. Al Shabab in Somalia has profited from the lack of maritime capacity in our region and has used the sea lanes to bolster its position in certain parts of Somalia while also creating profitable trades in illicit goods. Our region is very reliant on tourism, and we must work in concert to ensure that we protect our livelihoods- while also ensuring that the people of Somalia do not have to live in fear.
All of these security challenges require enhanced regional coordination. Seychelles has been pleased to host a Regional Information Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre which has helped build cases for prosecution in Seychelles and across our region based on crimes committed at sea.
We must continue to build this regional capacity and we look forward to the implementation of the regional Maritime Security Programme of the EU which will reinforce and build capacity across the East African and Indian Ocean Region. Seychelles will also continue to actively promote regional partnerships as the current Chair of the African Union’s East African Standby Force, while we also look forward to our forthcoming chairmanship of the Contact Group on piracy off the coast of Somalia where we will share our experiences with a view to implementing practical solutions to counter impunity and lawlessness.
At the heart of improved maritime security for SIDS is enhanced maritime domain awareness. We depend on partnerships to build this capacity and one of the messages I would like to emphasise today is to call on all members of the Security Council to reinforce the building of this capacity in SIDS. To do so not only empowers better management of our resources- you are positioning sentinels in the sea.
Before concluding, Let me also take a moment to remind all our partners that effectively tackling criminality and terrorism at sea, also involves enhanced financial governance in terms of better application of anti-money laundering best practices as well as enhanced tax transparency and exchange of information. By targeting the business model which underpins criminal activities, we can better undermine their operations. Seychelles has made a strong commitment towards these best practices through strong anti-money laundering legislation and we are complementing this through our commitment to be an early adopter in terms of exchange of information for tax purposes.
In conclusion, it is essential that we contextualise the debate on security issues for SIDS in relation to climate change- and ever present threat.
Increases in global temperatures are currently set to be well above 2 degrees, and this will literally wipe out the islands of many of our nations. It will wipe out homes and livelihoods. Every island matters. We cannot go to the Paris negotiations on climate change later this year with the idea that some islands- some homes- can be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency and unsustainable growth.
We thank members of the UN Security Council for ensuring that the security aspect of climate change is not ignored. As with all security threats, the best strategy is to pre-empt this threat.
We have the opportunity to set a standard for global governance and for enhanced global security in Paris. Let us ensure we take it!
Better governance of our oceans through the Blue Economy can already help us ensure that we can build climate resilient inclusive growth. The fast track to better maritime security is the fast track to establish our blue economy.
I thank you for your attention.