AU signs landmark charter on illegal fishing and maritime security
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ( Xinhua + AFP + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The African Union (AU) adopted an agreement on piracy, illegal fishing and maritime security at a summit in Togo on Saturday.
The Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa was signed on the last day of the six-day African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security, Safety and Development.
Among other things, the Charter aims to prevent national and transnational crimes, including terrorism, piracy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal and unregulated fishing.
“Our common desire to have such valuable legal instrument should also translate into our determination to make it applicable and operational through its ratification,” said AU chairman Idriss Deby, also Chad’s president.
“We are happy to announce the adoption and signing of a charter on maritime security and safety and development in Africa,” Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said, hailing a “historic” decision that would boost economic and social development.
Nguesso said 43 of the AU’s 54 members — 38 of which have a coastline — adopted the summit text, which is binding. It commits signatories to environmental protection and action against maritime crime as well as trafficking in drugs, arms and people.
Non-legitimate fishing in Somalia
The countries commited to creating national and regional institutions “to promote maritime security”.
AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, however, said that the Charter “has shortcomings.”
In a side event on Friday, she said “The Charter mainly focuses on safety and security issues, not development.”
She called on delegates to continue to make suggestions and help AU draw up an annexure to the Charter in the future, which responds to the development side of the maritime space.
Togo’s foreign minister, Robert Dussey, told AFP ahead of the meeting that there was a clear need to join forces on policy, indicating the stakes were “very high” amid an upsurge of piracy in recent years, spreading from the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, to the Gulf of Guinea, which is now a hotspot for piracy.
Dussey said maritime security was paramount for African development, not just given the threat from piracy and illegal fishing depleting a key resource but the threat from environmental degradation.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose country has suffered from insecurity in the Gulf of Aden, praised the outcome of the meeting as a display of Africa’s ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.
So-called maritime economic activity in Africa covers 13 million square kilometres, equivalent to a 17 percent world share.