Balancing Geopolitical, Economic and Geostrategic Interests in Maritime Security Initiatives

“While these bilateral and multilateral initiatives are necessary, they are often viewed with apprehension because they concern issue of State sovereignty.”

Acknowledge that we live in a global world, but it is important to note that every country has a national interest, which is driven mostly by the need for survival, security and sustenance. Meeting these needs underlies how countries relate with one another or the wider world.

An area that provides avenue for interrelation is the maritime domain, which serves as a transport route, a resource, living habitat and an area for power and stability projection, providing the basis on which the current global politico-economic system thrives. Countries depend on open, free and secure maritime domain for continuous free flow of resources, capital, information, people and goods from the locations of production to consumption. However, since activities in the maritime domain are influence based on the specific interest and ambitions of various countries, the use of the domain is increasingly contested, and failure in creating the required balance amongst the myriad of interest is resulting in the seas and oceans becoming arenas for international conflicts and maritime crimes.

This is impacting greatly on global stability and prosperity; as developments in distant maritime regions now pose immediate and direct threats to the security and prosperity of countries in other regions. Knowing that stability is key to safeguarding national interest and secure free flow of resources, different countries through interregional cooperation initiated some stability intervention schemes in some maritime regions including the Gulf of Guinea. While these bilateral and multilateral initiatives are necessary, they are often viewed with apprehension because they concern issue of State sovereignty. Furthermore, the initiatives are parochially structured, from the perspective of the sponsors and driven more by the need to protect their interest than for the sake of security in itself. In some instances, local interest are not considered, neither is local input sought, only to be invited to participate in the intervention effort.

Situation like this is seen by the Gulf of Guinea countries as intrusions into their security and defense sector of the region. Flowing from this stand point discussion will focus on the importance of balancing geostrategic and geopolitical interest of international actors with those of the Gulf of Guinea countries by identifying areas where geo-strategic and geo-political interest of international actors dovetail into key aspects of the security and defense measures of the region for effective synergy.

Attention will also be on the need to envision, prioritize and construct a holistic and sustainable policy response to maritime security in the medium and long terms. Such policy response would be one that is not only inclusive of all possible areas of risk but also accommodate all key actors. In implementing any regional approach to address such a complex phenomenon as maritime security, it will also be important to take into account the peculiarities arising from geographical history and the importance of collective security.

Dr. Christian Bueger (Cardiff University UK)

Will be leading the discussion on this theme at the conference