Global Oceans Governance Conference, Den Haag

Hague InstituteLast week I had the great pleasure of serving as one of 12 independent experts at the Hague Institute’s Global Oceans Governance conference. The event, held in The Hague, was co-sponsored by the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Altogether participants  – academics, policy-makers and practitioners – from over 12 different countries attended the two-day event tasked with contributing towards the Hague Institute’s Global Oceans Governance project. The project has two aims:

  1. To provide actionable policy recommendations for overcoming collective-action dilemmas that stymie governance efforts in the domain of oceans governance.
  2. To identify general lessons for good global governance that can be applied in other domains as well.

The papers presented at the conference were wide-ranging in their focus. Panels examined the Maritime Ecology, Blue Growth, Sustainable Development, Governance Lessons from the fight against Piracy and Holistic Approaches to Global Oceans Security and Governance. I sat on this last panel and presented the first draft of my paper ‘Mapping Maritime Security: a Small Island Developing State perspective?’ alongside colleagues discussing the Arctic and ‘whole-of-government’ responses to Maritime Security respectively.

My paper encapsulated an initial written output in a new research project for me examining the maritime security considerations of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), specifically in relation to port and coastal security and in the context of the challenges posed by maritime crime. This is a project I commenced last summer with a Coventry University pump-prime grant that facilitated a research visit to Mauritius in August 2015.

The project stems from my fascination with the way in which Island states relate to and manage their maritime domain. I am particularly interested in the way those states with fewer resources undertake these processes and how they confidently and effectively build capacity in maritime security. For those interested in the importance and needs of SIDS, I can do little better than direct you to the below illustration, which I re-tweeted a couple of weeks ago.

SIDSMy paper encapsulates a content analysis of the way in which SIDS publicly articulate their maritime security needs within the broader sustainable development agenda. Building on the more comprehensive definition of maritime security that I embrace, I chart the threats which SIDS highlight and seek to note trends over time. Going forwards I will extend this content analysis to determine regional distinctions. The paper’s focus on the public articulation of threats emerges out of a starting premise that it is only with greater clarity over the way in which SIDS conceptualise their maritime security that we can move forwards to better understand maritime security policy and associated security practice relating to these states, alongside the role of SIDS vis-à-vis efforts to improve oceans governance as a whole. I will be writing more about my work on SIDS in an upcoming Maritime Security Briefing, published by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.

Ultimately the conference reminded me of the large number of individuals and organisations with vast knowledge of, and huge commitment to, enhancing our Oceans’ wellbeing. While the topics discussed were wide-ranging, they allowed all the participants to gain new insights, highlight research synergies and recognise best practice. I left the conference ever more convinced that if we are to ensure that the potential of our Oceans is to be sustainably managed for the benefit of as many people as possible then good governance is of central importance.

As we all reflected at the end of the conference on our recommendations for the future I flagged up two words – DIALOGUE and EDUCATION. It will only be with greater and more regular dialogue between different communities, working on different issues, that we will break-down barriers and build workable policies. Here I would like to think Universities, especially those with an interest in applied research such as Coventry University, are well placed to act as a facilitator between academia and practitioners. This is the task that I enjoyed the most during our recent Economic and Social Research Council funded seminar series on the Sustainable Development – Maritime Security relationship.

Moreover, if we are to truly ensure our Oceans function effectively for generations to come we need to expand the educational opportunities for individuals, young and old, to tap in to the energy I witnessed and the kind of ideas I heard at this conference. Education is deeply empowering and the more people that gain knowledge about our Oceans – the threats to them and ways to protect them – then over time we will build an ever larger community who will not only hold political leaders to account, but who will themselves stand ready to get involved to build a brighter future.

If you have any questions or comments on this blog post please get in contact with me either via the comments box or by email.

The joy of teaching

Computer ClassroomTen days ago a new group of students on our MA Peacebuilding and MA Maritime Security programmes departed Coventry having visited for their Induction Workshop. These students have 12 months of work ahead of them; an exciting, yet challenging experience undoubtedly awaits.

It was the first time in three years that I wasn’t one of those staff members responsible for organising and running the workshop. Nevertheless I played a small part in proceedings delivering an introductory lecture on International Security. I enjoyed this lecture; it allowed me to return to some of the core academic literature and big issues that piqued my interest in pursuing an academic career in the first place. We considered some of the theoretical underpinnings of International Security as a sub-discipline, reflected on the way (if at all) our understandings of security have changed over the last 25 years, before concluding with a brief examination of the impact globalisation has had on the way we think about security. Interacting with the students on these issues was a complete joy.

Putting on a workshop like this Induction Workshop takes a lot of hard work from colleagues – both academic and operational. Supporting student enrolment, booking the venue, organising excursions, recruiting colleagues to present at the workshop, developing lecture content, and much more besides; and all this before the actual running of the workshop itself! It is this hard work however behind the scenes that allows our students to attend an intellectually coherent, well organised five days of learning that effectively introduces them to our city, University, Research Centre, and of course each other. While my colleagues were utterly exhausted at the end of the workshop, I couldn’t help but notice that the fatigue from running the workshops was married with an energy too, a real buzz stemming from their engagement with our students.

Our MA Peacebuilding and Maritime Security programmes are designed to give working practitioners, some of whom have little previous Higher Education experience, the chance to gain a high-quality educational qualification from one of the United Kingdom’s rapidly rising Universities. We believe that everyone has the potential to learn, develop their academic skills, and take both knowledge and skills back to their place of work and local communities to bring about positive change. We do not feel that individuals should be locked out of Higher Education because of their previous career decisions, because of financial constraints or because they happen to live and work in challenging environments. After all, If education is not about empowering individuals, then what is the point of it? As a result we deliver programmes that can be studied by distance-learning or with a combination of short, optional residential workshops and online learning. We also have a rigorous process to evaluate and potentially accredit an individual’s learning from their work experience with academic credits.

More broadly for me, while I only made a limited contribution to this particular workshop, I nevertheless got a much needed bolt of energy from the proceedings. In my new role as our research centre’s Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes it is fair to say I have spent a considerable amount of my time in meetings over the past six months. Embarking on an intensive review of all our teaching activities has meant lots of reading, learning, engaging with colleagues, all in effort to ensure our teaching positively evolves and that we continue to innovate, enhancing the quality of our work even further. At times this review has been rather dry as I have approached teaching through the more abstract lens of policies, regulations and business plans. They may all be crucial components to ensure a strong strategy is in place to go forwards and undoubtedly represent some of the key foundations on which our future success will rest (the other arguably more crucial foundations being our staff and the students themselves); but these components are not, nor should they be the complete picture. Planning is a means to an end, not the end itself; even if that end doesn’t always seem as obvious as I would like at times.

As such chatting with our new group of students last month reminded me why I do this job and why I love the teaching side of academic life. The abstract becomes more real, theories are evaluated, new insights can be gained. It reminds me of the crucial and mutually beneficial relationship between research and teaching. I get to share ideas with interested and interesting people, I have the opportunity to gain new insights in to longstanding problems, to have new problems brought to my attention, I get to feel that in a small way the ethos of Coventry – UK City of Peace and Reconciliation – has been spread that little bit wider. Ultimately this is why my thanks to our students on the Friday afternoon as they set off home was deeper than an appreciation of their attendance; I was thanking them for playing their part in reaffirming my love for education.

Flashback:The 10th Annual Roberts Lecture – ‘Our Maritime Security’

On the 22nd January 2014 I attended the 10th Annual Roberts Lecture. Here were my reflections at the time. Please note: CPRS became CTPSR in February 2014.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 10th Annual Roberts Lecture hosted by Sheffield University. This year’s lecture was delivered by Sir Charles Montgomery, Director General of the United Kingdom’s Border Force. Its title was ‘Our Maritime Security – Strategic Lessons and Future Prospects’, and it was an excellent introduction to the subject. In this post I wish to summarise some of Sir Charles’ points, whilst highlighting the way in which they connect to both mine and the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies’ (CPRS) work in this area. Indeed I left the lecture content that the importance of maritime security is increasingly being recognised. Please note my summary of the lecture are based on my own notes written at the time and as such they may not capture Sir Charles’ views fully or completely accurately.

Sir Charles began his lecture by laying out a series of statistics to highlight the importance of the maritime domain, specifically to the United Kingdom (UK). The UK has 600 ports which make an estimated £7 billion contribution to GDP annually. By 2017, the value of trade travelling by sea and associated with the UK will be around £650 billion. 90% of the UK’s energy supplies arrive by sea. Whilst the UK’s merchant navy remains the fifth largest globally.  I don’t think you can repeat such statistics enough, the maritime domain really is important, the space through which huge amounts of our food, energy and general goods travel. This prominence explains my own specific interest in port security, as ports have a tripartite role as as nodes in the global supply chain, hubs in the transport network and as border management locations.

Maritime security, or at least one dimension of it – piracy – has gained wider public  awareness in recent years, with the Hollywood effect of films such as Captain Phillips contributing to this process. Sir Charles touched upon the issue of piracy next in his lecture, highlighting what he regarded as unprecedented co-operation between international actors in those efforts to tackle pirate activity around the Horn of Africa. As a former senior officer in the Royal Navy, Sir Charles’ emphasis on the levels of co-operation here carried particular weight.

But where the lecture really excelled was in Sir Charles’ recognition that maritime security is about so much more than piracy. Terrorism, narcotics, illegal fishing were all highlighted. This perspective on maritime security is one that I share and which CPRS embrace in our research and our online MA Maritime Security. Indeed our approach to understanding maritime security can be encapsulated in three words – strategic, holistic and applied. Strategic in the sense that we seek to recognise and discuss the way in which developments associated with the maritime domain shape and are shaped by broader trends in global affairs. Holistic in so far as we lay out the way in which maritime security goes beyond discussions about state naval assets or piracy, however important these topics are. Indeed we are keen to highlight and better understand the nexus between (in)security on land and (in)security at sea. Applied because our work is shaped by own research experiences and through active and sustained engagement with practitioners and populations associated with the maritime domain. There is a place for theoretical and conceptual debates, but they should only be one aspect of efforts to more fully examine maritime security.

After discussing several existing maritime based threats, Sir Charles made the point that the response to this insecurity needs to come from enhanced governance (e.g. the implementation of flag state law) and capacity building. Importantly Sir Charles defined capacity building in broad terms, emphasising key outcomes as helping coastal states to be able to better police their own maritime areas, creating the conditions for successful national, regional and international trade, and allowing states to sustainably exploit their own maritime and sub-sea resources. This point reminded me that when seeking enhanced maritime security, the response has, in my opinion, to be about tackling the root causes of insecurity alongside dealing with the symptoms of that insecurity. To illustrate with the Somalia case, state fragility and poverty for example contribute towards the proliferation of piratical acts, but piracy in return has an impact on economic development and efforts to enhance political stability on land.

It is this recognition of the land/sea interconnection that is, in part, the inspiration behind CPRS’ seminar series which will examine the relationship between maritime insecurity and sustainable development. Kindly sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and with the support of two principal external partners, The Royal Navy and The Nautical Institute, CPRS will organise six one day seminars during 2014 and 2015 looking in to this relationship. A central part of our efforts here will revolve around discussing the experiences of two principle ‘vulnerable’ populations – coastal communities and seafarers, specifically in regions with considerable development needs – in the face of a series of security challenges associated with the maritime domain. The first seminar in this series is provisionally scheduled to take place at Coventry University in March with further details to follow.

Sir Charles brought his lecture to a close by highlighting what he felt would be three maritime security challenges in the future. The first was the impact of climate change, which amongst other things is opening up what have been inaccessible sea lanes in the High North. Another was the global need for both food and water and the role the maritime plays here. Finally, Sir Charles emphasised the need to recognise the challenges associated with changing trade patterns as Africa and South America begin to play an even larger role in global trade and consider the potential of regional friction. The role played by various rising powers globally, countries such as Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey, is another area CPRS is focusing on in its activities.

Sir Charles closing thought really struck home to me the importance of the maritime. He emphasised that in a globalised world the sea becomes even more important. Maritime security he argued should be seen as a “basic staple not a discretionary item”. For Sir Charles this importance needs to be emphasised and communicated to a domestic audience in order to demonstrate how insecurity globally can have an impact in the UK. This central argument that maritime security needs to be a staple issue is one I wholeheartedly agree with.

I hope in this post to have given a brief summary of the lecture, whilst highlighting the way in which both mine and CPRS’ research in to maritime security captures a range of the points Sir Charles’ made. Maritime security effects our lives in multiple and varied ways and at all times. Over the coming months, I hope to be able to illustrate this more in this blog.