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Statement by Minister Ryan at the UNSC Open Debate on Maritime Security

Thank you Mr President,


Ireland, as you know, is an island nation. Indeed, taking our seabed area into account, Ireland is one of the largest EU states; with sovereign or exclusive rights over one of the largest sea to land ratios of any EU State.


Throughout our history, the sea has protected us, nourished us, and, indeed, defined us. The Atlantic Ocean, which crashes against our west coast, is often forbidding and wild; however, for Ireland and the Irish, the sea has been a highway that has connected us to the world.


For this reason, maritime issues have always been important to us. Ireland has a developed maritime action plan called “Harnessing our Ocean Wealth”, which emphasises that healthy, sustainable ecosystems, international cooperation and collaboration underpinned by good governance, with maritime safety and security are key enablers of a sustainable maritime future. We were so pleased to be able to learn from and share our experiences with many of the other small island nations at our most recent Ocean Summit.


Such cooperation goes to the heart of the issues that we are discussing here today and I would like to commend India for its initiative in bringing this vital topic to the Council’s attention today. I would also like to thank the briefers for their informative presentations. I also welcome the agreement of a Presidential Statement by the Council on today’s important subject.


Mr President,


The free and peaceful use of the seas and oceans is vital for us all, not least for island nations such as Ireland. Delivering on this objective means that the seas remain a resource for all nations, as well as a medium for interconnectivity and mutual understanding.


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our world, including maritime security. During these uncertain times, global cooperation is essential to safeguard our seas against increasing threats and security challenges. It is also imperative that we protect our seas and oceans from climate change and other environmental threats. The two are, of course, connected, and Ireland recognises the need for this Council to consider climate-related security risks in delivering on its mandate.


Mr President,


I will make three points on today’s important topic – the centrality of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); the importance of a comprehensive approach to maritime security; and Ireland’s contribution to this issue, including through the European Union.


Mr President,


All activities at sea are regulated within the legal framework established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which the Secretary-General has described as the constitution for our oceans.


UNCLOS sets down a series of rights and duties for coastal states and is central to the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes.


As an island state, Ireland has played an active role in the development of these rules.


Ensuring respect for this landmark Convention is critical for maritime security, as it settles rules for the mutual benefit of all states.


Ireland calls on all states that have not yet ratified or acceded to UNCLOS to consider doing so now, as well as to other international instruments developed within its framework, including the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, the recent UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs.


My second point is that international cooperation is fundamental to achieving global maritime security and safety.


As the Secretary-General said on the 25th anniversary of the UNCLOS “We must ensure that activities are sustainable, relationships among stakeholders are adequately regulated, needs and challenges are addressed, and peace and security is maintained.”


Achieving this is, of course, complex. To address maritime security effectively, we need a comprehensive approach that addresses all aspects – efforts to counter transnational crime at sea, including piracy; the freedom of navigation; the protection of the marine environment and the safeguarding of the oceans’ resources.


There are numerous existing Security Council resolutions that promote maritime security and the implementation of these resolutions keeps our seas safer.


Finally, Mr President,


As a committed troop contributing country, to both UN and EU peacekeeping and crisis management operations, Ireland is very aware that efforts to preserve peace and international security have to take account of the maritime context.


As a committed member of the European Union, Ireland supports and promotes the dedicated strategy on maritime security developed by the European Union. Ireland and the EU depend on open, protected and secure seas and oceans for economic development, free trade, transport, energy security, tourism and good status of the marine environment.


I want to particularly highlight the EU’s cooperation with the UN in responding to risks and threats in the maritime domain, including the naval operations set up to prevent and disrupt illicit activities at sea. These operations also provide support to, and complement, UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, with missions such as EUCAP Somalia which, led by the former Head of the Irish Coast Guard, contributes to the establishment and capacity building of maritime civilian law enforcement capability in Somalia.


The EU’s Operation Atalanta has successfully helped to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing off the coast of Somalia, while also addressing the illicit charcoal trade and weapons trafficking. As Chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ireland closely monitors developments in these areas.


As many are aware, one of the guiding principles for our Security Council tenure is accountability. Ireland recognises the role of sanctions in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security at sea.


In this regard, I would like to highlight the important role played by the EU’s Operation IRINI in the Mediterranean, which implements the arms embargo imposed on Libya, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2292. On specific maritime security tasks, it monitors and gathers information on illicit exports from Libya of petroleum, crude oil and refined petroleum products, and contributes to the capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy.


Mr President,


Each of us benefits from our oceans and, in turn, we must each meet our responsibilities to protect this resource that sustains so many of us.


Addressing maritime security directly contributes to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, not only in relation to SDG 14 but across the Agenda’s economic, social and environmental dimensions.


A concerted, coordinated response is what is required and multilateralism is key to solving this challenge. That is our global responsibility.

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