Article by Kate Lamar; Photos courtesy of Tim Doorey
Posted Aug. 11, 2010
The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Civil-Military Relations (CCMR) conducts seminars around the world that are designed to strengthen democratic relations between civil societies and their military leaders and help tackle critical issues where solutions require regional cooperation and civil-military partnerships. CCMR brings together experts from the academic community, as well as current and former military leaders and other practitioners to provide this type of education.
Naval and Coast Guard leaders from Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon attended a recent CCMR Regional Maritime Security conference in Cameroon. The conference, run by retired Navy Capt. Timothy Doorey, faculty member at CCMR, focused on the complexities of maritime cooperation and possible terrorism in the Gulf of Guinea.
“West Africa encompasses a large area with increasing maritime violence and piracy - there have been a number of kidnappings of ship captains waiting offshore to enter port,” said Doorey. “Being major suppliers of oil and natural gas, shipping is a significant industry for the Gulf of Guinea, so port security is paramount for these nations.”
Challenges to port security in the region include the need to balance the operational efficiency required by businesses with time-consuming security measures, as well as identifying and responding to threats (i.e. pirates and terrorists) that disregard national boundaries. A key goal of this conference was to discuss how a multi-national partnership could improve maritime and port security throughout the Gulf of Guinea.
“The maritime security issues in the region are formidable, and individually the Gulf of Guinea countries do not have the capacity to adequately address the threats,” said Enid Brackett, an NPS graduate and Foreign Area Officer who attended the conference. “This conference highlighted the potential synergy that could be generated from cooperation and international operations.”
Participants were divided into three workings groups with representatives from each nation. Each group created a prioritized list of the top threats facing the region. The groups evaluated the capacity of their nations to respond to those threats. Each group then developed a comprehensive, multinational strategy to tackle the threats based on collectively identified resources. The strategies’ effectiveness had to be measurable, so individual nations could gauge if the collaborative strategies were working and beneficial to them compared to existing national security strategies.
“This exercise allowed leaders to examine how to pool national resources across the region, while ensuring each nation would reap the benefits,” said Doorey. “It helped participants gain a better appreciation for what resources and capabilities their neighbors had and could contribute to a collaborative security framework.”
The conference brought together nations that have not always collaborated well. Within West Africa there have been particular problems between the French-speaking and English-speaking nations. According to Doorey, those issues were put to the side during the conference, and the representatives from all of the nations worked well together to find solutions to the growing threat of piracy and terrorism faced by all.
“Many of the participants seemed very eager to work as partners once they realized the potential of joint operations,” said Brackett. “However, there seemed to be a concern that to make such international cooperation a reality, there would need to be more support for such interaction at the higher levels of government and diplomacy.”
Additional support will hopefully be garnered as conference participants return to their host countries and share the collaborative security strategies developed at the conference with their superiors. Conference participants will need to convince both elected officials and other military leaders that the strategies discussed during the conference provide a workable solution, beneficial to individual nations as well as the entire Gulf of Guniea.