Nov. 13, 2006 – The ministerial-level Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea Conference, which is being conducted at the request of West and Central African partners, began today. The three-day conference, which is sponsored by U.S. European Command, U.S. Navy Forces Europe, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, and the Department of State, has a goal of adopting a practical, comprehensive and sustainable strategy to address maritime safety and security challenges.
During the first two days of the conference, experts from participating countries will consider in-depth best practices and in-country analyses, and finalize broad parameters for a viable strategy. On the third day, the ministers will consider and adopt an action plan for improved maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
While the minister-level portion of the conference doesn't officially begin until Nov. 15, the two-day work session lays the foundation and completes the preparatory work necessary to allow for the strategy's adoption.
In his welcoming remarks on behalf of the government of Benin, conference host M. Alexandre K. Dossou, Benin's minister of transportation, public works and town planning, thanked and greeted approximately 75 selected maritime safety and security experts. "Your presence is an illustration of the continued and unfailing interest of the international community in the fundamental issues and challenges facing our (West and Central African) countries and leaders," he told the group.
Dossou underscored the importance of the conference and the immediate need for increased maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. "The topics to be reviewed by this conference will contribute to enhancing the security of our maritime areas, which in previous years have been the theater for all sorts of illegal activities," he said.
During his welcome. U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Phil Green, director of strategy and policy for U.S. Naval Forces Europe, delivered remarks designed to set the tone of the work session. "This forum will contribute a greater understanding of maritime risks and challenges and will help in the development of sustainable solutions that will improve maritime safety and security," he said.
He further explained the helping and partnering role the U.S. Navy seeks to provide the nations of West and Central Africa. "We are committed to collaborating with you to improve maritime safety and security through increased awareness and enhancing capabilities and capacities here in the region," he explained. "(U.S. Naval Forces Europe) is focused on working alongside your intellectual talents and subject matter experts to generate solutions that achieve improvements in the maritime domain."
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