ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL EFTHIMIOS E. MITROPOULOS AT THE OPENING OF THE SIXTY-FIRST SESSION OF THE TECHNICAL CO-OPERATION COMMITTEE
(21 to 23 June 2011)
Good morning, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the sixty-first session of the Technical Co-operation Committee. I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Committee for the first time.
As has become customary for some time now, before addressing the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year. This year’s theme, as you may all know, is “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. It aims at complementing last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers.
Our strong wish is that the momentum gained by the 2010 Year of the Seafarer will be sustained by future annual celebrations of the “Day of the Seafarer”, on the 25th of June - a date chosen to mark the adoption, by the Manila Conference, of important amendments to the STCW Convention and Code – the first celebration of which is due to take place this Saturday.
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it.
The main aims of the campaign we are pursuing, and will continue to pursue throughout the year (and beyond, if necessary), are:
• one, to increase awareness about the severity of the piracy situation off the coast of Somalia and its implications for seafarers, the transport of humanitarian aid to the country and the disruption and resulting consequences piracy causes to shipping, international shipborne trade and the world economy;
• two, to motivate Governments, the shipping industry, merchant ships and naval vessels to intensify their efforts to stem the unacceptable incidence of piracy in the areas around the Horn of Africa and beyond; and
• three, to send to seafarers a clear message that their plight, while sailing off Somalia and, worst, when their ships are captured by pirates and they are held hostage for ransom, is central in our thoughts and work; that we do care about them; and that we do all we can to stem the scourge.
To give substance to the campaign, and make a difference, we have, in co operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, compiled an action plan, with six main objectives, which we hope will inspire and galvanize Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner to eradicate the now all too frequent incidence of armed kidnap and ransom that characterizes piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean. I hope you will also support the campaign and assist in the delivery of its components as best as you can.
The good progress we are making in the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct is a positive development. I was very pleased when I commissioned, in March, the Mombasa information sharing centre, which has been mandated to cover an extensive area of the western Indian Ocean. The centre is housed at the regional MRCC I commissioned in 2006 and I take this opportunity to thank not only Kenya, but also the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen for offering host country facilities to accommodate the three information-sharing centres we have established, for the purpose of the Djibouti Code, in Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Sana’a respectively.
While we remain focused on preventing merchant ships from falling into the hands of pirates, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, 462 in total from 22 ships, who, at present, are held captive at various places along the Somali coastline. May they be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
Turning to your agenda for this session, I will start with the delivery of TC projects in 2010 during which US$14.76 million were spent within our Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme. This significant sum equates to the delivery of 80% of the agreed budget for last year’s ITCP activities and represents the highest rate achieved in recent years – both in terms of volume and rate of delivery. This high level becomes even more impressive if seen in the context of the accomplished objectives, which, in numerical data, translates to a delivery of 106 projects and the training of 2,361 individuals worldwide.
One of the ongoing core activities of the ITCP is the establishment of search and rescue facilities in regions lacking adequate SAR infrastructure. In the pursuit of this objective, I was greatly pleased to commission, in March, a regional MRCC in Rabat, which, following the establishment, in previous years, of regional centres in Mombasa, Cape Town, Lagos and Monrovia, completed the network of regional MRCCs we undertook to put in place in Africa, in compliance with a specific request of the 2000 Florence Conference. I am sure the Committee will receive this news with great satisfaction seeing how successful we can be, no matter the difficulties (political, economic and technical), when setting out to provide effective assistance to those in peril at sea – an aspect that lies at the epicentre of the most humanitarian of IMO’s goals. All who have contributed to the attainment of these achievements (Governments, donors, consultants and the dedicated and committed IMO staff) deserve special recognition and thanks.
With a view to extending the provision of SAR facilities, based on the successful model of the case in Africa, the Maritime Safety Committee, at its session last month, approved the development of a technical co-operation project for the Central American region, involving the establishment of two regional MRCCs (one covering the Caribbean side and the other the Pacific side of the region) along with five associated sub-centres. To this effect, we will, to the extent necessary and possible, make use of the International SAR Fund, which we hope to be able to replenish, even modestly, through the sale of prints of the IMO building painting you see behind me – as will be explained to you in a short while and of which prints we have reserved 20 copies for TCC participants.
Another significant progress in the delivery of the ITCP is the conduct of training courses to assist in the implementation of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, so far involving a total of 347 auditors from 142 countries. To date, 24 regional courses have been delivered, with one more taking place this week in Casablanca, Morocco, and two others planned to be held in Kingston, Jamaica, in July and Viet Nam later this year. This training activity will be intensified as we move towards the institutionalization of the Scheme, which, in the form decided by the Assembly almost two years ago, will operate as a mandatory audit regime, to the benefit of all Member States concerned. I would, therefore, urge all Members, who have not already done so, to volunteer for audit at their earliest convenience so that any lessons learnt and any benefits accrued from each audit can be incorporated into the institutionalization process. So far, just over one third of the Membership – that is, 62 Member States – have volunteered for audit and 49 audits have already been conducted, including in one Associate Member and 4 dependent territories.
Although information on TC activities carried out during the current biennium is important, and indeed welcome, it is even more important that we plan, diligently and assiduously, for the future and, from this perspective, your Committee’s decisions at this session, and its recommendations to the forthcoming session of the Council, on the Organization’s ITCP and budget for the next biennium is of paramount importance and significance.
In this context, you are invited to consider funding proposals for an approximate total of US$24 million to cover the planned ITCP activities for 2012 and 2013 – a sum, which is expected to be met in part from internal and in part from external sources. As far as internal sources are concerned, my proposal is for a biennial allocation, from the TC Fund, of US$16.4 million, representing 68% of the total, to support the Programme’s core activities. While the TC Fund will continue to be a major contributor to the ITCP, my proposal is that the amount stated of US$16.4 million be financed from existing reserves in the TC Fund and, should that be necessary, from the surplus of the Trading Fund. The proposed allocation has been designed in a manner that will ensure the delivery of global programmes, in general and those of Africa, in particular.
In working out the proposals I just outlined, we were encouraged by the good performance, over the last two years, of the Trading Fund – so good that it has accumulated a surplus. I have, therefore, considered it appropriate that a higher biennial allocation to the ITCP for the 2012-2013 biennium be proposed from the TC Fund’s resources, which are, as the Committee knows all too well, replenished by surpluses in the Trading Fund. Such an increased allocation will enable us to respond more robustly to the increasing demands of our Members for technical assistance.
The encouraging information on the performance of the Trading Fund I just mentioned comes as a confirmation of the wise decision of the Council to close, a year and a half ago, the Printing Fund and, instead, establish the Trading Fund on condition that the mandate of the Assembly that not less than 75% of the annual surplus in the Printing Fund would be transferred to the TC Fund – a condition which has, since, been respected to the full.
Sustainable financing of the ITCP is a matter of critical importance and, to respond to it satisfactorily, we make every effort to increase the number of partnership arrangements, while concurrently enhancing existing ones, without ceasing to identify new options for cost efficiencies.
In this regard, you will be pleased to note that, to date, a total of 65 partnerships for technical co operation are in operation – and they include several new financial arrangements.
From among the most recent ones, I would single out the framework Co operation Agreement with Norad (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), worth US$3 million, available on a project-by-project basis over a three-year period for the protection of the marine environment.
In April of this year, a co-operation agreement was concluded with the Republic of Korea to finance, through a US$700,000 contribution, the implementation, over a two-year period involving 10 activities, of a pioneering technical co-operation project for capacity building in east Asian countries to help them make the transition to energy efficient shipping.
It is also pleasing to note that, in response to resolution A.993, 69 countries have so far donated to the TC Fund and other IMO Funds their interest earnings accumulated under the Contributions Incentive Scheme during the period 1998 to 2005.
Against all these expressions of generosity, I feel obliged to sincerely thank all contributors to our ITCP and related activities; the providers of in-kind support; our partners in TC Memoranda of Understanding; and all the countries hosting IMO’s training events and regional presence offices. Their unswerving efforts, often in the face of difficult challenges and while the global financial crisis that started in 2008 continues to affect economies, are a demonstration of their faith and confidence in the effectiveness of our TC activities and a forceful reminder that successful technical co-operation is all about working together in a spirit of shared responsibility.
The development of an impact assessment methodology to measure the effectiveness of the ITCP and to identify areas for improvement is another important component of the work you will undertake at this session. Between now and your next meeting in 2012, the Secretariat will conduct a four-year evaluation of the ITCP, covering the period from 2008 to 2011. To this effect, I invite all Member States to actively participate in the exercise so that the evaluation can be both comprehensive and balanced.
The status report, prepared by the Secretariat on the linkage between the ITCP and the Millennium Development Goals, shows that, during the biennium under review, priority was given to the delivery of projects specifically developed to contribute to the implementation of those Goals that fall within IMO’s purview and competence. In this respect, I wish, to highlight, in particular:
• an increased support for Africa;
• the support provided to Small Island Developing States and to Least Developed Countries;
• a series of activities to protect and preserve the marine environment; and
• the integration of women in the maritime sector.
While the Millennium Development Goals were globally welcomed as deserving of special attention ever since they were adopted in 2000, their attainment assumes increased urgency in the run-up to ‘Rio + 20’, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which is scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June next year. IMO will play its part in the Conference, by providing leadership in ensuring environmentally sound shipping (both from the marine and atmospheric points of view), with particular emphasis on addressing the special needs of developing countries. To this effect, last month, we participated in the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held in Istanbul, which adopted, among other things, a programme of action for such countries for the 2011-2020 Decade.
You will recall that, last year, the Council decided, in responding positively to this Committee’s ad hoc recommendation, to support the ailing finances of the World Maritime University with a one-off grant, from the TC Fund, totalling £500,000 in the current 2010-2011 biennium. In this regard, you will be pleased to know that, thanks to a series of strenuous efforts made by the WMU management during 2010 to reduce costs through increased efficiencies and to attract income from a range of new sources, the year ended with a budgetary surplus of almost €329,000 – a marked improvement when compared with both the 2009 final accounts (which reported a net loss of €188,741) and the budgeted figures for 2010 (which had been based on a forecast net shortfall of €926,000). However, as the University continues to be financed by contributions from a relatively small number of countries and donor organizations, funding remains a major challenge that must be addressed as a top priority.
Next week, the Council will review the report of a correspondence group it established last year to consider methods for achieving sustainable funding and I hope it will make sound decisions that will ensure the University’s financial sustainability for many years to come. I will return to this subject when the Committee considers the relevant item on its agenda.
Before I conclude, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated. These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed.
You have, once again, a heavy workload and only three days to deal with it.
I am, however, confident that, ably guided by your Chairman, Admiral Giancarlo Olimbo of Italy, whose vast and deep knowledge of IMO affairs is well known and widely acknowledged, you will tackle the tasks before you with your usual efficiency, guided by the IMO spirit of co-operation. The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting to the best of its abilities. This time, it will be assisted by Mr. William Azuh of Nigeria, who joined the Secretariat in March and has since been entrusted with the Africa (Anglophone) Section in the TC Division. I am sure you will extend to him all the support and co-operation he may need to succeed in the discharge of the duties and responsibilities he has been entrusted with.
I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.