Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 13, Nº. 2 (November 2022-April 2023)
Research Associate at the Research and Development Centre of the
Military University Institute (Portugal).
During the early 21st century, there was an unprecedented increase in piracy and armed
robbery in various regions of the globe, but especially in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea
and Southeast Asia. The Horn of Africa in particular has seen an exponential increase in
attacks since 2007. These attacks have jeopardised security in the region’s waters and led
the United Nations Security Council to adopt six resolutions in 2008, urging the world’s nations
to participate in the common effort to contain the phenomenon. This article aims to show that
the concepts of the security theory of the Copenhagen School provide a useful tool to analyse
the phenomenon of piracy and armed robbery in the Horn of Africa. To that end, we have
conducted a brief review of some of the major works produced by that school. We will then
address some of the most relevant critics of this theory. Finally, we have analysed the
interventions of a significant group of agents involved in the securitization of contemporary
Somali piracy. The conclusions section presents the reasons that support our claim that the
security theory of the Copenhagen School can be used to study the phenomenon of maritime
piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Copenhagen School; maritime piracy; Horn of Africa; maritime security
Os primeiros anos do século XXI trouxeram uma escalada sem precedentes de atos de
pirataria e de assalto armado em diferentes áreas geográficas, sobretudo no Oceano Índico,
no Golfo da Guiné e no Sudeste da Ásia. O Corno de África, em concreto, assistiu a um
incremento exponencial de atos desta natureza a partir de 2007, que puseram em causa a
segurança nos espaços marítimos da região e que levou o Conselho de Segurança das Nações
Unidas a adotar, ao longo de 2008, seis resoluções exortando à participação alargada das
nações no esforço comum de contenção daquele fenómeno. Pretende-se com este artigo
demonstrar que os conceitos da teoria de segurança da Escola de Copenhaga constituem uma
ferramenta de análise adequada ao fenómeno da pirataria e assalto armado na região do
Corno de África. Para tanto examinámos, de modo conciso, algumas das obras de referência
da bibliografia que constituem o repertório daquela escola. Abordámos, de seguida, ainda de
forma sucinta, alguns dos mais relevantes críticos desta teoria. Analisámos, por fim, as
intervenções de um conjunto significativo de agentes de securitização da pirataria somali
contemporânea. As conclusões apresentam as razões que sustentam o nosso posicionamento
de que a teoria de segurança da Escola de Copenhaga é passível de ser aplicada ao estudo do
fenómeno da pirataria marítima no Corno de África.
Escola de Copenhaga; pirataria marítima; Corno de África; segurança marítima
How to cite this article
Alexandre, António Gonçalves (2022). An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa
through the lens of the Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School. Janus.net, e-journal
of international relations, Vol13 N2, November 2022-April 2023. Consulted [online] in date of
last visit, https://doi.org/10.26619/1647-7251.13.2.2
Article received on 5 August 2022, accepted for publication on 10 April 2022
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
Vol. 13, Nº. 2 (November 2022-April 2023), pp. 35-47
An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School
António Gonçalves Alexandre
1. Introduction
Piracy has existed for many centuries, and the increase in piracy incidents in recent years,
particularly since the last decade of the 20th century, shows that it has not been
definitively relegated to history. This wave of piracy, “will reappear elsewhere in the
future” (Konstam, 2010, p. 222), just as it resurfaced recently in different areas of the
globe that were not controlled by a strong government, or where maritime policing was
poor or inexistent, from Southeast Asia (particularly the Strait of Malacca) to the West
Coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean. In this century, and especially since 2007, the
attention has been focused on waters of the Horn of Africa.
That year, the region saw an almost exponential increase in piracy attacks, leading the
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt six resolutions in 2008 alone (UNSC,
2008a), (UNSC, 2008b), (UNSC, 2008c), (UNSC, 2008d), (UNSC, 2008e) and (UNSC,
2008f), all of which urged sovereign nations and international organizations to participate
in the common effort to contain the threat, first, by sharing information between agencies
and deploying military capabilities (naval and air) to police the waters off the coast of
Somalia, and later, by using all necessary means (including the use of force) to counter
pirate attacks.
In 2008, following the UNSC resolutions, the European Union (EU) launched naval
operation Atalanta. Its mandate was: to protect the vessels chartered by World Food
Programme (WFP); to prevent, deter and repress piracy and armed robbery at sea; to
monitor fishing activities off the coast of Somalia; to support other EU missions and
international organizations with initiatives in the region, such as increasing maritime
security or capacity building (EUNAVFOR, 2008). Later, it launched European Union
Military Training Mission (EUTM) Somalia (EUTM, 2010), which provided military advice
and training to the Somali security forces, and European Union Capacity Building Mission
(EUCAP) Nestor, a civilian capacity-building operation in the Horn of Africa that aims to
increase maritime security in the region. In 2016, the mission was refocused on Somalia
and was renamed EUCAP Somalia (EUCAP, 2012).
Still in 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched operation Allied
Provider. In 2009, it launched operation Allied Protector, and, not long after, operation
Ocean Shield, all of which are maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden and the
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School
António Gonçalves Alexandre
Somali Basin. Their mandate is to protect shipping routes, deter and disrupt pirate
attacks, in as wide an area as possible, in cooperation with other international
organizations with a military presence in the region (NATO, 2021).
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created in January 2009. The
group would become the point of contact of a large network that brought together and
connected hundreds of actors, from states to international organizations, industry
associations, naval missions or various initiatives to combat piracy (CGPCS, 2009).
The Djibouti Code of Conduct was signed on 29 January 2009 by the representatives of
Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia and
Tanzania. The document was conceived as a framework for capacity-building in the
countries of the Horn of Africa (IMO, 2009). To date, the document has been signed by
20 countries (IMO, 2022).
The publication of the first edition of Barry Buzan’s book, People, States and Fears, in
1983, opened up a new field in the study of security. In 1991, the second edition of the
book was the catalyst for further exploration of the security problem at the Centre for
Peace and Conflict Research in Copenhagen. Buzan and the centre’s collaborators
published several works on security, which were sufficiently interrelated to become
known as the collective shorthand “Copenhagen School of security studies” (Mcsweeney,
1996, p. 81).
This article discusses how the concepts of the securitization theory developed by the
Copenhagen School (CS) can be used to examine the phenomenon of piracy and armed
robbery in the waters of the Horn of Africa in the 21st century. To that end, we used a
deductive methodology to conduct a necessarily brief review of the major works of the
CS, and reviewed and summarized the main objections to this theory. Finally, we used
the theory of the CS to analyse the role of some of the main “securitizing agents” in
contemporary Somali piracy and the consequences of their actions. In the conclusions
section, we discuss how the measures and initiatives of several maritime industry
organizations and international associations and agencies contributed to securitize
Somali piracy. This shows that, despite the flaws which its critics have pointed out, the
theories of the CS can, in fact, be used to study this issue.
Following this introduction, the article is divided into three chapters and a conclusions
section. The first chapter discusses the security theory of the CS; the second addresses
the main criticisms of the school’s theoretical foundations; the third analyses the role
that some prominent securitizing agents played in curbing Somali piracy and the concrete
results of their actions. The conclusions address the fact that these agents were
instrumental in securitizing contemporary Somali piracy, which shows that the
securitization theory of the CS can be used to study this issue.
2. The Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School
This chapter presents the main aspects of the theoretical construct “Securitization Theory
of the Copenhagen School” and describes how they have evolved since the end of the
Cold War.
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School
António Gonçalves Alexandre
For much of the twentieth century, Realist and Idealist approaches dominated the
thinking on the problem of “national security”. The concept of security was secondary to
the discussion. It was usually seen as a derivative of power, in the sense that “an actor
with enough power to reach a dominating position would acquire security as a result” or
“as a consequence of peace: a lasting peace would provide security for all” (Buzan, 1983,
pp. 2-3). Unlike the vast literature on power, which not only included a substantial
amount of empirical studies, but also a well-developed conceptual and theoretical body
of work, the lack of studies on security was another sign that the concept was not fully
developed. Security was seldom addressed unless it served the political interests of
specific actors or groups, and it was only discussed in military terms. A few conceptual
works had been published on the subject of security, but there was nothing that could
be considered a coherent school of thought. However, for Barry Buzan (1983, p. 2),
security was “much more powerful [and it deserved] elevation to equal rank with power
and peace”.
Ole Wæver, another important theorist of the CS, states that “security has an everyday
meaning”, but that the term has acquired different connotations derived from the
“international discussion of national security [and] security policy” (Wæver, 1995, p.69).
Weaver argues that, historically, security has been “the field where states threaten each
other, challenge each other’s sovereignty, try to impose their will on each other, defend
their independence, and so on”, but acknowledges that the “strong military identification
of earlier times has been diminished” (1995, p. 69). Therefore, he proposes an alternative
way of defining a wider concept of security: “to broaden the security agenda to include
threats other than military ones” (Wæver, 1995, p. 70). As he builds his theory, Wæver
(1995, p. 73) moves from “alternative security” to “security as a speech act”, stating
that “[w]ith the help of language theory, we can regard ‘security’ as a speech act” and
that using it “had the effect of raising a specific challenge to a principled level”, which
implies “that all necessary means would be used to block that challenge”. And because
this threat would be defined as “existential and a challenge to sovereignty”, the State
would not be limited in what it could do. Therefore, “a problem would become a security
problem whenever so defined by the power holders” (Wæver, 1995, p. 74).
Buzan notes that, since the end of the Cold War, the theoretical literature on security has
become particularly active. As a result of this theoretical revitalisation, the debate has
split into three distinct schools: the traditionalists, who wish to keep the focus on military
issues; those who want to extend the concept of security to sectors other than the
military; and a new school of critical studies, whose proponents want to encourage a
more questioning attitude about the framework in which security is conceptualised.
According to Buzan, while is some overlap among these schools, there is also open
disagreement. Buzan agrees with those who wish to broaden the concept and refutes the
traditionalist criticism that “widening makes the concept of security incoherent” (Buzan,
1997, p. 5).
The widespread sentiment in the mid-1990s was that the international system would
become more decentralized and regionalized in the post-Cold War. Reflecting this,
another book proposed a new framework for analysis for security studies, one which
examined the different security dynamics in five sectors: military, political, economic,
environmental and societal (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998).
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
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António Gonçalves Alexandre
But what makes a given development a security issue in international relations? The
question evokes concepts such as social security and international security because
“[u]nlike social security, which has strong links to matters of entitlement and social
justice, international security is more firmly rooted in the traditions of power politics”
(Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998, p. 21). The special nature of security threats, which are
seen as existential threats, justifies the use of extraordinary (“emergency”) measures.
Security is thus used as a justification to legitimize the use of force. And what do the
terms “existential threat” and “emergency measures” mean? In practice, how can
researchers use these concepts to distinguish politicization processes from securitization
processes? An existential threat can only be understood in relation to the particular
character of the referent objects in question (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998, p. 21).
These referent objects depend on the sectors. In the military sector, the referent object
is usually the state; in the political sector, it is sovereignty; in the economic sector,
referent objects are national economies and firms; in the societal sector, they are usually
large-scale collective entities; and in the environmental sector, referent objects can be
species, habitat types, the planetary climate or the biosphere (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde,
1998, pp. 22-23).
The concept of securitization is “the move that takes politics beyond the established rules
of the game and frames the issue either as a special kind of politics or as above politics”
(Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998, p. 23). Therefore, securitization can be considered a
more extreme version of politicization, and any public issue falls on a spectrum that
ranges from non-politicized (the state simply does not deal with it) to politicized (the
issue is part of public policy, requiring decisions by the government and the allocation of
resources), to securitized (the issue is presented as an existential threat, requiring
emergency measures and justifying actions outside the normal bounds of political
procedure) (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998, pp. 23-24).
Also according to Buzan and Wæver (2003, p. 6), there are three main theoretical
perspectives on the post-Cold War international security structure: neo-realist, globalist
and regionalist.
The neorealist perspective is state-centred and is based on the argument that power is
polarised: it is either unipolar, bipolar or multipolar. The neorealist interpretation of the
post-Cold War international security structure is that there was a change in the global
power structure (the end of bipolarity), and its main concern is to identify the nature of
this change in order to understand its impact on security (Buzan & Wæver, 2003, p. 6).
The globalist perspective is generally described as the “antithesis of neorealism’s
understanding of international system structure” (Buzan & Wæver, 2003, p. 7).
On the other hand, the regionalist perspective argues that, in the post-Cold War world,
the regional level is the main locus of conflict and cooperation for states. This is also the
approach chosen by CS theorists (who have a more open understanding of security than
the proponents of the regionalist perspective, which is rather traditional and
military-centred) (Buzan & Wæver, 2003, p. 10).
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
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António Gonçalves Alexandre
3. The main critics of the Theory of the Copenhagen School
This section lists some of the main critics of the CS and provides a brief summary of their
objections to the school’s theory.
In 1998, Jef Huysmans described the security studies of the CS as having emerged within
the European security landscape and acknowledged that this school defined innovative
concepts, such as securitization, societal security and regional security complex. Despite
this, Huysmans raises the question of how the CS developed the (new) security agenda
and how it was able to shift a security agenda that focused only on military relations
between states to a much broader concept that dealt with all kinds of threats “to the
existence, well-being and development of individuals, social groups, nations and
mankind” (Huysmans, 1998, p. 482). Huysmans goes on to list some characteristics of
the group, such as the fact that it brought together people who had different
interpretations of International Relations: Buzan had a “more or less neorealist
approach, while Weaver’s was rooted in “a social constructivist perspective”. As a result,
the concepts introduced by the authors evolved in a fluid and dynamic way (Huysmans,
1998, p. 483). Another characteristic refers to the fact that the CS is a European school
of security studies. As such, it is anchored in European security dynamics. Most of its
texts describe an “internal relation between the empirical developments in the European
security problematic and its conceptual work”, and would benefit from a more universal
approach. Finally, Huysmans states that the CS “theorizes from specific European
security experiences” (Huysmans, 1998, p. 483-484).
Another critic, Thierry Balzacq, noted that the power of discourse had become an
important aspect of security analysis. Balzacq’s criticism of the CS is based on the fact
that the discursive action of security has a high degree of formality. The speech act model
is an attempt to frame securitization as a sustained strategic practice which aims to
persuade an audience that a specific development has become a threat which must be
addressed through an immediate policy (Balzacq, 2005, p. 172). Balzacq’s proposal
consists of reformulating the speech act model of securitization by “integrating strategic
purposes into the equation, [which] elevates securitization above its normative setting”
and, in the process, “ensconces it in the social context, a field of power struggles in which
securitizing actors align on a security issue to swing the audience’s support toward a
policy or course of action” (Balzacq, 2005, p. 173).
Matt McDonald argues that the securitization framework proposed by the CS theory is
problematic in three basic senses: first, the construction of security is defined narrowly
and focuses on the speech of dominant actors, which are usually political leaders (thus
excluding other forms of representation, such as images or material practices), and on
the discursive interventions of voices considered institutionally legitimate to speak on
behalf of a collective (usually a state); second, the context of the act is defined narrowly
because it focuses only on the moment of intervention (it fails to address the potential
for security which is constructed over time through a series of incremental processes and
representations); finally, “the framework of securitization is narrow”, in the sense that
“the nature of the act is defined solely in terms of the designation of threats to security”
(McDonald, 2008, p. 564). McDonald adds that this approach disregards the importance
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
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António Gonçalves Alexandre
of how security, as a “normative goal or expression of core values”, is understood in
specific contexts, and that it suggests that security acquires content only through
representations of danger and threat. Furthermore, this framework “encourages the
conceptualization of security policies as inherently negative and reactionary” (McDonald,
2008, p. 564).
Juha Vuori states that most literature on the practice of securitization focused on political
systems that can be considered “more or less democratic” and that this was likely due to
the school’s “Europeanness” approach, which was rooted in European politics (Vuori,
2008, pp. 65-66). Vuori adds that this is reflected in the “paradigmatic understanding”
of the theory: the practice of securitization is understood as a means of moving certain
issues beyond the democratic process of government. Therefore, “security issues are a
type of special politics” that legitimize the use of “special procedures” to address the
“necessities of survival” (Vuori, 2008, p. 66). However, this should not limit the study of
securitization to democratic political systems because, for securitization studies to
become a comprehensive field of study, they must take into account “security speech
and politics in all kinds of political systems” (Vuori, 2008, p. 66). Therefore, Vuori asks,
how does security logic work in non-democratic systems? And what does “special politics”
mean when there are no democratic processes to handle security problems? What is the
political function of security in non-democratic systems? Can we use the concept of
securitization to analyse the security policies of non-democracies? Vuori (2008, p. 66)
believes that we can, but only by introducing other categories of securitization acts,
based on illocutionary logic (in which there is an intention to accomplish a certain
communicative goal for example, making a promise or simply warning someone about
something, asking a question, or even giving advice) and containing different types of
perlocutionary intentions (which aim to produce certain effects on the speakers’
In 2010, Thierry Balzacq published another work on securitization theory. There, Balzacq
draws on the basic principle of John Austin’s theory (1962), that certain statements are
more than a description of a given reality and, as such, cannot be judged as false or true.
Instead, such statements perform a specific action, that is, they “do” things, rather than
being merely “descriptive” statements that simply report a state of affairs and, as such,
can be proven true or false (Austin, 1962). Austin’s theory is rooted in the
“language-games” envisioned by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958), who asks us to look at how
words are used because every word has a meaning correlated with that word: it is the
object for which the word stands (Wittgenstein, 1958, p. 2). This view is part of the
“philosophy of language fold” and, according to Balzacq, it lays some of the foundations
of the CS’s approach to securitization. Balzacq (2010, p. 1) calls it the “philosophical”
view. However, other authors, some of whom are informed by social theory, speak about
securitization mainly in terms of the “practices, context and power relations that
characterize the construction of threat images”. These authors argue that, while
discursive practices are important to explain how some security problems emerge, many
“develop with little discursive design”. This variant is called “sociological” (Balzacq,
2010, p. 1). Balzacq (2010, p. 3) argues that examining the way in which threats develop
requires both philosophical and sociological insights, provided that “statements about the
‘magical power’ of speech acts are moderated”.
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
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António Gonçalves Alexandre
4. The intervention of securitizing agents in Somali piracy
This chapter provides a brief analysis of how some of the most relevant “securitizing
agentsintervened to curb Somali piracy in this century, and the concrete results they
In a first phase, these “securitizing agents” were the numerous international shipping
associations that reported the circumstances in which many piracy attacks occurred,
using different types of media to disseminate their message: reports, speeches,
conference statements and press releases, especially in Western media outlets, which
allowed them to spread the message to a wider audience. Some of the most active
organizations were the ICC
and the IMB
, the
, the ITF
and the WSC
But there were other relevant “securitizing agents”, such as the International Maritime
Organization (IMO)
, which played an important role in numerous general assemblies,
issued a remarkable set of resolutions, and consistently urged the International
Community to take the issue seriously, as it endangered not only the life of vessel crews,
but also the shipping lanes that carried about 90% of the world’s trade (IMO, 2001),
(IMO, 2006) and (IMO, 2007).
Associations and trade unions linked to people who work in the sea, or are connected to
the sea, were also relevant “securitizing agents”. One of those agents was the National
Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers of the United Kingdom
(NUMAST), who pressured the British government to intervene in the Horn of Africa by
deploying warships to protect UK-flagged commercial vessels (Bowcott, 2003).
The last “securitizing agent” is the WFP. In 2005, the organization took a firm public
stance that drew the attention of the international community when it suspended its
shipments of food aid to Somalis that needed it to survive (BBC, 2005). The programme
was restarted in 2006, after the attacks decreased, but they intensified again in early
2007, leading the WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, to take another strong
stance, this time urging the International Community to join efforts to protect the vessels
chartered by the programme (WFP, 2007).
Thus, piracy became an “existential threat” that required “emergency measures” which
provided decision makers with a justification to act “outside the normal bounds of political
International Chamber of Commerce.
International Maritime Bureau.
Baltic and International Maritime Council.
International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.
International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners.
International Chamber of Shipping.
International Transport Workers' Federation.
World Shipping Council.
This specialized agency of the United Nations was established in 1948. It was tasked with creating a
regulatory framework for international shipping that ensured maritime safety and protected the
environment. It was the first international organization devoted exclusively to maritime issues (IMO,
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
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António Gonçalves Alexandre
procedure”, as described by the CS’s securitization theory (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998,
pp. 23-24).
Therefore, the actions of these “securitizing agents” were the “move towards
securitization” that brought the issue of Somali piracy to its target “audiences”, which
include the citizens of the countries of origin of many seafarers, but also the flag states
of the vessels that were attacked and the countries of origin and destination of the
cargoes they transported. Other highly relevant “audiences” were the political decision-
makers of major international organizations such as the UN, the UNSC, NATO or the
EU and numerous countries, as it would be them that would ultimately have to
implement (alone or together) the “emergency measures” required to curb Somali piracy.
In 2008, the UNSC issued six resolutions on Somalia, under Chapter VII of the UN
Charter, which addressed the phenomenon of maritime piracy. This shows that the
organization had listened to the “rhetoric” of the “securitizing agents” and actively
searched for a solution to this “existential question”.
Another important aspect in the process of securitization is the “context” in which it
occurs. Buzan, Wæver and Wilde (1998, pp. 31-32) refer to it as “facilitating conditions”.
This concept is relevant because no “actor of securitization” holds “the power of
securitization” or can ensure, alone, that a securitization process occurs. For the authors,
what is relevant is that “securitization studies aim to gain an increasingly precise
understanding of who securitizes, on what issues (threats), for whom (referent objects),
why, with what results, and, not least, under what conditions (i.e., what explains when
securitization is successful)” (Buzan, Wæver, & Wilde, 1998, p. 32). In this situation, it
seems clear that the first facilitating condition was the threat to human life (the lives of
the crews of the ships attacked by pirates and the millions of Somalis who needed the
WFP’s food aid shipments to survive). However, the threat to international trade and
shipping (especially of energy) travelling through the global sea lanes that pass through
the region which could endanger the world’s energy security was (yet) another
facilitating condition for the move towards securitization.
The referent subjects”, which Balzacq, Léonard and Ruzicka (2016) described as “the
entity that is threatening”, are the various groups of Somali pirates, who are also the
“existential threat” proposed by Buzan, Wæver and Wilde (1998).
The “referent objects” are the entities threatened by the referent subjects: the crews of
the civilian ships targeted by pirate attacks; the passengers of cruise ships; fishermen;
other people who used the sea lawfully; Somali people in need of the food aid sent by
the WFP; international shipping, especially of energy; freedom of navigation in the waters
of the Horn of Africa; and the marine environment which could be endangered by oil
spills caused by attacks on vessels transporting oil and oil products.
It seems clear that several maritime industry associations and some important
international organizations developed a “specific rhetorical structure” which dramatized
Somali piracy and forced the International Community to take action to deal with the
problem. Somali piracy was sufficiently discussed as an “existential threat” in different
media outlets and drew the public’s attention in several countries, which legitimized the
adoption of “exceptional policies” by the “audiences” that had the power to decide, both
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An analysis of the issue of piracy in the Horn of Africa through the lens of the
Securitization Theory of the Copenhagen School
António Gonçalves Alexandre
at the UNSC and in the countries and international organizations that would eventually
use the military instrument as an “emergency measure” to combat the threat.
5. Conclusion
The successful securitization of the threat of maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa was
largely due to the speech acts of several non-state actors since the early 21st century.
This disproves the theory of some critics of the CS, who argue that it focuses on the
speech of dominant actors, usually political ones, and that it excludes other forms of
Other points of criticism include the fact that securitization, as a speech act, is too narrow
and formal; that it has a fixed, permanent and immutable practice; that it is too anchored
in the European school of security studies, and; that discursive action has a high degree
of formality. Despite this, as the analysis described in the previous chapter shows, the
CS theory has a consolidated conceptual body that can be used to examine the issue of
contemporary maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, the type of securitization
that was implemented in the West Indian Ocean led the UNSC to issue (in only one year)
six resolutions on piracy and armed robbery in the waters of the Horn of Africa, under
Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This made the issue an international security problem that
had to be addressed by several states and regional and international organizations (a
brief list of these organizations is provided in the article’s introduction).
Another criticism of the CS’s theory of securitization is that it is only applicable to liberal
democracies (or similar political systems), and that security studies should be broad and
applicable to all political systems. These critics argue that, for the security logic to work
in non-democratic countries, it should have an illocutionary basis, but perlocutionary
intentions should be included in the act of securitization. However, these arguments are
also not applicable to the issue of maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa, as we showed in
chapter 4, where we listed several initiatives by some of the most relevant “securitizing
agents” that intervened to curb Somali piracy, which did not have either an illocutionary
basis or a perlocutory intention, despite the fact that, by all accounts, Somalia is far from
being a “more or less democratic” country.
The existential threat of Somali piracy was sufficiently discussed and amplified through
a specific rhetorical structure that required urgent action from decision makers “because
if the problem [was] not handled [immediately] it [would] be too late”. This, in turn,
provided a justification to legitimize specific measures such as the use of the military
instrument , which would not have been possible if the discourse had not focused on an
existential threat and a point of no return. This is precisely what happened in the region
of the Horn of Africa at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. This means that
the securitization of Somali piracy was, in fact, successful.
Moreover, despite the criticism directed at the CS, this article showed that it is possible
to examine contemporary maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa using the key concepts
of securitization theory: an existential threat (maritime piracy), securitizing agents
(maritime industry associations, maritime workers unions and international
organizations), an audience (international media groups, the citizens of different