Content writing for the Maritime Security Index and research on the maritime activities of terrorist organizations

By Derek Pace

With less than one week left in Colorado, I’m still astounded at how much I’ve learned in just a few (very short) months. The bittersweet goodbyes have started, and with each passing day, I’m realizing that my time here is all too limited. Here’s a recap of the projects in which I’ve dabbled at work since my last post.

After transitioning away from the research and data collection phase of the Maritime Security Index, my time at work has been consumed almost entirely by writing. If you know me personally, you know that that’s the exact opposite of a problem in my eyes. I love to write; I could do it all day and have even thought of doing it professionally. At One Earth Future, I’ve been writing various forms of content for the Maritime Security Index, including country reports and issue briefs. The former takes the form of a two-page report that contains, among other things, two mini-reports on a country’s place within the international maritime sector. One mini-report focuses on something that the country is doing well, or perhaps on a certain maritime advantage that the country has due to its resources or coastal tourism industry. The other is more constructive and centers on a challenge that the country is currently facing or a way in which the country could improve.

These mini-reports, which we call a “solution” and a “challenge” respectively, can come from any of OEF’s nine maritime security issue areas: Piracy & Armed Robbery, Coastal Tourism, Coastal Welfare, Illicit Trades, Maritime Mixed Migration, Blue Economy, Fisheries, Maritime Enforcement Capacity, and International Cooperation. Each of these issue areas impacts a country’s maritime security situation in numerous ways. Some of the impacts are discrete, but usually, they are connected very clearly to other issues. For example, a country that has a strong fishing industry and healthy fish stocks in its waters will likely have a relatively high level of coastal welfare. When fishers can catch plenty of fish, feed their families, and receive artisanal fishing protections from the government, economic insecurity on the coast is reduced. Here’s another example: countries that have a low level of maritime enforcement capacity, meaning a small, weak navy that cannot adequately perform the full range of naval functions, is at a higher risk of piracy in its waters. All of the issues are connected, and I enjoy seeing how they fit together to form a broader picture.

I’ve also written geographic introductions for many countries. These are simply short, 100-120-word blurbs about the location of a country, its borders, and its coastline. The country introductions will be placed at the beginning of the “solution” and “challenge” reports to provide background information for reference.

Finally, I have written several region summaries–reports on the Maritime Security Index data findings for a specific issue area–for the Middle East-North Africa region. The region summaries have given me a prime opportunity to delve back into a region that I’ve found fascinating for years and that I explored in my undergraduate career in both Religious Studies and Arabic classes. I looked through this year’s data for the forthcoming Maritime Security Index for the Middle East and North Africa and described, broadly, what each issue area looks like in that region. I wrote one region summary for each of the nine issue areas with the exception of Piracy & Armed Robbery, since piracy is one of the specialties of Stable Seas (my division at OEF) and our team boasts multiple piracy experts.

During my last two weeks of work, I’ve been doing research for an extensive report on terrorist organizations and the various ways in which they and their peer organizations use the maritime sector in pursuit of their goals. Such use of the maritime sector can include anything from smuggling illicit drugs by sea to running sex trafficking rings in ports to bribing port inspectors to keep quiet about illegal shipments of drugs, arms, gems, and even wildlife.

I’m incredibly proud of the work that I have done at OEF. My talent and efforts have been recognized and celebrated here, and I can clearly see the value of the work that I am doing, which, I’ve come to realize in recent years, is essential to my happiness in the workplace. I don’t want to do something for no reason; I have to be certain that my work will contribute to a broader mission in some tangible way. I’ve had that certainty all summer at OEF. Recently, our division leader sent our team a first draft of one of the two-page country reports, complete with text boxes and graphs. I was, quite simply, overwhelmed when I saw the text that I had written right there on the page. It was then that I realized that when OEF publishes the Maritime Security Index this fall, my writing will be published along with it, and will subsequently be read by government officials both in the US and abroad, as well as by other maritime security stakeholders, such as conflict studies organizations, nonprofits, and academics. What I’ve been able to do here is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, and while I genuinely do not want to leave Colorado, I will leave with the certainty that I have contributed substantially to numerous exciting projects this summer and discovered a new interest that I may never have discovered otherwise.

Progress on the One Earth Future Maritime Security Index

By Derek Pace

Words can’t come close to expressing how much I feel I’ve learned in the past eight weeks. I’m still shocked by the extent to which my work at One Earth Future has allowed me to immerse myself in a topic about which I knew exceedingly little. If you had asked me two months ago what “maritime security” entails, I likely would have said something along the lines of “piracy.” To be fair, that’s an important part of maritime security; I don’t think anyone would deny that. It’s so much more than that, though. Maritime security is a complex web of topics that relate to each other in complicated and often overlapping ways, including gas and oil reserves, coastal tourism industries, vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change, maritime border disputes between neighboring countries, sea migration routes, labor trafficking, the strength of a country’s navy, and the ecological balance of a country’s fish stocks, to name just a few. I never would have thought that so many topics, some of which seem unrelated to maritime security at first glance, would be pertinent in my work this summer. I’ve realized that I love seeing how the disparate pieces connect to form a broader picture of maritime security in the dozens of countries that I’ve studied at OEF.

The connection to human rights continues to become clearer, as well, particularly in topics like human trafficking at sea. One of my projects involved combing through the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, which describes in great detail the state of human trafficking in each country. Although I didn’t have to read every page of the 500+ page report, what I did read was sometimes excruciatingly hard to stomach and hard not to mentally take home with me at the end of the day. The work, though, remains important, and the links between human trafficking and maritime insecurity are well documented. Thai fishers, for example, are sometimes tricked into accepting what they often believe to be a lucrative aquaculture job, sometimes in another country. Ultimately, many of these people are forced to fish on fishing vessels for years at a time, rarely, if ever, seeing the shore. They live in abysmal conditions, work against their will, and are constantly vulnerable to physical and mental abuse by the trafficker-captain. Stories like this are overwhelmingly common, and they don’t always resemble this one. Human trafficking can involve a system of debt bondage by which entire families are forced to work in brick kilns to pay off the debts of ancestors, or a domestic worker in Qatar whose family traps her in the house and forces her to work for very little pay. Trafficking takes many forms.

Recently, after spending weeks researching and collecting and coding data, we’ve transitioned into writing. Now that most everything is done on the data side, we’ve begun writing the content for the Maritime Security Index. There will be nine issue reports, one for each of the nine data categories, which include Coastal Welfare, Maritime Mixed Migration, and Piracy & Armed Robbery. The issue reports contain a broad overview of the state of each issue across the countries included in the Index, primarily in Africa and Asia. Each issue report will also dive into the specifics of the issue in each region; I’ve written many of the blurbs for the Middle East and North Africa. I’ve also worked substantially on the country reports, which provide a more focused look on the state of maritime security in each country included in the Index. Specifically, the country reports center on interesting stories from which one can glean broader information about the state of maritime security in each country in 2019. For instance, I’ve written about the effect of the conflict in Yemen on Yemeni fishers in the port city of Hodeida and the potential effects of an increase in coastal tourism in Lebanon this summer.

OEF will disseminate the Maritime Security Index, once completed later this fall, to various stakeholders and government actors around the world, as part of its mission to reduce the factors that lead to various kinds of conflict. I feel proud to contribute to a project in which I truly believe and that I find very exciting. I’m also proud of how much I’ve grown this summer. I’ve discovered a new interest that I didn’t know I had and developed my research and writing skills immensely. I still have about a month left in my internship, but nonetheless, I couldn’t be prouder of the work that I’ve done so far.

Maritime security research, fisheries legislation, and lots of canyons: my first few weeks at One Earth Future

Derek PaceBy Derek Pace

This internship has been an immense learning experience (learning curve?) already. In just a few weeks of work at One Earth Future Foundation in Colorado, I have done research on the oil and gas reserves of African and Asian countries, looked at maritime security legislation, read human trafficking reports from the US State Department, and seen just how applicable a law degree can be.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was nervous I wouldn’t fit in at this job. There are people here who have PhDs. Some have served in the military and some are former professors. In any case, it can be intimidating. What I do have, though, is some experience with law. Although this experience is admittedly very limited, this job has helped me discover ways in which law students who aren’t too excited about the idea of being a lawyer (which is my case, as those who know me may have guessed by now) can use their education in a different way.

Researching maritime legislation in dozens of countries has been fascinating. I’ve learned more about maritime law in the past few weeks than I thought possible. I’ve learned the importance of including in legislation things like a ban on poisonous and/or explosive fishing gear and a requirement that foreign-registered fishing vessels report data to the government of the country in the waters of which they’re fishing. Now, it’s true that in some countries, this legislation is essentially worthless; it is neither enforced by the government nor widely known by the people. That’s a problem, but having something recorded in a law is a good first step.

OEF aims to provide empirical data to foreign governments and other international actors to help countries increase maritime security. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of that project this summer. While I felt intimidated by the qualifications of my coworkers at first, I now realize that I too bring something valuable to the table: experience with law and legal research skills. These things have certainly come in handy in the research that I’ve done. And here, I would be remiss not to give some credit to the bilingual law program at McGill; reading legislation from Africa, much of which is written in French, has been….well, not a breeze, but certainly not out of my comfort zone. I’ve found that my legal research skills, and particularly my ability to read dense legal texts, are highly valued here at OEF, as the organization works substantially on African maritime law and security.

I’ve never worked at a law firm (yet?), so I can’t truthfully say what that experience is like, but I can say that the environment in which I’m currently working is a good fit for me. The people are wonderful and accomplished; their experiences continue to impress me. The office culture is open and laid-back, not at all the kind of stuffy, corporate atmosphere that I’m doing my best to avoid. I feel fortunate to have been placed at an internship that gives me essentially exactly what I was hoping to find this summer.

On a lighter note, I’ve already fallen in love with Colorado. A cousin of mine spent a few years living here when I was younger; she returned when I was slightly older with plenty of stories of hiking, national parks, and various other adventures. Last Christmas during a family gathering, I told her that I was going to spend the summer working in Colorado and she immediately told me that I would fall in love with it. I didn’t quite understand it then, but I did as soon as I set foot outside the Denver airport. No matter where you are, you can always see mountains– snow-capped even in late June–as far as the eye can see. Opportunities for outdoor recreation here are just about endless. Things just look different than they do on the east coast, and the change is exciting. I finally understand why my cousin gushed about Colorado, and I can certainly see myself living here after law school.

The Colorado legislature


Unbelievably gorgeous canyons in Utah, taken during a recent hiking trip


The Denver skyline, seen from the South Platte River


The Denver City Council building

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