IORA urged to protect and develop the Indian Ocean


International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu urged Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member states to focus on strengthening the region’s contribution towards global security, economic growth and sustainable development.

Sisulu made the plea when she opened at the IORA Council of Ministers meeting in Durban.

The association is an inter-governmental organisation aimed at strengthening regional co-operation and sustainable development in the Indian Ocean region. It comprises 21 countries and seven dialogue partners.

Sisulu said her stance comes at a time when coherence and stability of the global multilateral system is being severely tested.
“IORA provides us with an opportunity to enhance the spirit of multilateralism in one of the most diverse regions of the world, comprising a heterogeneous mix of developed countries, developing countries, Small Island States and Least Developed Countries.”

IORA, Sisulu said, can be “a beacon of hope for multilateralism and regional co-operation in the world”.
“As a collective, we take this opportunity to build and expand our understanding and mutually beneficial co-operation through IORA’s consensus-based evolutionary and non-intrusive approach. As a group, we must use this approach to promote cohesiveness and unity in the region, resisting the emerging and real threat of geopolitical rivalry taking root in the Indian Ocean Region.
“As member states of IORA it is our space to protect and develop for the mutual benefit of all our people. We cannot do this alone,” Sisulu said.

The region’s vision, she said, is encapsulated in South Africa’s chairmanship of IORA, to unite the peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through enhanced co-operation for peace, stability and sustainable development.
“This theme encompasses South Africa’s view that the Indian Ocean Region should be characterised as a region of peace, stability and development; and we consider IORA as the pre-eminent regional organisation within which to pursue this ambitious goal.
“Over the past year of our chairmanship, we worked tirelessly to strengthen the institution, including the Secretariat and were delighted to host a technical workshop in Mauritius in March aimed at improving capacity and efficiency of the Secretariat in supporting IORA member states activities going forward. We would like to see such an engagement regularised on the calendar of IORA events,” she said.

The association, Sisulu said, must be dynamic and ensure structures and processes can adapt to shifts in global trends and priorities.
“The association’s institutional structure, through the charter, is being reformed to ensure it is able to accommodate and respond to new priorities and goals identified in the Jakarta Concord and its Action Plan (2017-2021) to take IROA into its third decade and beyond. A revised Charter will give the necessary flexibility and longevity.”

The association is establishing new, dedicated functional bodies to deal specifically with IORA priorities in areas such as maritime safety and security, the blue economy, women’s economic empowerment and tourism.
“At the same time, we are looking to revitalise existing institutional mechanisms to enhance trade and investment facilitation, with a focus on promotion of small and medium enterprises, while also strengthening and increasing the role of academia in IORA, envisaged at the founding of the association.
“As we have seen in Indonesia and around the world recently, the importance of improving resilience and responses for disaster risk management cannot be over-emphasised. This is an area of priority focus we need to take forward with haste, including implementation of the IORA Memorandum of Understanding on Search and Rescue,” Sisulu said.

The Minister said South Africa’s chairmanship will prioritise issues of sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development, including dealing with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.