Indian Ocean Rim Association: Promoting Interregional Cooperation

Non-Aligned Movement has emphasised the importance of interregional cooperation mechanisms as means to promote sustainable development and sustainable growth. A prominent example of such interregional cooperation is the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The vision for such an organisation was envisaged by late South African President Nelson Mandela during a visit to India in 1995. Mandela remarked: “The natural urge of the facts of history should broaden itself to include the Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic cooperation and other peaceful endeavours. Recent changes in the international system demand that the countries of Indian Ocean shall become a simple platform”.

IORA is an intergovernmental organisation which was established on 7 March 1997 with the underlying objectives of enhancing economic dialogue and regional cooperation from promoting sustainable development in the Indian Ocean Rim. As of now, IORA comprises of 21 Members namely India, Australia, Iran IR, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, Madagascar, UAE, Yemen, Seychelles, Somalia, Comoros and Oman. Most of these states are Member States of NAM and recognise the role of regional cooperation to promote sustainable development.

According to IORA Charter, “the Association will facilitate and promote economic co-operation, bringing together inter-alia representatives of Member States’ governments, businesses and academia. In a spirit of multilateralism, the Association seeks to build and expand understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation through a consensus-based, evolutionary and non-intrusive approach”. IORA agenda was prioritised during the sixth Council of Ministers Meeting held in 2011 at Bangalore. The priority areas are: 1). Maritime Safety and Security; 2). Trade and Investment Facilitation; 3). Fisheries Management; 4). Disaster Risk Management; 5). Academic, Science & Technology Cooperation; and 6) Tourism and Cultural Exchanges.

IORA has been addressing Maritime Safety and Security through a broad range of activities. The IORA Leaders’ Summit held in March 2017, in Jakarta, Indonesia, highlighted the prioritization of these concerns through its theme, “Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean”. In 2015, IORA adopted the Maritime Cooperation Declaration which emphasised the importance of promoting maritime cooperation through dialogue and joint activities of IORA Member States with a view to seizing opportunities and addressing common maritime challenges. Another important objective of IORA is the promotion of trade and investment. IORA Economic Declaration of 2014 calls on Member States to undertake measures to facilitate trade, including efficient customs and border procedures, and allow for freer trade and investment flows.

IORA also emphasises the importance of strengthening cooperation in the Fisheries Management sector. IORA Action Plan 2017-2021 calls on Member States to promote sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development and explore a mechanism to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Disaster Risk Management in also pivotal for IORA. Pertaining to this aspect, IORA encourages the development of joint training programmes, sharing of experiences and best practices, building capacity and enhancing the technical capabilities within the region.

IORA calls upon Member States to strive towards regional cooperation in tourism, especially to achieve sustainable tourism growth in the region through the promotion of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and tourism business networks. The organisation also encourages strengthen heritage management and capacity-building through cooperation among IORA Member States and calls for intensification of research in the cultural field in the Indian Ocean region.

IORA fosters sustainable ocean initiatives, projects and partnerships with the objective of supporting the Blue Economy concept. The First IORA Ministerial Blue Economy Conference (BEC) was held in Mauritius on 2-3 September 2015 where the Blue Economy Declaration was adopted.

Reflecting on the global trends, this Declaration seeks to harness oceans and maritime resources to drive economic growth, job creation and innovation, while safeguarding sustainability and environmental protection. Indonesia hosted the Second Ministerial Blue Economy Conference on “Financing the Blue Economy” on 8-10 May 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia, whereby the Jakarta Declaration on the Blue Economy was adopted, aiming at optimising the use of existing financial instruments in the IORA region to enhance Blue Economy development in Member States.

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