IORA progresses with South Africa in the chair | Sunday Observer

IORA progresses with South Africa in the chair

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) who’s chair is currently held by South Africa has progressed in several areas during its tenure.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela spearheaded the idea and the need of a union consisting of countries in the Indian Ocean to come together for peace and posterity.

Out of the 25 countries that share the Indian Ocean, 22 countries hold IORA membership while Pakistan, Myanmar and Djibouti are yet to be members. Although Pakistan has made several attempts to join the association it has failed in its attempts while Myanmar has been refused entry on Human Rights concerns.

A familiarisation programme held for member states, the second such event, was held recently in Pretoria with several work groups to showcase IORA’s commitment as adopted by the action plan of 2017-2021 during the summit held in 2017 commemorating its 20th anniversary.

South African representative of the IORA academic group Prof. Narnia Bohler-Muller speaking at the conference said that it is imperative that academics of nations should not work in isolation but in large groups in order to obtain better results.

“Peace and Development in countries of the IORA require more maritime security. Peace goes with security. This in the current context means nontraditional security such as water security and food security,” she said emphasising that ocean pollution and climate change which require immediate attention will affect the smaller member states.

South Africa’s Director General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Kgabo Mahoai speaking to the press said the Government of South Africa has made significant progress in achieving decisions arrived at during the Council of Ministers meetings in 2017 and 2018, giving effect to new approaches such as the Blue Economy, Maritime Safety and Security, Tourism and Disaster Management, in which the member countries have come to a consensus to move forward.

Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) is something that is grappled with to a larger extent by the working group, South African Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA). Sri Lanka being a partner that had held several workshops on the subject has seen success in bringing about ocean security within the region in the largest and busiest ocean.

“There are traditional threats that exist in the IORA region, which include piracy and armed robbery, human and drug trafficking, crimes in the fisheries sector,” Boetse Ramahlo of SAMSA said.

To enable member states mitigate security challenges, key strategic measures have been identified. The need for a common understanding of collective Maritime Safety and Security risks, threats and vulnerabilities is seen to be paramount. The strengthening of regional cooperation to address trans-boundary challenges is equally important.

“Countries in the region should be able to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law,” he said.

Member states will work towards evolving a framework for exchanging agreements and initiatives in MSS among like-minded stakeholders.

Nelson Mandela during his official visit to India in 1995 put forward the idea for a need for countries in the Indian Ocean rim, when he said, “The natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavors.”

The region is home to nearly one-third of the world’s population, consists of critical sea trade routes that connects the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australasia, holds two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves and carries half of the world’s container ships and one-third of bulk cargo traffic and produces goods and services worth over USD 1 trillion with an intra-iora trade amounting to over USD 77 billion.

The theme of South Africa’s chairship of IORA during 2017-2019, is “IORA – uniting the peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through enhanced corporation for peace, stability and sustainable development.” 

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