International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has urged member states of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to focus on strengthening the region’s contribution towards global security, economic growth and sustainable development.
Sisulu made the plea during her opening at the IORA Council of Ministers meeting in Durban on Friday.
The association is an inter-governmental organisation aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. It comprises 21 countries and seven dialogue partners.
Sisulu said her stance comes at a time when the coherence and stability of the global multilateral system is being tested severely.
“IORA provides us with a unique opportunity to enhance the spirit of multilateralism within 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 become “a beacon of hope for multilateralism and regional cooperation in the world”.
“As a collective, we are taking this opportunity to build and expand our understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation through IORA’s consensus-based evolutionary and non-intrusive approach. As a group, we must use this approach to promote cohesiveness and unity within the region, while resisting the emerging and very real threat of geopolitical rivalry taking root in the Indian Ocean Region.
“As Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, it is our space to protect and develop for the mutual benefit of all our peoples. We cannot do this alone,” Sisulu said.
The region’s vision, she said, is encapsulated in South Africa’s chairship of IORA, which was 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 characterized 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 chairship, we have been working tirelessly to strengthen the institution, including the Secretariat, and we were delighted to have hosted a technical workshop in Mauritius in March that was aimed at improving the capacity and efficiency of the Secretariat in supporting the IORA Member States activities going forward. We would like to see such an engagement regularised on the calendar of IORA events annually,” she said.
The association, Sisulu said, must be dynamic and ensure that structures and processes can adapt to the shifts in global trends and its priorities.
“The association’s institutional structure, through the charter, is thus also being reformed to ensure that it is able to accommodate and respond to the new priorities and goals that we have identified in the Jakarta Concord and its Action Plan (2017-2021) to take the Association into its third decade and beyond. A revised Charter will give us this necessary flexibility and longevity.”
The association is establishing new, dedicated functional bodies to deal specifically with IORA’s priorities in areas such as maritime safety and security, the blue economy, women’s economic empowerment and tourism.
“At the same time, we are also looking to revitalise existing institutional mechanisms to enhance trade and investment facilitation, with a focus on the promotion of small and medium enterprises, while also strengthening and increasing the role of academia in IORA, as was 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 in the region cannot be over emphasised. This is an area of priority focus that we will need to take forward with haste, including the implementation of the IORA Memorandum of Understanding on Search and Rescue,” Sisulu said.
The Minister said South Africa’s chairship will prioritise issues of sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development, including dealing with the important issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated Fishing (IUU), among others. – SAnews.gov.za