Statement delivered by South African Deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe at the General Debate (Agenda Item 5) during the
Sixth Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association
for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 21 February
Ladies and gentlemen
allow me on behalf of the South African delegation to congratulate our host, the
Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the excellent way in which this
occasion has been organized. Thank you also for the hospitalities extended to
all delegates since our arrival in Tehran. South Africa looks forward to fruitful
discussions together with our partners from the region regarding the future direction
of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
Next year, it will be ten years since the inauguration of
the Association in Mauritius in March 1997. It might therefore be appropriate
for us to take stock of our achievements thus far, as well as to adjust the way
we work wherever necessary to improve our capacity to achieve our objectives.
we were listening to the outgoing Chairperson's report on the Fifth Meeting of
the Council of Ministers that took place in Colombo in 2004, we are once again
made aware of the enormous economic potential of the Indian Ocean Rim. This potential
has been illustrated by many commentators, acknowledging amongst others that the
Indian Ocean carries half of the world's container ships, one third of the bulk
cargo traffic and two thirds of the world's oil shipments. The Indian Ocean Rim
is also rich in resources, ranging from food fisheries to precious minerals, from
agricultural wealth to valuable human technical expertise. Most importantly, the
Indian Ocean Rim represents a population of close to two billion people, making
it a massive market. The strategic value of the Indian Ocean Rim, therefore, is
beyond doubt as it constitutes an enormous asset to international traders, governments
and fishing communities alike.
During the colonial period, many Member States
have had first hand experience of the importance that colonial powers attached
to trading routes along our coastlines and across the Indian Ocean; and in the
book "Empires of the Monsoon: A History of the Indian Ocean and its Invaders",
author Richard Hall recalls contacts between Asia and Africa from the pre-colonial
period and how the monsoons drove a flourishing trade along our common shores.
The tragic consequences of natural disasters that have devastated
the Indian Ocean Rim recently, as well as the real threat of the spread of avian
flu which has already reached the shores of member states, have taught us the
value and importance of regional integration and cooperation. However, the potential
of the Indian Ocean Rim remains untapped or underutilized to the peoples of our
countries. As Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim representing mainly the developing
world, it is our shared responsibility to vigorously promote South-South cooperation
in the spirit of multilateralism to the mutual benefit of all. South Africa looks
forward to further discussing with our Rim partners issues such as the mitigation
of natural disasters and the establishment of early warning systems; maritime
cooperation; building on the academic and research capacity exchange; and, most
importantly, the promotion of trade and investment.
South Africa is eager
to see that this Association makes tangible progress on its path to unlock regional
potential and deliver positive outcomes. We are especially keen to strengthen
the Rim's institutional capacity to achieve this. I would like to propose that
we look at some of the following issues as a matter of urgency:
position is that the role of the IOR-ARC Chair is vital for the work of the Association.
The Chair's mandate to monitor the progress of identified projects and programmes
should be clearly spelled out to ensure effective communication between identified
project champions and the Executive Director. We believe that the Chairs role
needs to be a leadership role.
The role of the Executive Director should
also be strengthened to enable her or him to effectively carry out the work of
the Secretariat. Our belief is that the Executive Director's mandate should enable
her or him to represent the Association at key international meetings to raise
the Rim's global image; she or he should present quarterly progress reports on
deliverables to all members; and this person should be supported with the necessary
resources to ensure delivery.
In this regard South Africa is committed to
make its contribution by seconding an official to Mauritius this year to augment
the capacity of the secretariat to deliver our joint programmes.
You are all aware of the current lack of funding for projects
and programmes, such as academic research and exchange. South Africa is of the
view that our programmes and projects must be based on reliable and dependable
information. Therefore, South Africa welcomes the establishment of the proposed
Special Fund, ideally to be funded by a predictable source of income. The Special
Fund would enable the Association to carry out its tasks in a much more informed
manner, as well as to provide a platform from where our Dialogue Partners could
be engaged to participate or contribute to selected projects and programmes. South
Africa is fully aware and sensitive to the reality of Member States' limited human
and financial resources, and obligations to important other regional organizations.
this regard, ladies and gentlemen, Member States will remember the Africa-Asia
Summit that took place in Jakarta during April last year and the subsequent adoption
of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP). This was the 50th anniversary
of the historic Bandung Summit in 1955 which established Afro-Asian solidarity.
It is this bond between our nations on which we need to capitalize.
will be aware, that as Africans we are committed to an African Renaissance in
an effort to rid our continent of its historic economic backlogs. Africa has already
embarked upon a continental initiative, home grown and African lead, the New Partnership
for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Joint African-Asian initiatives offer
unlimited potential for equitable participation and sharing in the benefits of
the global economy. The challenge to us as Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim
is therefore to see the creation of this inter-continental initiative as complimentary
to our Indian Ocean Rim activities and programmes and as an opportunity to create
synergy between the two regional initiatives to the benefit of all.
conclusion, ladies and gentlemen
Allow me to reiterate South Africa's appreciation
to Iran for hosting this occasion. May our deliberations as well as our future
actions be targeted and productive. And, although, as Hall said in Empires of
the Monsoon which I mentioned earlier "The monsoons no longer dictate when
ships can travel the Indian Oceans yet their rhythms still pervade the lives of
two billion people throughout the Indian sub-continent, from East Africa to Malaysia.
The Indian Ocean is reviewing its status as a 'zone of encounters and contacts
and a crossroads of cultures
We, as Member States, own this
Association. At this stage, however, we need to raise its international profile,
rebuild confidence in its operations and we need to reinvigorate its enormous
potential to our collective gain.
I thank you.