Opening Statement by Ms Nomaindiya Mfeketo, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the 14th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of IORA, Perth, Australia, 09 October 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to represent South Africa at this 14th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Minister Nkoana-Mashabane requested that I convey her regret in not being able to attend today’s meeting, but asked that I kindly convey her warmest wishes to Your Excellencies representing IORA Member States present here today.
On behalf of my delegation, may I also thank the Government of Australia once again for its hospitality and excellent arrangements for the hosting of this meeting. The week long program preceding this COM, I am informed, has been very vibrant and comprehensive.
As the apex organization of the Indian Ocean, IORA’s strategic salience continues to grow from strength to strength. The growing number of countries wishing to join IORA, the rising profile of the engagement with Dialogue Partners, the keen interest to serve as Chair among the members, as well as the focused Agenda encapsulated in the six Priorities, all together attest to the rising profile of IORA.
South Africa is keen to continue to work with the Chair and Vice-Chair, as well as the other Member States of the IORA in our attempt to contribute towards the new dynamism this organization is currently experiencing. Furthermore, South Africa commends the work of the Secretariat and the Chair, in so far as the integration and mainstreaming of Gender into all six policy areas of IORA. This will go a long way towards ensuring that the upliftment of women in this region becomes part and parcel of IORA’s success. South Africa has a robust women empowerment targets, with the target of achieving 50% of representation of empowered women across all segments of economic activity.
Institutions that we established for advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality include the Gender Commission on Equality, which has a constitutional mandate to promote respect for gender equality and ensure the attainment of gender equality. We also have a Women and Children’s Ministry in Government, as well as Gender and Women Empowerment unit within the Department of Trade and Industry, all designed especially to protect, promote and enhance the rights of citizens, with the expectation to particularly assist women to vindicate their rights, promote development and improve the quality of life generally. IORA’s mainstreaming of Gender thus fits aptly with our drive towards the empowerment of women.
In assessing what we have been able to do together, it is quite acceptable to continue make some adjustments where necessary and to also reflect on the various present and emerging challenges that we face.
In this regard, the continued deepening and elevation of our engagement with Dialogue Partners is an area in need of continuous effort on our part, as we work towards concrete outcomes from our relationship with the Dialogue Partners.
While tangible progress sometimes appears to be slow, we must remain mindful that the changing geopolitical and natural environment of the past seventeen years has launched the Indian Ocean Region closer to the prominent position it held a few centuries ago.
We therefore need to collaborate more closely with each other and with our international partners like the African Union particularly in the context of the African Integrated Maritime Strategy, the Gulf Co-operation Council, ASEAN, as well as the United Nations in achieving our objectives. We cannot function in isolation and must therefore continue to seek further avenues for cooperation with each other. I am therefore pleased with the work done by Secretary-General Bhagirath in seeking avenues of engagement with these groupings.
We continue to experience major changes internationally at all levels, with geo-political challenges, conflict and threats to peace and security, as well as a protracted worldwide financial crisis and a shaky economic outlook. However there is also a paradigm shift in the balance of global economic power with the emergence of new global players and drivers of change. This has major geo-strategic and geo-political implications that IORA must consider, as we path a way forward.
In spite of the great disparity in the levels of development of our countries, we need to map out a vision of economic cooperation to enhance trade and investment. The theme of the Blue Economy for our Ministerial Retreat, selected by our host, resonates well with the cross-cutting feature and promise that IORA holds, for us, as states which can optimize the Ocean Economy’s potential. I will share South Africa’s strategy in this regard with you at the retreat dear colleagues, as we exchange views.
At the 2013 Council of Ministers here in Perth, South Africa expressed interest in serving as IORA Chair. We are grateful for the support of each member towards this endeavour as we receive the official confirmation of this decision at this COM.
Excellencies, may I thank the Government of Australia for its dedication and leadership of IORA during its Chairship. The legacy of mainstreaming of Gender into IORA as well as the efforts towards business to business interaction among IORA countries will indeed leave an indelible legacy upon which we can build this dynamic Association.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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