Address by Deputy Minister Landers at the Indian Ocean Conference “Building Regional Architecture”, 28 August 2018, Hanoi - Vietnam


I wish to thank you for the opportunity to address you at this very important event on the Indian Ocean Region; under the theme “Building Regional Architecture”. I also wish to thank the organisers for their warm hospitality.  It is always a pleasure to visit your beautiful country and the ancient capital of Hanoi.

I have read the Concept Note on the theme of the Third Edition of the Indian Ocean Conference with great interest, and particularly its premise that, and I quote:

“In the twenty-first century, there is a need to build new Regional Architectures in the Indian Ocean Region and its neighbourhood in the Indo-Pacific, which would reflect present geopolitical landscape by institutional collaboration and cooperative mechanism”. 

We agree that the Indian Ocean Region is of great strategic importance and value to the world in which we now find ourselves, and it is of utmost importance to safeguard and develop the region for the benefit of all its peoples.

It is also argued that we need a new regional architecture to deal with the myriad security and socio-economic challenges facing the Indian Ocean Region. 

I would suggest that we have the necessary regional architecture to deal with the challenges outlined in the concept paper, and our discussions should be on ways to strengthen this architecture to ensure that it is able to respond and deal with these challenges.  In this regard, we would advance the view that any future regional architecture for the Indian Ocean Region must have the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) at its core.

This year is historic for us, as it is the centenary year of the birth of former President Nelson Mandela, regarded widely as the Founding Father of IORA. In this regard, we remember that the formation of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has its roots in Nelson Mandela’s remark in 1995:

“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 endeavours.”

His vision became a reality two years later when in March 1997 the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IORA-ARC), now the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), was launched in Mauritius with 14 Member States. Today the Association has twenty one (21) Member States and seven (7) Dialogue Partners.  It has become a strong and dynamic international body working to ensure an Indian Ocean Rim that is safe, secure and sustainably developed.

As you may know, South Africa assumed the Chair of IORA in October 2017 under the theme: “IORA – uniting the peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the Middle East through enhanced cooperation for peace, stability and sustainable development”. This guiding theme for our Chairship until 2019 encompasses South Africa’s view that the Indian Ocean Region should be characterized as a region of peace, stability and development; and that we view IORA as the pre-eminent regional organisation with which to pursue this ambitious goal.

Indeed, maritime safety and security is a critical component and precondition for the economic activity and growth that is necessary for sustainable socio-economic development.

As we move forward in this regard, it is very important to recognise that we did not assume the Chair in a vacuum.  We are building on a solid foundation laid by other important strategic partners in the region that have led IORA recently such as Indonesia, Australia, India, and Iran.

We recall that during India’s Chair of the Association (2011 – 2013), the work of IORA was streamlined and invigorated to become more focused and targeted towards the sustained growth and balanced development of the Indian Ocean region and of Member States, and to create common ground for regional economic co-operation. IORA subsequently adopted the following six (6) key priority areas:

  • Maritime Safety and Security
  • Trade and Investment Facilitation
  • Fisheries Management
  • Disaster Risk Management
  • Academic and Science and Technology Co-operation
  • Tourism Promotion and Cultural Exchange

During Australia’s Chair (2013 – 2015), the Association changed its name from the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC) to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), signifying this renewed vigour in the work of the Association.  Australia also enhanced the strategic focus of IORA through the adoption of the Blue Economy and Women’s Economic Empowerment as agreed priority issues that cut across the aforementioned six (6) key priority areas.

During Indonesia’s Chair (2015 – 2017), the first IORA Leaders’ Summit to commemorate IORA’s twentieth (20th) anniversary was held in Jakarta on 7 March 2017.  The Summit’s adoption and signing of the “The Jakarta Concord” elevated the Association’s profile and stature to a significantly higher level, and charted the way forward for the Association into the next decade, beginning with South Africa’s Chairship.  To this end, the Jakarta Concord provides the highest levels of commitment with which to make the Indian Ocean a region of peace, stability and development through enhanced co-operation, including but not limited to the six priority areas.

The IORA Action Plan provides a firm set of realistic and measurable commitments for the IORA Council of Ministers to implement the “Jakarta Concord”, and take IORA forward in a more outcomes orientated manner.  To this end, the Action Plan provides short, medium and long terms goals to, inter alia:

  • Promote Maritime Safety and Security in the Region;
  • Enhance trade and investment co-operation in the Region;
  • Promote sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development;
  • Strengthen academic, science and technology co-operation;
  • Foster tourism and cultural exchanges;
  • Harness and develop the Blue Economy in the Region; and
  • Promote gender equality and the economic empowerment of women and girls.

To give effect to these targets, IORA, under our Chairship, is strengthening its institutional mechanisms and bodies, including the Secretariat, and is in the process of establishing new dedicated functional bodies to deal specifically with critical priorities in areas such as Maritime Safety and Security, the Blue Economy, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Tourism. There is also a strong focus on enhancing trade and investment between IORA members; empowering the youth; ensuring the effective utilisation of resources, such as water and fisheries; and promoting research, development and innovation, including through the 2nd International Indian Ocean Expedition. The focus on key priorities and the establishment of these new bodies will enable IORA to have a comprehensive set of work plans to deal with the challenges being faced in the Region, as well as to take advantage of the many opportunities that these areas bring to the fore.  We are on a new and exciting trajectory and we look forward to working with our partners to explore these opportunities in a coherent and organised way.

In this regard we are deepening and broadening our engagement with the IORA Dialogue Partners to enhance their role in and support for the core objectives in the IORA Action Plan.  The unprecedented interest in IORA amongst countries wishing to be Dialogue Partners is testament to the progress that we are making in taking IORA forward as the preeminent international organisation in the Indian Ocean.

Furthermore, South Africa is committed to deepening and strengthening IORA’s partnerships with international and regional bodies such as the United Nations, the African Union, ASEAN, APEC, as well as other important maritime bodies and symposia focusing on the Indian Ocean.  We are particularly gratified that IORA has Observer status at both the United Nations General Assembly and the African Union, and we look forward to strengthening our engagements with these important organs, particularly cooperation on development in the areas of capacity and institution building under the IORA Action Plan.

In the case of the United Nations, for instance, we are collaborating with agencies and bodies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO) for the exchange and dissemination of ocean data and information. We are in the process of finalising a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).  This cooperation and collaboration are in support of the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG-14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Furthermore, as one of the many African countries of IORA, we are committed to working with the African Union in support of Agenda 2063 towards a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.  In this regard it is important to recognize that the African Union has declared 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of African Seas and Oceans. We look forward to identify ways to collaborate between IORA and the AU around the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) - Africa’s overarching, concerted and coherent long-term actions to achieve the objectives to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Africa.

Likewise at the regional level in Southern Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is moving towards a strategy to develop a thriving maritime economy and harness the full potential of sea-based activities in an environmentally sustainable manner.

I am sure that you will agree that IORA is an organisation on the move and one that cannot and should not be ignored.  My appeal to you today is to look within the Indian Ocean Region to the existing regional architecture such as IORA and find ways to work with it to strengthen and empower us to play the meaningful and strategic role that we aspire to achieve in its founding document, the IORA Charter and the strategic vision encapsulated in the Jakarta Concord.

I thank you.


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