Country Statement delivered by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, on the occasion of the 23rd Council of Ministers’ Meeting of the Indian Ocean RIM Association (IORA), Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 October 2023
Honourable Chair, Minister Ali Sabri,
Honourable Ministers & Deputy Ministers present here today,
IORA Secretary-General, Amb Al-Farisi,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to start off with a message of sincere appreciation for the kind hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for me and my delegation since our arrival in Sri Lanka.
This year’s theme is an excellent reflective theme; a reflection of what we are about in IORA and indeed what we are aiming to achieve, namely:
“Strengthening Regional Architecture: Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity”.
IORA’s priorities are in recognition of the fact that 40% of the world’s population live near coastal areas; more than 3 billion people utilise the oceans for their livelihood; and 80% of world trade is achieved using the seas.
The oceans, seas and coastal areas therefore contribute to food security and poverty eradication. And yet, the oceans are under severe threat by human activities, where economic profits are at the expense of environmental degradation.
Acidification, pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication and fishery collapse are just some of the examples of the consequences on the marine ecosystems.
These threats are detrimental to the planet and are long-term repercussions that demand urgent action to protect the oceans and the people who depend on them.
The Indian Ocean region therefore should remain our own peaceful zone from which we can enhance opportunities in trade and further develop our nations, by advancing the protection that our oceans so dearly deserve.
I believe we have succeeded in developing clear concepts around the IORA Development Initiative (IDI). I am also pleased that the High-Level Strategic Dialogue (HLSD) meeting, which was co-chaired by South Africa and the Secretariat, was a resounding success. The meeting reflected on our status quo, but and discussed a vision of what we want and where we want to go as IORA.
Several discussions were held on, amongst others, the achievements, and challenges of IORA’s first 25 years and what that meant for IORA’s future work and the implementation of IORA’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (IOIP). These issues are significant and will continue to help strengthen our Association in a region that is becoming increasingly important on the global stage.
IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners made it clear that they desire collaboration, regional cooperation, freedom of navigation, consensus building actions, partnerships, shared prosperity, rules-based norms in the Indo-Pacific and not disunity, hostility, divergency and increased military presences.
South Africa therefore looks forward to the completion of the zero-base document which should be adopted and followed by implementation at the earliest opportunity. The document will provide a vision of future activities of IORA and the role our various regions could play.
The IORA Business Forum (South African Chapter) has developed a concept note on the creation of an IORA Business Forum Digital Portal. This portal will connect us, reduce transactional costs while creating a trade platform and make it easy to trade in our region and beyond.
Working jointly at creating a region of peace means we can achieve operational optimisation within the region and achieve energy efficient technology acquisition – this would be a conducive environment that could ensure the continued sustainable development of the IORA region.
In conclusion Chair, I wish to thank the Secretary-General, HE Ambassador Salman Al Farisi, for the sterling work done and to wish him and his team all success in growing this Association.
The sentiments expressed by President Mandela more than two decades ago continue to be relevant and remain true; they continue to bind us all in ensuring that the Indian Ocean Rim remains an important region that promotes peace, security, socio-economic development, and solidarity, especially under the current global environment and challenges.
I thank you and wish you all the very best as you and your delegation start your two-year stint as our Chair.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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