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Strengthening Regional Architecture: Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity – IORA’s Vision for a Sustainable Future

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 October 2023 – The 23rd Council of Ministers’ Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 11th of October, 2023, saw the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor, delivering a poignant address on the theme of the year: “Strengthening Regional Architecture: Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity.”

Tinashe Mupasiri

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Minister Pandor began her statement by expressing heartfelt appreciation for the warm hospitality and exceptional arrangements made for her delegation during their stay in Sri Lanka.

Underlining the importance of the Indian Ocean, she pointed out that this vast body of water is home to over 40% of the world’s population, with more than 3 billion people depending on its resources for their livelihood. Additionally, a staggering 80% of global trade relies on the seas. These statistics highlight the pivotal role played by the oceans, seas, and coastal areas in ensuring food security and poverty eradication.

However, Dr. Pandor also drew attention to the severe threats facing these vital ecosystems due to human activities. She mentioned issues like acidification, pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication, and fishery collapse as consequences of these actions, and they have dire implications for marine ecosystems and, consequently, the well-being of communities that rely on them.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor

These environmental threats pose not only a long-term risk to our planet but also have immediate repercussions for the people living in these areas. Urgent and coordinated action is necessary to safeguard the oceans and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.

The Minister emphasized the importance of the Indian Ocean region as a peaceful and prosperous zone, where nations can enhance trade opportunities while preserving the oceans’ fragile ecosystems. She called for collaborative efforts to ensure the protection of the Indian Ocean’s rich resources and to advance sustainable development in the region.

Dr. Naledi Pandor also highlighted the progress made in developing the IORA Development Initiative (IDI) and the successful High-Level Strategic Dialogue (HLSD) meeting, co-chaired by South Africa and the IORA Secretariat. These discussions focused on reflecting on the past achievements and challenges of IORA’s first 25 years and charting a vision for its future.

Furthermore, it was stressed that IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners are keen on collaboration, regional cooperation, freedom of navigation, consensus-building actions, partnerships, shared prosperity, and rules-based norms in the Indo-Pacific. These are seen as more constructive paths compared to disunity, hostility, divergency, and increased military presence.

South Africa expressed its commitment to the completion and implementation of the zero-base document, which will provide a vision for the future activities of IORA and the roles various regions could play.

The IORA Business Forum (South African Chapter) presented a concept note on the creation of an IORA Business Forum Digital Portal. This portal is envisioned to enhance connectivity, reduce transactional costs, and facilitate trade, not only within the region but also beyond.

Minister Pandor stressed that a region of peace could lead to operational optimization and the acquisition of energy-efficient technology, ultimately ensuring the sustainable development of the IORA region.

In conclusion, Dr. Naledi Pandor expressed gratitude towards the Secretary-General, H.E. Ambassador Salman Al Farisi, for his exemplary work and wished him and his team success in growing the Association.

She reminded those present of the enduring words of President Nelson Mandela, which bind the nations together in their shared commitment to peace, security, socio-economic development, and solidarity within the Indian Ocean Rim, especially in the face of global challenges.

The meeting ended with Minister Pandor extending her best wishes to the incoming Chair and their delegation as they embark on a two-year tenure leading the IORA.

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

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