Indian Ocean Rim Association
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of Australia greeting Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Mr E I Ebrahim
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) initially known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) until 2013, was mooted by South Africa during an official visit by President Mandela to India in 1995. This proposal was made in response to changing global geo-strategic developments and the increasing significance of the global commons and their governance, in this case specifically referring to the Indian Ocean. Today the Ocean Economy, also known as the Blue Economy, holds much potential for all littoral member states of IORA.
Representing three continents, the twenty member states of the Association are Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. Eight members of the Rim are African countries while four of the Association’s Member States are also members of the G20, demonstrating the diversity of its composition and the potential of cross-linkages this Association offers. In addition, IORA has six Dialogue Partners consisting of China, France, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Japan and the United States of America, presenting further potential for collaboration on several mutually beneficial fronts.
Key Economic Indicators
When IORA was established, the founder states were acutely conscious that the Indian Ocean is the world's third largest ocean. It carries half of the world's container ships, one third of the bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world's oil shipments. It is a lifeline of international trade and economy. The region is woven together by the trade routes and commands control of major sea-lanes. In addition, the IORA has between a quarter and a third of the world's population (approximately two billion) which constitutes a considerable market. It is rich in strategic and precious metals, other natural and valuable marine resources as well as being abundant in agricultural wealth, in terms of the variety and mass of arable land, with significant human resources and technological capabilities.
The Association seeks to promote sustainable growth and balanced development in the Region among Member States, through Economic Dialogue and Cooperation in the following six priority areas:
(i) Maritime Safety & Security,
(ii) Trade & Investment Facilitation,
(iii) Fisheries Management,
(iv) Disaster Risk Management,
(V) Academic, Science & Technology,
(vi)Tourism & Cultural Exchanges
Under Australia’s leadership, promotion of women and children’s rights has been introduced as a cross-cutting feature of the priority areas.
The Special Fund of the Rim, to which Dialogue Partners contribute, enables member states to commit to various initiatives and projects to further develop cooperation in each of the six priority areas.
At a strategic level, IORA holds great potential as a platform for further enhancement of South-South cooperation. Towards reaching this strategic objective, the Association is undertaking several interventions, such as reaching out to Global Governance role players, and seeking mutual observer status with the African Union as well as with the United Nations and its affiliates. Institutionally, there has been an internal strengthening of structures, with key features being the Special Fund for financing joint projects in the priority areas, the Business Forum, the Academic Group and an affiliated independent Research Group. At an inter-governmental level, the structures consist of the observers, in the form of Dialogue Partners, the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and the Council of Ministers (COM) which meets annually.
Furthermore, the successive leadership by the four G20 members of the Association, namely India until 2013, Australia until 2015, Indonesia until 2017 and South Africa until 2019, has a common objective to give further impetus to IORA. Potential to optimise membership of IORA is vast across the several aspects of the Ocean Economy (also known as the Blue Economy) and each member that takes on a leadership role moves the Association closer to the objective of optimising the Blue Economy. In this context, South Africa will build on the foundations laid by previous Chairs when it assumes leadership from 2017 to 2019, as well as serve to complement the African Agenda as envisioned in Agenda 2063 of the African Union, during its tenure as Chair.