The Republic of South Africa, the current Chair of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), convened the Ninth Bi-annual CSO Meeting on 19 – 20 June in Durban, with the support of the IORA Secretariat. This Meeting brought together 18 IORA Member States, the Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT), and the Chair in Indian Ocean Studies (CIOS) to take stock of IORA’s progress in each Priority Area, identify priorities during the remaining term of the Action Plan 2017-2021, and consider next steps in preparing the new IORA Action Plan post-2021.
Senior Officials underscored their commitment to strengthen collaboration within the Indian Ocean region. The Meeting highlighted various topics including the Indo-Pacific concept on which a dedicated session will be held at the Indian Ocean Dialogue later this year. Senior Officials also welcomed a number of offers from Member States for events entailing capacity building, sharing of experience and funding special programmes. Discussions bolstered the effort to build up constructive dialogue with IORA’s partners in order to engage them in a meaningful way. In terms of efforts for enhancing IORA’s visibility and outreach programmes, Member States welcomed the proposal to celebrate 7 March each year as IORA Day.
The Current Chair, Ambassador Sooklal, acknowledged the significant achievements made during South Africa Chairship, including the advancement of IORA’s Action Plan (2017 – 2021). The progress made so far on the Action Plan was reviewed and the impact gauged in order to suggest the way forward. He reported that by “working together we have achieved significant milestones” and believed that this “will put the Association in a position to become one of the major regional bodies that can contribute, as a grouping to the greater global good, in addition to re-enforcing its position as the Apex Organisation for the Indian Ocean.”
In her remarks, Ms Amna Al-Suwaidi, Vice-Chair, expressed the support of UAE to further promote, expand, and develop cooperation under the auspices of IORA which is growing in economic, political, and strategic importance. She highlighted UAE’s commitments to IORA in their upcoming Chairship later this year and promised to build upon the momentum generated by South Africa’s in further strengthening the bonds that exist between IORA Member States.
H.E. Dr N. Nokwe, Secretary General of IORA stressed on the fact that Member States must continue to revitalise IORA giving a stronger international voice to issues which are important to the Indian Ocean region and to fully embrace the diverse membership of the Association. She also stated that “We are very excited about the forthcoming Chairship of the UAE, and we look forward to the priorities and preparations for this dynamic Chairship”.
This bi-annual CSO meeting constituted the last institutional meeting that South Africa hosted as part of its IORA Chairmanship that commenced in 2017. UAE would take over at the end later this year.