The United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the 11th Bi-annual Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) Meeting from 15 – 16 June 2021, virtually.
The IORA Chair, the United Arab Emirates, and the Secretariat, welcomed IORA’s 23 Member States to the 11th Bi-annual CSO Meeting which was held virtually this year considering the prevailing challenges and conditions of the pandemic throughout the region and world. The Senior Officials convened the two-day Meeting to discuss ways in coordinating efforts to achieve IORA’s vision for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indian Ocean region as outlined in the Jakarta Concord and IORA Action Plan (2017 – 2021).
Member States discussed and provided strategic vision to track and progress the objectives set in achieving IORA’s agenda for its six priority and two cross-cutting focus areas. The Bi-annual meeting set the pace to achieve the remaining objectives for 2021, which is to be discussed and adopted at the 21st Council of Ministers (COM) to be held later this year by the incoming Chair, the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
During the opening session, the Vice Chair, Rear Admiral (Retd.) Md. Khurshed Alam, Secretary, Maritime Affairs Unit of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, stressed that ‘’IORA has always been a platform for its Member States to promote sustained growth and balanced development within the Indian Ocean region… It is a platform where we collectively pursue sustainable development in the region.’’.
The Acting Secretary General, Dr Gatot Gunawan, highlighted that ‘’IORA continued to make good progress during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on furthering the discussions on Maritime Safety and Security, delivering capacity building for women entrepreneurs in partnership with UN Women, and advancing the region’s understanding of blue carbon issues through the IORA Blue Carbon Hub''.
The meeting agenda highlighted various topics regarding the strategic objectives of the Association, and the progress of charting the way forward for preparing the new IORA Action Plan (2022 – 2026), including engagement with IORA’s Dialogue Partners and international organisations, and finalising the eligibility and criteria for selecting the new Secretary-General of IORA. Moreover, the meeting noted special IORA programmes such as the IORA Human Development Fund by the United Arab Emirates and the IORA Connecting the Youth of the Indian Ocean Region Writing Competition launched during the IORA Day 2021 virtual celebrations.
The Bi-annual was chaired by H.E. Abdul Nasser Al Shaali, Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates. The guidance and support from the UAE have been instrumental in conducting IORA’s institutional meetings virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. The UAE assumed the position of the IORA Chair in November 2019 during the 19th COM and adopted the theme of “Promoting a Shared Destiny and Path to Prosperity in the Indian Ocean” for its Chairship from 2019 – 2021. This Bi-annual CSO is the last institutional meeting to be held by the UAE in its capacity as the Chair before handing over to the People's Republic of Bangladesh later this year.
Other notable achievements included:
- The launching of the IORA-UN Women report on “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Indian Ocean Rim: Progress and Challenges” by IORA Secretary-General Gunawan and Australian Senior Official to IORA, Dr Christian Hirst;
- welcoming the recent signing of IORA’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by Indonesia, Iran and Kenya;
- approving a Financing Agreement between IORA and the Agence Française de Developpement (AFD) to strengthen the Secretariat, an activity under the IORA-AFD Memorandum of Understanding;
- welcoming the nomination of the incoming Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF), Mr Shiekh Fazle Fahim of Bangladesh;
- welcoming the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Governments of the Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for the Coordination and Cooperation of Search and Rescue (SAR) Services in the Indian Ocean Region by Indonesia;
- welcoming the implementation of the IORA-UNITAR MoU with GIZ support for the hosting of the first part of the IORA-UNITAR programme for capacity building and training using satellite technology in Disaster Risk Management;
- welcoming the ongoing work by Sri Lanka as the Chair for the Ad-hoc Working Group for the eligibility and criteria for selecting the new Secretary-General;
- welcoming ongoing work to establish the IORA Human Development Fund, aimed towards closing the region’s human development gaps;
- welcoming new project proposals from Member States to enhance cooperation in IORA’s six priority and two cross-cutting areas; and
- welcoming the Ocean Knowledge Education Programme to strengthen the Blue Economy concept in the IORA region – A pilot study incorporating ‘’Sustainable Ocean Management’’ into the curriculum for 12 – 13 years old by the Seychelles.