The People's Republic of Bangladesh hosted the 21st IORA Council of Ministers (COM) Meeting on 17 November 2021, in a hybrid format (in-person & virtually). IORA held its first Council of Ministers Meeting in a hybrid format amidst the pandemic, welcoming its 23 Member States and 9 Dialogue Partners in-person in Dhaka, and virtually. The United Arab Emirates handed over the Chairship to the People's Republic of Bangladesh which assumed the position of the IORA Chair during the 21st IORA COM Meeting and adopted the theme of “Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development” for its Chairship from 2021 – 2023.
The 21st IORA COM was inaugurated by H.E. Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State of the UAE, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Relations of the United Arab Emirates and Past Chair of IORA, ‘’I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Bangladesh on their Golden Jubilee of Independence, as well as the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangladesh has been a vital pillar of IORA’s leadership structure during the UAE’s Chairship, and for that, I extend my sincere thanks on behalf of all Member States’’. In addition, H.E. Sayegh highlighted that ‘’… today the UAE hands over the IORA Chairship for the period of 2021 to 2023 to my dear colleague, His Excellency Dr A K Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. As we meet today under the theme of “Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development”, I reflect on the strategic continuity with the UAE’s own theme of “Promoting a Shared Destiny and Path to Prosperity in the Indian Ocean”. The renewed emphasis on sustainability and inclusivity was emphasised by H.E. Sayegh for the ongoing growth and success of IORA, underlining Member States collective commitment to improving economic and development outcomes across the region. It is worth to note His Excellency’s announcement of the final legacy initiative of UAE’s Chairship, the Sheikh Zayed IORA Scholarship for Humanitarian Action and Development.
H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, MP, Honourable Foreign Minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and Chair of IORA, chaired the COM Meeting. H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen stressed that ‘’ IORA has evolved into an important regional group spanning the Indian Ocean through sustained dialogue and cooperation and now is playing as a key driving force to ensure development, peace and stability in the region.’’. In particular H.E. Momen highlighted that ‘’ 2022 is a historic landmark for IORA as it marks the 25th anniversary of its foundation. We feel fortunate that this grand occasion will be celebrated during our Chairship. In coordination with the IORA Secretariat, we are planning to rejoice the landmark moment with some grand events’’.
The COM also welcomed the new IORA Vice-Chair during the opening session, H.E. Prof. G. L. Peiris, Honourable Foreign Minister, Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. H.E. Peiris expressed Sri Lanka’s readiness to raise IORA to the next level as the Vice-Chair, and its focus on environmentally safeguarding the maritime shipping lanes and IORA’s ocean space from pollution.
Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan, Acting Secretary-General of IORA, conveyed sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Government of Bangladesh, for hosting the 21st IORA COM and its related Meetings in a hybrid format. ‘’Bangladesh is assuming the Chair at a crucial juncture as the Association moves towards its 25th year of its existence… Many things have changed since IORA’s launch in 1997. It has grown in both membership and its institutional mechanisms necessary to manage its priority areas and cross cutting issues’’ highlighted Dr. Gunawan. ‘’ We are now enduring the Covid-19 pandemic which has taught us many valuable lessons and made us rethink our strategies and way of working.’’. Dr. Gunawan (Seconded Director from Indonesia) is serving as the current Acting IORA Secretary-General since 1 February 2021 until 31 December 2021.
Additionally, the 23rd Meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) held from 15 – 16 November 2021 and was chaired by H.E. Rear Admiral (Retd.) Md. Khurshed Alam, Secretary, Maritime Affairs Unit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
The IORA meetings were attended by IORA Member States, Dialogue Partners and Specialised Agencies, and its Observers. The IORA Foreign Ministers adopted the Dhaka Communique as the outcome document for the first IORA hybrid Meeting of the COM and the CSO.
Other notable achievements included:
- acknowledged the valuable contributions made by the United Arab Emirates during its Chairship (2019-2021) and the role the UAE played as Chair to uphold the spirit of the Association amidst the pandemic.
- welcomed the People's Republic of Bangladesh as the IORA Chair, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as the Vice Chair of the Association respectively for the period of 2021 to 2023.
- commended the theme selected by Bangladesh for the period of its Chairship: “Harnessing the opportunities of Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development”.
- commended the Republic of South Africa for its proactive role and noteworthy contribution as an important member of the IORA TROIKA.
- adoption of the Second IORA Action Plan (2022-27).
- welcomed the strategic dialogue on the Impact of Covid-19 and perspectives of economic recovery in the Indian Ocean Region.
- agreement to include the Russian Federation as the 10th Dialogue Partner of the IORA.
- congratulated H.E. Salman Al Farisi from Indonesia for being selected as the new Secretary-General of IORA.
- adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for promoting resilience of new and the existing infrastructures to reduce and eliminate climate and disaster risks within the Indian Ocean Region.
- adoption of the IORA Guidelines for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
- welcomed Mr. Sheikh Fazle Fahim from Bangladesh as the Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF).
- welcomed the Guidelines on the strategic management of IORA’s engagement with Dialogue Partners
- welcomed the establishment of the Working Group on Disaster Risk Management (WGDRM), tourism platforms (digital or otherwise) for the sharing of best practices and the upcoming workshop on the opportunity to develop and adopt common IORA guidelines to prevent entry of IUU fisheries products within IORA Member States’ supply chains.
- appreciated the training programs conducted in the field of Geospatial Information Technology (GIT), Ocean Data Management, Nature-Based Solutions for Coastal Risk Reduction, Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP), Women in Tourism, Rewriting Business Strategies for the Global Pandemic for Women-led Businesses, Project Management and Coastal Desalination Intake and Brine Disposal System-Planning, Design and Implementation as part of capacity building initiatives in the Indian Ocean Region.
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