The Third IORA Ministerial Blue Economy Conference (BEC-III) was held on 4-5 September 2019 in Dhaka, Bangladesh under the theme “Promoting Sustainable Blue Economy -- making the best use of opportunities from the Indian Ocean”. This Conference, which was jointly organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), assembled Ministers and senior officials responsible for Blue Economy of IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners to strengthen IORA’s Blue Economy agenda. It was attended by 21 Member States of the Association and four Dialogue partners. The conference also saw the participation of experts from the Member States, Dialogue Partners and institutions.
The inaugural session was graced by the presence of Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Honourable Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, who inaugurated the Conference, together with Rear Admiral (Retd) Khurshed Alam, Secretary MOFA Bangladesh, Her Excellency Ms. Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu, IORA Chair, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, H.E. Dr A.K Abdul Momen, Honourable Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, Secretary-General of IORA, H.E. Mr Michael W Lodge, Secretary-General of International Seabed Authority.
In her Inaugural speech, Hon’ble Prime Minister Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina pointed out that there are great opportunities to accelerate the sustainable development process of the IORA Member States through Blue Economy approach making best use of the untapped resources of the sea. The Prime Minister also reiterated the commitment of Bangladesh to increase its cooperation with the IORA which has become a platform for cooperation in the areas of maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk management, science and technology cooperation, tourism and cultural exchanges, and blue economy. She further reiterated that “there is an intricate relation between peace, security and sustainable development. We have to keep in mind that we cannot sacrifice the marine environment in pursuing economic growth. We should simultaneously look Blue Economic growth and think blue”. The Foreign Minister, H.E. Dr A.K Abdul Momen, pointed out that “We, the member states and dialogue partners, should consider sustainable Blue Economy strategy as driver for our development, enrichment of life and living and growth.” Her Excellency Ms. Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu, stated that young people can be included in our endeavours through having a sustainable development of the Blue Economy. Dr Nomvuyo N. Nokwe, Secretary-General of IORA stressed on the importance of tapping the unexploited valuable oceanic resources which the Indian Ocean possess in a sustainable way. Rear Admiral (Retd) Khurshed Alam stated that “This Conference will make at least a small contribution towards the future of our oceans and help put us on a path towards a more prudent use of the vitally important services; services that in so many ways we totally rely upon for our continued prosperity, security and welfare.” H.E. Mr Michael W Lodge, Secretary-General of International Seabed Authority laid emphasis on the importance of sharing knowledge on ocean resources and to have scientific knowledge of marine life.
The outcome document, the Dhaka Declaration was adopted unanimously at the Ministerial Meeting on 5 September 2019. In addition, Member States made announcements on the Blue Economy which included the launch of the IORA Blue Carbon Hub in Perth, Australia among others.
The Ministerial Conference was preceded by a Working Session by the IORA Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) on 4 May 2019. During the Working Session, experts from IORA Member States, Dialogue Partners, and International Organisations discussed issues related to: Harvesting sustainably blue opportunities; exploration of resources from seabed; enhancing maritime opportunities and logistic facilities and Governance. The meeting included insightful presentations by the experts and discussion sessions where the delegates had the opportunity to provide their views and raised issues of mutual interest, as well as provided recommendations for the way forward to strengthening cooperation and collaboration in developing these areas.
Various recommendations were presented from the working sessions where Member States attached high importance in the sharing of information, best practices, experience, promoting transfer of technology, promoting research and development, exploring financing strategies. In addition, the need to have skilled human capital, innovations and cleaned technologies to implement sustainable blue economy was highlighted. Member States also recognized increasing ocean shipping activities in the Indian ocean region in the future and were encouraged to share knowledge related with efficient processes and operations. Participants also acknowledged the importance of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) that has a vital role to play for better coordination among different sectors of the Blue Economy. Participants highlighted the need for cooperation with international organisations such as the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to explore resources from sea/seabed in the Indian Ocean region.
The Senior Officials discussed the outcome document, the “Dhaka Declaration on the Blue Economy”, as the way-forward for the sustainable development of the Blue Economy. Member States were encouraged to undertake research in new emerging sectors in Blue Economy for reaping economic benefits by value added approach which could include oyster culture, mariculture and marine flora.
With the increasing importance of the Blue Economy and the growing interest of IORA Member States to explore and exploit the resources from the Indian Ocean in a sustainable way, IORA strongly believe that this Conference will serve as a guide to uphold the visions of IORA and strengthen the multilateral partnerships, which IORA Secretariat will most certainly facilitate.