Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Joint Op-Ed

  • Articles and op-ed
  • The Hon Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister of Australia
  • Shri Salman Khurshid, External Affairs Minister of India
  • Dr Marty Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia
02 November 2013

The 13th meeting of ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association in Perth yesterday was the first chaired by Australia in the organisation’s 16-year history. 

Australia succeeded India and Indonesia became the new vice-chair. 

The IORA consists of 20 member states. They reflect the remarkable diversity of our Indian Ocean region and represent from small island countries, such as Comoros and Seychelles, to G20 members such as India, Indonesia and Australia. What unites this remarkable diversity is the common bond of an ocean and a common commitment to the prosperity and sustainable economic growth of the region. 

As global economic power increasingly shifts to the east, maintaining prosperity and stability across the Indian Ocean region becomes more important than ever. 

The IORA has six agreed priority areas: maritime safety and security; trade and investment facilitation; fisheries management; disaster preparedness; academic, science and technology cooperation; and tourism and cultural exchange. 

Members at yesterday’s meeting committed to initiatives to further develop cooperation in each of these areas. Member states, together with our dialogue partners which include China, Egypt, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, believe that by focussing on these key areas the IORA can contribute to the peaceful, productive and sustainable development of the Indian Ocean region. 

The member states are also linked by common challenges - the need to keep shipping lanes open, to keep fishery stocks viable, to prepare for disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and to promote trade, education and tourism links. With the combined population of the 36 countries surrounding the Indian Ocean forecast to rise to 3.2 billion by 2030, these challenges can only be expected to exacerbate. 

We must work hard together to ensure that the people of the region have access to the best possible levels of education. The empowerment of women and girls in the region will be a high priority. During Australia’s chairing of the organisation the Ambassador for Women and Girls will have an important role in this.

We must ensure that, especially for those countries which rely heavily on the resources of the sea, sustainable fisheries management practices are in place. The tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean produce about one-third of the world’s tuna — half of it caught by small vessels in the waters of the coastal states. 

The common threat of piracy poses a considerable challenge. It was notable during the meeting how many member states reflected on the impact of piracy in our region. The World Bank estimates that piracy costs the global economy about US$18 billion a year in increased trade costs- an amount that dwarfs the estimated US$53 million average annual ransom paid. IORA members are integral players in counter-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean. In addition to combating piracy there are the challenges of ensuring maritime security and maritime safety across the region and preparing for the all too tragic consequences of natural disasters.

We are proud to have joined our colleagues from the member states and dialogue partner countries to declare our support for the Perth Principles for peaceful, productive and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.

We recognise the important contribution this will make to eradicating poverty, creating sustainable livelihoods and decent work around the region, and helping sustain economic growth and food security.

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