Indian Ocean nations set guidelines on maritime security
Twenty-one nations bordering the Indian Ocean, comprising African, Asian and Oceanic states as part of an international organization, now have guidelines for maritime safety and security and five other priorities.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Concord was completed at the ongoing senior officials’ meeting, almost two decades since the organization was first formed in 1997, under the chairmanship of Indonesia from 2015 to next year. South Africa takes over next year.
The Concord will be signed during the first ever IORA Summit next year, to be held in Jakarta, to mark the organization’s 20th anniversary.
Although details were not revealed, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said Wednesday that the concord will strengthen ties between IORA members.
The Concord “[…] will be our main outcome from our chairmanship at the IORA,” she said after meeting IORA secretary-general KV Bhagirath at the Bali International Convention Center here.
“For the first time in its 20 years, we have a concord that will be the basis that will strengthen our cooperation in the pillars we have agreed on, which we cannot reveal now,” Retno said.
The concord comprises guidelines to IORA’s six priorities. Apart from maritime safety and security, they are trade and investment facilities, fisheries management, disaster risk management, research, science and technology, as well as tourism and cultural exchange.
One of the related issues in the guidelines will concern illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as Indonesia long fought for it to be a priority issue inserted into the concord throughout its chairmanship starting last October.
Illegal fishing poses a serious problem for the economies of coastal states and the sustainability of their fisheries, and has also threatened the stability of marine ecosystems. IUU fishing has contributed to Indonesia’s annual economic losses of up to US$20 billion because several fishing grounds have been heavily depleted.
Bhagirath confirmed that IUU fishing would be addressed under the issue of maritime safety and security, the organization’s top priority. He added other initiatives included a vocational training scheme for small and medium enterprises in Somalia and Yemen.
“The idea is to take, say, 10 Somali experts or businessmen — it could be private sector also — and 10 Yemeni experts or officials or businessmen and bring them all to another country to train,” he said.
South Africa is next in line to take the chairmanship after Indonesia next October until 2019. Deputy director general of Asia and the Middle East at South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Anil Sooklal, confirmed that IUU fishing would remain a priority under their leadership.
“We are all rich in fish and sea resources but we are not fully taking advantage of the capacity that exists within the oceans. […] we are all victims of IUU because as developing countries, we don’t have the real capacity to control our waters,” he said, citing South Africa’s 3,000 kilometer coastline.
On Thursday a council of ministers meeting will be held. So far, ministers and one deputy minister from 11 countries — Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the UAE — have already confirmed their attendance.