Opening Remarks and Country Statement by L N Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the IORA Council of Ministers meeting, 2 November 2018, Durban, South Africa
Distinguished Senior Officials and delegates
Ladies and gentlemen
Before I begin, let me express our sincere condolences to the Government and people of Indonesia in respect of the Lion Air JT610 airplane crash and the deadly earthquake and tsunami in the Central Sulawesi Island, as well as to the other Member States that have experienced tragic national disasters recently.
My fellow sisters and brothers, please be assured that the Council’s thoughts and prayers are with you and your people during this difficult period, and we extend our sympathy to those families who have lost their loved ones. I would like to ask that we observe a moments silence as a sign of respect.
It is a tremendous honour for me to welcome you all once again to the beautiful port city of Durban in the majestic Zulu Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal for the 18th Meeting of the IORA Council of Ministers.
This is a very special year, not only for South Africa, but also for some of our member countries. In our country and all across the world we are celebrating the centenary of former President Mandela. We remember Madiba as our founding father, having served as the first President of a democratic South Africa.
He will forever hold a special place in our hearts because of his values and dedication to the service of humanity as well as acknowledging his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world. Nelson Mandela was a true icon of democracy.
We also remember the role that Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi played in leading India to independence from British rule. He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, including in South Africa, where we acknowledge and celebrate his contribution to our struggle through his Satyagraha movement. He came to South Africa in 1893 and stayed here until 1914, while continuously opposing discrimination in South Africa’s four British colonies at the time.
This year we also celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the United Arab Emirates, who is remembered for his deep religious faith, vision, determination and hard work; his generosity at home and abroad; and the way in which he devoted his life to the service of his people and the creation of a better world.
Therefore, to my Vice Chair H.E. Ahmed Ali Mohamed Abdulla Alsayegh of the United Arab Emirates, a special welcome to South Africa. We look forward to working closely with you on a common trajectory to take IORA forward before we hand over to the UAE at the next Council of Ministers. We also look forward to confirming the new incoming Vice Chair at this time.
To the Secretary-General of IORA, Ambassador Dr Nomvuyo Nokwe, we have taken note of the good work that you and the Secretariat are engaged with, and once more we look forward to working closely with you in strengthening IORA even further.
We gather here during a historic year in South Africa’s post-apartheid history. We celebrate the centenary year of two of our heroes and icons: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela under the theme: “Be the legacy”, and Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu who dedicated her life to the service of her people under the theme: “A Woman of fortitude.” These celebrations are a major milestone in the incredible story of our nation’s journey to freedom and liberation.
The legacy of former President Mandela lives on with us as he left an indelible mark on our society, having laid the foundation for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society in South Africa. Internationally, President Mandela believed in working towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world.
Similarly, for us in the Indian Ocean Region, he left a legacy through his vision of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavours. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that this year’s COM will honour and pay tribute to its founding father and global icon.
In this regard, I am delighted to introduce to you Her Excellency and HRH Princess Zenani Mandela-Dlamini. As the daughter of former President Mandela, and South Africa’s current High Commissioner to the Republic of Mauritius where IORA is based, we could think of no better person to invite to attend the COM as a Special Guest, and with whom to engage at our special luncheon retreat on ways of “Enhancing the Mandela Legacy in IORA”. We are humbled by your presence Excellency.
This year’s COM takes place at a critical time in global politics and international relations. The geostrategic importance and profile of the Indian Ocean Region is growing rapidly, with an unprecedented focus and attention on the potential contribution that the Region can and should be making towards global security, economic growth, and sustainable development.
At a time when the coherence and stability of the global multilateral system is being tested severely, IORA provides us with a unique opportunity to enhance the spirit of multilateralism within one of the most diverse regions of the world, comprising a heterogeneous mix of developed countries, developing countries, Small Island States, and Least Developed Countries.
IORA can become a beacon of hope for multilateralism and regional cooperation in the world. As a collective, we are taking this opportunity to build and expand our understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation through IORA’s consensus-based evolutionary and non-intrusive approach.
As a group, we must use this approach to promote cohesiveness and unity within the Region, while resisting the emerging and very real threat of geopolitical rivalry taking root in the Indian Ocean Region. As Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, it is our space to protect and develop for the mutual benefit of all our peoples. We cannot do this alone.
Our vision for the region is encapsulated in our theme for our Chairship of “IORA: uniting the Peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through Enhanced Co-operation for Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development”. This theme encompasses South Africa’s view that the Indian Ocean Region should be characterized as a region of peace, stability and development; and we consider IORA as the pre-eminent regional organisation within which to pursue this ambitious goal.
Over the past year of our Chairship, we have been working tirelessly to strengthen the institution, including the Secretariat, and we were delighted to have hosted a technical Workshop in Mauritius in March that was aimed at improving the capacity and efficiency of the Secretariat in supporting the IORA Member States activities going forward. We would like to see such an engagement regularised on the calendar of IORA events annually.
As an Association, we must be dynamic and make sure that our structures and processes can adapt to the shifts in global trends and our own priorities. The Association’s institutional structure, through the Charter, is thus also being reformed to ensure that it is able to accommodate and respond to the new priorities and goals that we have identified in the Jakarta Concord and its Action Plan (2017-2021) to take the Association into its third decade and beyond. A revised Charter will give us this necessary flexibility and longevity.
To this end, we are establishing new dedicated functional bodies to deal specifically with IORA’s priorities in areas such as Maritime Safety and Security, the Blue Economy, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Tourism. At the same time, we are also looking to revitalise existing institutional mechanisms to enhance Trade and Investment facilitation, with a focus on the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises, while also strengthening and increasing the role of academia in IORA, as was envisaged at the founding of the Association.
As we have seen in Indonesia and around the world recently, the importance of improving resilience and responses for disaster risk management in the Region cannot be over emphasised. This is an area of priority focus that we will need to take forward with haste, including the implementation of the IORA Memorandum of Understanding on Search and Rescue.
Sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development, including dealing with the important issue of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) are also priority issues that will receive attention during the remaining time of South Africa’s Chairship.
Further, we are focused on consolidating IORA’s membership and look forward to considering the applications of countries wishing to join the Association as full Member States, along with an increasing interest amongst countries outside of the region to join IORA as Dialogue Partners. This is testament to the growing importance and relevance of this organization globally, and we are developing mechanisms and criteria to deepen and broaden our engagement with, and support from, our Dialogue Partners.
Likewise, IORA continues to also develop and expand its relationships with international bodies and agencies, and we welcome a number of Memoranda of Understanding between IORA and international institutions, as well as amongst IORA Member States for cooperation on areas such as Search and Rescue, and in promoting Small and Medium Enterprises.
In conclusion, IORA is an organisation on the ascendency and one that cannot and should not be ignored.
Once more it is my pleasure to welcome you all to South Africa. In the event that you may wish us to attend to any of your concerns during your stay in Durban, please do let us know and we shall do our best to respond accordingly. As I conclude, I would also like to thank the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the city of Durban, eThekwini, for their generosity and collaboration with us in hosting this Meeting in this beautiful Province.
I thank you!