Addressing the 16th Council of Ministers Meeting (CoMM) of IORA held in Bali, Indonesia today, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that it was necessary for IORA and the members to take collective steps to ensure the security of the Indian Ocean.
He said this should include the freedom of navigation, aviation and adherence to international law including UNCLOS, enhance scientific and academic cooperation amongst IORA members, protect, preserve and use ocean resources sustainably guided by international law and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, enhance preparedness to deal with ocean based disasters and un-assessed impact of climate change on ocean weather, establish mechanism for development finance within IORA and expand and broad base IORA’s partners for more intense and meaningful cooperation.
Speaking further, Foreign Minister Samaraweera also stated that Sri Lanka has been focusing on the Blue Economy due to the economic potential it offers and the availability of aquatic resources, and observed that blue economy-related initiatives have the potential to uplift the economic conditions of the people.
Moving on to the many developments that are currently taking place across the world, the Minister pointed out to the need to measure the progress made so far by IORA, in order to chart a course for greater regional collaboration. In this context, he stated that sharing experiences in joint projects and technical co-operation amongst IORA states in order to ensure the sustainable use of the ocean resources would be useful.
Minister Samaraweera also stated that Sri Lanka is co-hosting the Second Water Working Group meeting and Ocean Forecasting Workshop to Build Capacity for Indian Ocean Operational System, in Colombo, in mid-November this year, which was also in line with Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthen the cooperation with IORA.
Noting the progress made in the areas of economic empowerment of women and the institutional strengthening of the IORA, the Foreign Minister added that on the eve of IORA’s 20th Anniversary in 2017 and the proposed Leader’s Summit in 2017, Sri Lanka was keen to further enhance its role in IORA. He also called for a more meaningful engagement of IORA’s dialogue partners in a constructive manner and to further explore mechanisms to encourage more interaction and participation among the stakeholders.
Prior to his address, Foreign Minister Samaraweera also signed the IORA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Governments of the Member States of the IORA for the Coordination in Search and Rescue Services in the Indian Ocean Region.
The Minister also expressed condolences to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Madam Retno Marsudi, on the passing away of her father, before commencing his address.
The IORA, initially formed in 1997 as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-AC), later became known as IORA in 2010. It currently consists of 21 member countries.
On the sidelines of the CoMM, Foreign Minister Samaraweera also held bilateral discussions with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Australia, in addition to a meeting with the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa. (Colombo Gazette)