Distinguished Senior Officials and delegates;
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to welcome you all to the beautiful port city of Durban in the majestic Zulu Kingdom of Kwazulu Natal for the 17th Meeting of the Council of Ministers and related meetings.
Before I begin, let me express our condolences to the Government and people of Somalia, especially the families of the victims of the terrorist atrocity that took place in Mogadishu on 14 October. South Africa condemns this attack in the strongest terms, as well as terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations wherever it takes place.
I would like to extend a special welcome and express my sincere appreciation to my fellow outgoing members of the Troika, Minister Retno Marsudi, and Minister Julie Bishop who can unfortunately not be with us today. Together we have achieved tremendous progress through the remarkable elevation of IORA’s status and stature that was so clearly evident when Indonesia hosted the first Leaders’ Summit commemorating IORA’s twenty years of existence in March this year.
Her Excellency Minister Maitha Alshami, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, welcome to the Troika. Minister Marsudi and I are looking forward to working with you as we steer the Association to even greater heights.
I would also like to express my appreciation to Ambassador KV Bhagirath for his sterling leadership of the Secretariat. IORA is very grateful for your commitment and energy with which you managed the IORA Secretariat so successfully. You are a big part of why IORA is where it is today.
I am particularly pleased also to be able to rely on the Troika of Ministers as we embark on IORA’s third decade of existence. I am confident that we will consolidate the tremendous work done by our predecessors, and continue to guide the Association on its upward trajectory.
We gather here during an historic year in South Africa’s post-apartheid history. This year we mark 2017 as the Year of O. R. Tambo, which President Zuma so declared in honour of the centenary celebrations for Oliver Reginald Tambo, former President of the African National Congress, icon of our country’s liberation, and an illustrious son of South Africa. OR Tambo was born 100 years ago this month.
We salute and honour him as a visionary leader and an international statesman. Because of his and others’ sacrifices, South Africa now takes pride of place in leading international organisations and regional formations such as the IORA and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
OR Tambo envisaged an Indian Ocean region wherein all countries live in peace and harmony, a far cry from the destabilising actions of the previous regime in South Africa. Indeed, I remember in 1993 OR Tambo spoke in Mozambique and stated the following:
"In the Indian Ocean, we see Pretoria is deeply enmeshed in conspiracies against the Seychelles, in pursuance of the regime`s expansionist and aggressive designs against Africa, and in aid of imperialism`s global strategy for war. The ANC adds its voice to those of Mozambique and other littoral States in demanding that the Indian Ocean be declared a zone of peace - free of foreign military and naval bases, nuclear arms and other instruments of war that endanger peace and security."
Today South Africa is a responsible member of the international community as we seek to advance peace and security globally, including in the Indian Ocean Region. For this reason, we have adopted the following, as the theme of our chairship:
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 our view that the Indian Ocean Region should be characterised as a region of peace, stability and development within which to pursue the goal of promoting socio-economic cooperation for the wellbeing and development of the countries and peoples of the Indian Ocean Rim.
In contributing towards promoting the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace, stability and development, South Africa will work with Member States, Dialogue Partners and the international community to further advance this vision.
Three priorities will be pursued, namely: (i) Maritime Safety and Security in the region, including prioritising the establishment of the Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security; (ii) improving resilience and responses for disaster risk management, including prioritising the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Search and Rescue; and (iii) sustainable and responsible fisheries management and development, including dealing with the important issue of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.
As part of our commitment to continuity of leadership, we will strive to build on the successive leadership of the Association under the most recent Chairs, namely Indonesia, Australia and India. To this end, we will prioritise the further consolidation of cooperation along the six priority areas and two cross-cutting issues.
In strengthening the work programme of the Association, South Africa will work towards enhancing the implementation of the Jakarta Concord and IORA Plan of Action (2017 – 2021), which was adopted at the Leaders’ Summit in Indonesia in March 2017.
In this regard it will be important to ensure that the institutional mechanisms reflect the ongoing changes globally and within IORA, and we look forward to strengthening the Academic component of the Association, as well as the further strengthening of the Business Forum and Working Group on Trade and Investment.
We also look forward to an increased focus on Tourism, a critical sector with enormous opportunities for enhanced cooperation towards improved economic growth and development within IORA.
We will adopt an inclusive approach towards expanding the membership of the Association to eligible and interested countries.
South Africa will seek to deepen and broaden IORA’s interaction with the Dialogue Partners to elicit their greater involvement in and support for the work programme of IORA, building on the example set by China and Germany.
The Special Fund is an important feature in the Association’s work. It is now opportune for the Special Fund rules to become more outcomes based through pilot projects aimed at people-centered development that can be replicated and scaled-up in IORA Member States, especially in the Least Developed Countries.
Excelllencies ladies and gentlemen,
The African Agenda is an important pillar in South Africa’s foreign policy. To this end, the African Union has declared 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of African Seas and Oceans. The strategic context of this initiative is Agenda 2063, and the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy which South Africa will seek to align to IORA’s Blue Economy strategy through a proposed IORA-African Union Memorandum of Understanding.
As a country South Africa is faced with the considerable challenge of youth unemployment, which is a challenge we share with other developing country Member States within the Association. It is therefore our view that empowerment of the Youth also needs to be mainstreamed across the Association’s work alongside the Blue Economy and Women’s Economic Empowerment.
The management and use of water is also an important challenge and priority that we need to respond to as an Association. The outcomes and recommendations from the Water Science and Technology Working Group workshops will be important to take note of to ensure its implementation for the mutual benefit of all.
The Blue Economy is a vital feature of the Association, hence we will endeavour to maximise the commonalities and opportunities arising from South Africa’s Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy programme and IORA Member States’ ambitious oceans economy programmes. To this end, the elevation of the IORA Blue Economy Core Group to full Working Group status will be prioritised. Indeed, South Africa will continue to advance and champion the harnessing and development of the Blue Economy as an overarching priority in promoting economic growth and sustainable development in the region.
Excellencies ladies and gentlemen,
The imperative to strengthen the Association will not be limited to matters of substance, but will also include institutional matters, such as improving the functional efficiency of the Chair, and strengthening the capacity of the Secretariat. In improving the functional efficiency of the Chair we will determine agreed working modalities with the IORA Secretariat, and seek to strengthen the role of the Troika (South Africa, Indonesia and the UAE) through more formal and regularised consultations on important matters. In strengthening the capacity of the Secretariat, we would like to encourage Member States and Dialogue Partners to better capacitate the Secretariat in order to better serve the Member States.
The issues I have highlighted will constitute the crux of South Africa’s goals and ambitions during its tenure as Chair.
To give effect to these priorities, I am very pleased to announce that South Africa will make a financial contribution to IORA comprising approximately US$ 250 000. This contribution will comprise of several components inclusive of a contribution of US$ 150 000 to fund the implementation of the IORA Action Plan 2017-2021, particularly for the establishment of the new working groups on the Blue Economy, Maritime Safety and Security, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and the Core Group on Tourism.
Furthermore, we will allocate some US$ 100 000 to the IORA Special Fund for pilot projects aimed at improving the lives of IORA’s poorest people. Half of this amount (US$ 50 000) will be allocated to projects in Africa in support of the African oceans economy projects under the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy.
Finally, we will make a modest contribution to the Indian Ocean Rim Journal to support the burgeoning work of our academics.
In conclusion, I look forward to working with all of you, including our Dialogue Partner countries, in contributing towards steering the Association to greater heights, focused on ensuring a better life for all its peoples. I do believe, however, that South Africa cannot achieve everything that we have set out to do without the critical support and resources of Member States and Dialogue Partners alike. Indeed, IORA is the sum of us all, and it will only succeed with our combined commitment.