The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA): a key player in the Indian Ocean regional architecture
The Indian Ocean Rim Association is an inter-governmental organisation which was established on 7 March 1997.
The vision for IORA originated during a visit by late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to India in 1995, where he said: “the natural urge of the facts of history and geography should boraden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio economic cooperation”.
This sentiment and rationale underpinned the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in March 1995, and the creation of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (then known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation) two years later, in March 1997.
The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean woven together by trade routes, commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, and remains an important lifeline to international trade and transport.
Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, Member States whose shores are washed by the ocean are rich in cultural diversity and richness in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines.
They vary considerably in terms of their areas, populations and levels of economic development. They may also be divided into a number of sub-regions (Australasia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Eastern & Southern Africa), each with their own regional groupings (such as ASEAN, SAARC, GCC and SADC, to name a few). Despite such diversity and differences, these countries are bound together by the Indian Ocean.
IORA’s apex body is the Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) which meets annually.The United Arab Emirates (UAE) assumed the role of Chair since November 2019 – November 2021, followed by the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. A committee of Senior Officials (CSO) meets twice a year to progress IORA’s agenda and consider recommendations by Working Groups and forums of officials, business and academics to implement policies and projects to improve the lives of people within the Indian Ocean Member States.
The year 2017 is a landmark for IORA, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Association as a proactive inter-governmental organisation with an ever growing importance within the Indian Ocean region. Strengthening the ties that bind Member States whose shores are washed by the Indian Ocean waters, IORA remains committed to build and expand understanding and mutually beneficial cooperation through a consensus based evolutionary and non-intrusive approach in the rapid changing environment faced by the region.
Today, IORA is a dynamic organization of 23 Member States and 9 Dialogue Partners, with an ever-growing momentum for mutually beneficial regional cooperation through a consensus-based, evolutionary, and non-intrusive approach.
The blue economy sector, which was included in the IORA priorities in 2014, has gained increasing importance over the years.
The IORA membership is made up of very diverse countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, United Arab Emirates, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Somalia, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Yemen.
IORA also has dialogue partners: China, Egypt, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and most recently, Italy.