8 March 2022
7 March 2022 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
#IORA is an international organisation consisting of 23 states bordering the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean which is woven together by trade routes. This is also where 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 travel. This makes the Indian Ocean an important lifeline to international trade and transport.
The significance of this international body to the region was further reiterated by the late Former President Nelson Mandela, who in 1995 during his visit to India stated that: “the natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean rim for socio-economic co-operation.”
On 7 March IORA celebrated grandly its 25th Anniversary in a hybrid format – in-person in Mauritius and virtually. The celebration included an Official Reception Ceremony and a special dedicated cross-cultural segment.
The Hon. Alan Ganoo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade and Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail of the Republic of Mauritius graced the occasion as Chief Guest, while Delegates from the Diplomatic Missions of IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners, International and Regional Organizations based in Mauritius attended the Silver Jubilee Celebration. H.E. Salman Al Farisi, Secretary General of IORA Chaired the reception ceremony.
On this special occasion, Troika Foreign Ministers, Foreign Ministers, State Ministers and Senior Officials from IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners extended congratulatory messages that were broadcasted during the reception. In his speech, Foreign Minister Alan Ganoo welcomed and congratulated all IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners for joining the IORA Day 2022 celebrations and highlighted the establishment of the Association in Mauritius during 1997. The Hon. Minister stated that, “over the past 25 years, our Association has achieved important milestones, including the convening of the First Summit of Heads of States and Government in 2017, the adoption of the Jakarta Concord and IORA Action Plan and the setting up of sectoral Working Groups, just to name a few.” In addition, he further highlighted that Mauritius would be issuing a special commemorative stamp for the Silver Jubilee of IORA in July 2022. The Foreign Minister also announced that Mauritius would be hosting the Third Ministerial Conference on Maritime Security in May 2022 in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), and invited IORA Member States to join the Ministerial Conference.
In his remarks, H.E. Salman Al Farisi, Secretary-General of IORA expressed his warm congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of the foundation of IORA. He said that the establishment of IORA on 07 March 1997 opened up a new historic chapter for socioeconomic cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, and further stressed that IORA continues to build and work on intensifying cooperation to achieve the objectives of the Association’s six priority areas and cross-cutting issues. He highlighted the achievement of IORA in the past 25 years including the expansion of memberships from 14 founding Member States to 23, and 10 Dialogue Partners spread across the globe. The Secretary General also mentioned the challenges confronted by the Indian Ocean region including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and threats of Climate Change, and urged everyone to work together towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indian Ocean region.
The reception ceremony commenced with the live broadcasting of the official IORA Day 2022 video. Later, Hon. Foreign Minister, H.E. Alan Ganoo, and the IORA Secretary General, H.E. Salman Al Farisi, unveiled the special IORA 25 Years Commemorative Magazine, with articles submitted by high-ranking officials, academics and development experts from IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners. The Hon. Ganoo and H.E. Al Farisi also unveiled a book, entitled ‘IORA’s Past, Present and Future Book’ by Prof. V.N Attri, Former Chair in Indian Ocean Studies (CIOS) at the IORA Secretariat. In addition, Hon. Ganoo announced the top three winners of the First Edition of the IORA Youth Writing Competition. Mustun Zuhayr from Mauritius secured the first place while Sharad Mitra from Bangladesh and Eliya Peter from Tanzania stood for second and third places respectively. The top three winners’ articles are included to the 25th Commemorative Magazine and are recognised as ‘IORA Youth Ambassadors’, which would be expected to promote the Association among their educational networks and forums.
In the cross-cultural segment of the reception, 13 IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners namely, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mauritius, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania participated, showcasing the rich diversity of IORA’s Members.
The vision for IORA to strengthen economic co-operation between the countries bordering the Indian Ocean, originated during a visit by late President Nelson Mandela of the Republic of South Africa to India in 1995, where he said: “The natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavours. Recent changes in the international system demand that the countries of the Indian Ocean shall become a single platform.” This sentiment and rationale underpinned the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative (IORI) in March 1995, and the creation on 7 March 1997 of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC), as IORA was then called.