CAPE TOWN, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) convened its ministerial meeting in Durban, eastern South Africa, on Friday with a call for multilateralism.
The IORA Council of Ministers Meeting, currently chaired by South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu, took place under the theme: “IORA – Uniting the Peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through Enhanced Cooperation for Peace, Stability and Sustainable Development.”
The meeting was held at a time when the coherence and stability of the global multilateral system is being tested severely, Sisulu said in her opening remarks.
“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,” Sisulu said.
IORA was established through the vision of late South African President Nelson Mandela in March 1997. The association has experienced growth in membership, from 14 to 21 countries, and organizational stature over recent years. The association is an economic cooperative community of littoral and island states whose shores are washed by the Indian Ocean.
As a dynamic inter-governmental organization, IORA is designed to strengthen regional cooperation and sustainable development through its member states and seven Dialogue Partners.
IORA has observer status at the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and the African Union.
Sisulu said 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,” she said.
Sisulu urged IORA members to use this approach to promote cohesiveness and unity among themselves, while resisting the emerging and very real threat of geopolitical rivalry taking root in the Indian Ocean region.
At Friday’s meeting, IORA ministers would focus on consolidating IORA’s membership and consider the applications of countries wishing to join the association as full member states, along with an increasing interest among countries outside of the region to join IORA as Dialogue Partners, according to Sisulu.
“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,” the minister said.
IORA ministers would also launch the “Be the Legacy” internship program as a contribution to empowering and capacitating the youth of the Indian Ocean region, she said.