I welcome you all to the Curtain Raiser event of the 23rd Meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and 21st Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is an inter-governmental regional organisation aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. It has 23 Member States and 9 Dialogue Partners.
IORA was established in 1997. IORA’s apex body is the Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) which meets annually. A Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) meets twice a year to progress IORA’s agenda and consider recommendations by Working Groups and other forums. The Secretariat of IORA is located in Mauritius. IORA has six Priority and two Focus Areas namely Maritime Safety and Security, Fisheries Management, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Disaster Risk Management, Tourism & Cultural Exchanges, Academic, Science and Technological Cooperation, Blue Economy and Women’s Economic Empowerment.
Since the establishment of IORA, Bangladesh is first time elected as Chair for the period 2021-2023. We are assuming the Chairship with the theme ‘Harnessing the opportunities of Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development’. United Arab Emirates is the outgoing Chair. Sri Lanka is assuming the Vice-Chairship this year. As the Incoming Chair Bangladesh is hosting IORA’s 21st Council of Ministers (COM) and 23rd Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) Meetings in hybrid format consisting in-person and virtual participations. 23rd Committee of Senior Officials’ (CSO) Meeting will take place on 15-16 November 2021. 21st Council of Ministers’ (COM) meeting will take place on 17 November 2021. All the Member States and Dialogue Partners were invited. More than 15 Member States with 11 Ministerial level delegations are expected to join in-person. Another 8-10 Ministers/Vice Ministers/Deputy Ministers are expected join virtually. In total around 80 delegates are coming to Dhaka to participate in the meetings. They all are expected to meet our Hon’ble Prime Minister.
During our tenure, we vow to address all the challenges by capitalizing our strengths and turning our weaknesses into strengths to place IORA in the World Map as one of the most effective and dignified organizations. Our aim will be to move together as a region. To do that Bangladesh will prioritize capacity building of SIDS, LDCs and Developing States with the help from other Member States and Dialogue Partners. Keeping that in mind, Bangladesh will propose ‘IORA-Dhaka Development Initiative (IORA-DDI)’ to enhance capacity building through offering practical training, on-the job learning and physical demonstration in the areas where we have specialization and expertise. We will seek assistance of our Dialogue Partners for making this initiative an important tool for ensuring inclusive development in the region.
IORA is going to get a new Secretary General in this meeting. He is also coming to Bangladesh and will be introduced to the Council of Ministers. We hope that under his leadership we will be able make remarkable progress.
As you all know, Bangladesh is exceptionally vulnerable to Climate Change. Similarly, Indian Ocean Region, tagged as World’s Hazard Belt’, is always at the forefront of vulnerability to natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis. Climate Change is real and we realized even more that we have to face the reality. The Indian Ocean region is warming at a higher rate, which means the relative sea level can also increase over the regions and it will contribute to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-level areas and coastal erosion. Considering the gravity of the crisis and unifying role of IORA in this regard, Bangladesh will propose a platform for Climate Change within the framework of IORA.
As you know, during the recent COP-26, we adopted an outcome document. During our Chairship, we will also try to align IORA’s initiatives and projects with the outcomes of the COP as our strides to tackle the Climate Change in this region.
Given widespread interest about Indo-Pacific, we expect that IORA will chalk out its own vision of the Indo-Pacific, a vision for a free, open, peaceful, secure and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on international law and with shared prosperity for all, so that we promote sustainable Blue Economy in the region.
In presence of 12 Ministerial level delegations, the Meeting is expected to showcase Bangladesh’s hospitality and offer good image of Bangladesh. Becoming Chair of an important regional Organization is also matter of pride for us. We will have a press briefing after the meetings on 17 November 2021 at InterContinental at 1800 hrs. We will inform you about the updates, outcomes and achievements of the meeting on that day.
Thank you all.
H.E. Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, MP