Member states of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) have to earnestly implement resolutions from their annual meetings of  fast-tracking development and fostering of peace in the region. That was a call by outgoing chairperson of the 21-member-state region Lindiwe Sisulu.

South Africa chaired Foreign Ministers Council from the region bordering the Indian Ocean. The association was established through the vision of former President Nelson Mandela.

21 IORA member states are seeking solutions for deeper economic ties, peace and stability and promoting sustainable development.

The region has half of the world’s population. It is the world’s third largest ocean also boasting island nations. The Indian Ocean region is home to nearly one-third of the world’s population estimated at about 2.6 billion people.

The region is of great economic significance due to its strategic location. It provides critical sea trade routes that connect the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Australasia.

Some of the challenges faced by these countries are piracy, robbery or illegal violence at sea, airplane crashes, natural disasters and unregulated fishing.

South Africa believes that IORA presents an opportunity to promote deeper economic co-operation among member states.

The Minister of International Relations and Co-operations Lindiwe Sisulu says it is important to ensure they improve safety in the borders.

“As we have seen in Indonesia and around the world recently, the importance of proving resilience and the responses to disaster and risk management in the region, this is an area of priority, focus that we all need to take forward with haste including the implementation of the IORA memorandum of understanding on search and rescue. Sustainable and responsible fisheries moans development including dealing with the important issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are also a priority issue that will receive attention during the remaining time of South Africa’s chairpersonship.”

Somali and Mozambique signed a memorandum of understanding. Abdukaldir Ahmedhery Abdi of the somali Foreign affairs and International Cooperation says IORA presents an opportunity to resuscitate their ailing economy.

“Somali suffered a long civil war for 27 years therefore the institution of government collapsed in 1991, but today we are in a good position to recover and IORA plays a good role to help Somali stand on its feet so it can claim it’s place in the world economy and also take part of Marine life of Africa and in that shore of Somali coast there are a lot of fish in there and that fish needs to be tapped. There’s a lot of resource that need to be explored so Somali economy will actually be in a good shape if we have the resources to tap those resources.”

The association also launched a new initiative – the Nelson Mandela Be The Legacy programme to assist young people with internships across the region.  Member states also pledged their support for the programme.

“I was excited therefore to learn of the establishment of the IORA Nelson Mandela Legacy Internship, I know my father would have been thrilled about this development as would Nomzamo Madikizela Mandela my mother would have been. With this internship we will be empowering young people not only to meet the crucial requirements of understanding and supporting the need to safeguard an Indian Ocean that is safe secure and sustainably developed but we will be sending a signal to them that they are seen, they are heard and they are encouraged to set the demands of the future,” says  daughter of the late Dr Nelson Mandela Zenani Mandela .

The region says it is considering applications for countries wishing to join the association. Already it has Dialogue Partners who fall outside of the region. United Arab Emirates will host and chair the next IORA meeting next year.