On behalf of the Australian Government and our people, I extend again our deepest sympathies to Ibu Retno on the death of her father. And I thank her for hosting us with such generosity and warmth.
We are gathered here in Bali for the 16th IORA Council of Ministers meeting - what a beautiful Indian Ocean location.
The Indian Ocean matters. In Australia, we are increasingly focussed on the Indo-Pacific as the strategic and economic system on which Australia’s future security and prosperity depends. We need to build better and stronger habits of dialogue and cooperation across the Indian Ocean. And IORA can play a key role.
I believe in IORA, its potential, its power and its value to our region. When I handed over the Chair last October, I was determined that Australia would continue to invest in IORA’s development.
I thank Indonesia for its leadership in announcing a Leaders' Summit and an IORA Concord to mark IORA's 20th anniversary next year. Such high ambition is truly commendable.
Both these initiatives are symbolically important and have the potential to create a stronger sense of Indian Ocean identity. They will be valuable in raising IORA’s international profile.
My Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, looks forward to receiving an invitation to the Leaders’ Summit, and I’m very hopeful of his attendance.
It is critical that leaders endorse a high level, strategic and concise IORA Concord which can provide a roadmap for IORA's future work.
We should maximise the unique opportunity of the Leaders' Summit to discuss issues of regional and global concern, beyond IORA's underlying economic and technical cooperation mandate.
Maintaining maritime safety and security remains a key priority for Australia. Another issue leaders should discuss is countering terrorism and violent extremism. We cannot underestimate the costly impact of terrorism and violent extremism, in all its forms, to regional and international peace and security, economic development and social cohesion. I hope to see productive discussions by our leaders on this and other important issues.
Australia puts great emphasis on harnessing the power of innovation to tackle global development challenges and to improving economic productivity in our region.
A year ago in Padang, I launched Australia's AUD3 million Blue Economy Aquaculture Challenge. The response to this Challenge was overwhelming, with 220 new ideas from 41 countries.
The nine winning innovations – which I announced at the Our Ocean Conference last month in Washington - were selected on their potential not only to transform aquaculture globally but also to significantly improve the economic and development benefits for communities in the Indian Ocean region.
The projects ranged from bio-engineered algae to deliver vaccines to fish, through insect-based protein ingredients for fish feeds, to new ways to grow seaweed that are adapted to suit women farmers.
We were delighted to see that several of these winners were from IORA countries, including Madagascar, Thailand, Tanzania, South Africa, and Malaysia.
Today I am pleased to announce a tenth and final winner of our Blue Economy Challenge.
It is an exciting collaboration between WorldFish and Australia's own premier scientific agency, the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The project will bring cutting edge Australian fish feed research to emerging markets.
The team will begin its work here in Indonesia - working with local shrimp farmers from the Aceh Aquaculture Cooperative to trial this innovation.
Alongside the blue economy, a key priority for Australia in IORA is women's economic empowerment.
Australia held a high-level IORA Women in Business Symposium in Jakarta earlier this month, bringing together senior business leaders and chamber of commerce representatives from 14 IORA member states to discuss how businesses can support the economic empowerment of women in our region. Empowering women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
I am pleased to report that eight companies signed on to the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles at the event, including the first ever from Madagascar and Iran.
I am encouraged to see other member states seeking to put women's empowerment initiatives on the agenda - it is critical that we all support this important work. Later this afternoon, we will adopt an IORA Declaration on Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment.
We know that investing in women and girls and promoting their full participation in the economy is critical to economic growth and sustainable development in the region. Endorsement of the declaration is a powerful statement of intent.
I remain convinced that a strong Secretariat is vital to a strong Association. That's why I announce today that Australia will make available AUD100,000 for institutional strengthening and capacity building activities for the IORA Secretariat and its staff.
We will also continue our efforts to encourage broader member state engagement in IORA activities with a further AUD100,000 contribution to the IORA Special Fund.
As the only ministerial-level forum spanning the Indian Ocean, I remain committed to our collective efforts to make IORA a stronger and more practically-oriented regional institution.
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