Thank you for coming to Perth, Australia’s Indian Ocean capital, for this 14th Ministerial Meeting and I appreciate the distances some have had to travel to be here.
We have reached the conclusion of this Council of Ministers’ Meeting and while today marks the mid point in my term as chair of IORA and the conclusion of one of IORA’s busiest years on record it also marks the beginning of next year and the work that we’ve done today will empower IORA to strike new heights and achieve new goals. We’ve signed the amended IORA charter to reflect our new name and logo and this is important symbolic affirmation of our commitment to support the ideals and values of our organisation.
We have stated to the world our collective commitment to ensuring our region continues to grow and prosper by endorsing an IORA Economic Declaration. For our part, for Australia’s part, I want to announce that we have established a $1 million Economic Diplomacy Fund to support initiatives that take forward IORA’s economic agenda. So a number of the matters we’ve discussed today I hope Australia will be able to fund through our Economic Diplomacy Fund.
We have unanimously expressed our desire to protect the safety and security of those who traverse the Indian Ocean. While not all member states have been able to sign IORA’s Memorandum of Understanding on search and rescue cooperation today, I’m confident that many more will do so in the near future. We will look forward to developing and broadening our cooperation over time to ensure that we can best protect lives in a rapidly changing world.
To further boost search and rescue cooperation, I’m pleased to announce the Australia will commit $2.6 million to strengthen the search and rescue capabilities in the Indian Ocean region, working with Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Maldives.
We have made a good start on embedding women’s empowerment across our six priority areas and I do challenge members to continue to build momentum behind this initiative. As I said this week, 'empowering women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do’.
I think we had excellent discussions today on the ‘blue economy’. Like the waters of the Indian Ocean it is crystal clear that the blue economy has great potential to bring greater prosperity to all our countries, whether through fishing, aquaculture, renewable energy, mineral exploration, coastal tourism or other areas.
Through the IORA Business Week we have created a stronger platform for Indian Ocean businesses to connect and share views with us and each other. Business links, and business friendly policies are critical to increasing trade and investment flows in the region and beyond.
We have adopted a proposal to map trade and economic agreements, memberships and dialogues across the region, our matrix, with the aim to identify new opportunities, to deepen our collective involvement in the growth of the region.
With the endorsement of the United Arab Emirates to become Vice Chair in 2017 I’m confident that IORA’s future will be bright. Our next three chairs – Indonesia, South Africa and now the UAE - will bring great strength and energy to the chair position and will serve IORA well.
The world around us can be a volatile and unpredictable place. International organisations, due to their complexity, often find it difficult to embrace new opportunities quickly or respond to breaking events. We now have a mechanism through which IORA can respond and adapt to events as they occur.
We welcome the increased interest of countries in our region to join IORA. It is a sign of IORA’s growing influence and stature as a regional organisation.
We continue to value our dialogue partners and the contribution they make to IORA. Dialogue partners bring a wealth of experience and support to our region. They are our link with the world at large.
We’ve made progress on connecting IORA with other regional and global organisations and look forward to closer ties with the United Nations, African Union and the Indian Ocean Commission.
We’re looking at new ways to better focus IORA on the implementation and recommendations from the growing number of IORA workshops and conferences. We have agreed to reform our sub fora – the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum and Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group. Both now have a strategic mission which will make them more efficient, more representative and better able to provide more focus and expert advice.
We have agreed to better resource IORA’s Secretariat to ensure it can continue to provide high quality support and advice and better service the growing needs of our organisation. And we’ve made the IORA Special Fund more accessible to our least developed and developing members and we’re confident that these measures will give them the ability to be more engaged and more active in this organisation.
We now look forward to the next Council of Ministers’ Meeting in which Australia will formally hand over the chair position to Indonesia. I’m confident Indonesia will lift this organisation to even greater heights.
I now ask my colleague from Indonesia to make some closing remarks.
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