International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, has called on world leaders to urgently take action to protect the oceans and people who depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
Pandor was speaking on Wednesday at the 23rd Council of Ministers (COM) meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) held in Sri Lanka.
The IORA’s priorities, according to Pandor, are in recognition of the fact that 40% of the world’s population lives near coastal areas.
More than three billion people use the oceans for their livelihood, while 80% of world trade is achieved using the seas, the Minister said.
“The oceans, seas and coastal areas contribute to food security and poverty eradication.
“And yet, the oceans are under severe threat by human activities, where economic profits are at the expense of environmental degradation.”
Pandor highlighted acidification, pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication and fishery collapse as some of the issues facing the marine ecosystem.
“These threats are detrimental to the planet and are long-term repercussions that demand urgent action to protect the oceans and the people who depend on them.
“The Indian Ocean region, therefore, should remain our own peaceful zone from which we can enhance opportunities in trade and further develop our nations by advancing the protection that our oceans so dearly deserve.”
The Minister believes that the gatherings have succeeded in developing clear concepts around the IORA Development Initiative (IDI).
“I am also pleased that the High-Level Strategic Dialogue meeting, which was co-chaired by South Africa and the Secretariat, was a resounding success.”
The meeting, she said, reflected on the status quo and a vision of how the IORA should proceed.
“Several discussions were held on, amongst others, the achievements and challenges of the IORA’s first 25 years and what that meant for the IORA’s future work and the implementation of the IORA’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.”
Pandor is of the view that these issues are significant and will continue to help strengthen the association that is becoming increasingly important on the global stage.
“IORA member States and dialogue partners made it clear that they desire collaboration, regional cooperation, freedom of navigation, consensus building actions, partnerships, shared prosperity, rules-based norms in the Indo-Pacific and not disunity, hostility, divergence and increased military presences.”
South Africa, according to Pandor, looks forward to the completion of the zero-base document which she believes should be adopted and followed by implementation at the earliest opportunity.
“The document will provide a vision of future activities of the IORA and the role our various regions could play.”
In addition, Pandor announced that the IORA Business Forum’s South African Chapter has developed a concept note on the creation of an IORA Business Forum Digital Portal.
“This portal will connect us, reduce transactional costs, while creating a trading platform and make it easy to trade in our region and beyond.
“Working jointly at creating a region of peace means we can achieve operational optimisation within the region and achieve energy efficient technology acquisition – this would be a conducive environment that could ensure the continued sustainable development of the IORA region,” she said.
Source: South African Government News Agency