Founded in 1997, IORA is designed to enhance trade and co-operation between the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Rim. The Maldives was approved as a member state of IORA by consensus decision of the 18th meeting of the Council of Ministers held on 2nd November 2018 in Durban South Africa; this decision was finalized at a ceremony held at the 19th meeting of Council of Ministers, held in the UAE in 2019. The Maldives joined the Association as its twenty second member.
IORA has 23 Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners (observers). The Member States of IORA are: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. The Dialogue Partners of IORA are: China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Türkiye, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
As per the overarching guiding document of IORA, the IORA Charter, the chief decision-making body of IORA is the Council of Ministers (COM), which is tasked with setting policy and reviewing progress with regard to the implementation thereof. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, or an appropriate replacement of Ministerial rank, will represent the Maldives on this council. A ‘Troika’ consisting of an internally elected Chair, Vice-Chair and the previous Chair, will preside over these sessions.
The COM is assisted in their work by a Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) comprised of senior government officials that will meet either annually or at a frequency to be determined and is to be composed of high ranking government officials who can substantively contribute to the priority areas of the Association.
The IORA Secretariat is located in Ebene in the Republic of Mauritius, and is presided over by the General Secretary who is elected by the COM to serve a three-year term that is once renewable. The General Secretary is to be assisted by 4 directors and experts seconded to the Secretariat from amongst the member countries. In the event that a Secretary General is indisposed the senior-most director serves as the de facto SG.
Important bodies of IORA include:
1. the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI): a technical committee devoted to identifying ways of enhancing trade cooperation;
2. the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF): composed of business representatives that will meet in their own separate session to discuss policy relevant to business facilitation;
3. the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group: co-ordinates with Think Tanks, Universities, Research Centres and Academics generally to produce pertinent research and propose policy recommendations to other IORA entities.
The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is the current Chair of IORA form October 2021-2023. The Vice Chair will be the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka which would take Chair as from October 2023-2025. The next Council of Ministers (COM) is scheduled to be held in October 2023 in Sri Lanka.
The Maldives and IORA Engagement
IORA has eight priority areas. They are:
1. Maritime Safety and Security
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Defence/Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
2. Trade and Investment facilitation
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Economic Development
3. Fisheries Management
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture
4. Academics Science and Technology; Tourism and Cultural Exchange
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Higher Education/MNU
5. Women’s Economic Empowerment
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services
6. Disaster Risk Management
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Defence/National Disaster Management Authority
7. Tourism and Cultural Exchanges
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Tourism/MMPRC
8. Blue Economy
Corresponding agency from the Maldives – Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Ministry of Tourism
The Maldives enjoys a special relationship with our Indian Ocean neighbours. The Maldives is committed to play our part in ensuring a peaceful, secure and a rules-based system in the Indian Ocean, based on trust, mutual respect and inclusivity.
As a large ocean state that is located at the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives strongly favours a regional approach to promote a shared destiny and a path to prosperity in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is keen to work within regional and multilateral mechanisms such as IORA’s Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, and the Galle Dialogue to ensure the security and stability of the Indian Ocean Region.