#04 2023

NRF-SAEON supports South Africa’s regional participation in the Indian Ocean Rim Association

By Nicole du Plessis, Egagasini Node, NRF-SAEON

NRF-SAEON’s Egagasini Node hosts the Secretariat for the South African Chapter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association Academic Group (SA IORAG), an open stakeholder network comprised of universities, research institutions and policymakers responsible for research and promoting research in the Indian Ocean Region. Professor Juliet Hermes, manager of the Egagasini Node, is currently the regional IORAG Chair.

South African academic delegates attended two meetings in June 2023.

The South African delegation in Bangladesh. From left: Mr Royce Kuzwayo (DIRCO), Mr Ben Joubert (DIRCO), Prof Juliet Hermes (NRF-SAEON), Ms Nicole du Plessis (NRF-SAEON) and Mr KGame Molope (NWU).

13th Bi-annual Meeting of the IORA Committee of Senior Officials

The theme of the meeting, which was held in Bangladesh from 13 to 14 June, was “Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development”.

SA IORAG delegates included Prof Juliet Hermes, Ms Nicole du Plessis and Mr KGame Molope (North-West University; SA IORAG Chair). The academic delegates were requested to attend by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to provide feedback on the status of activities of the IORAG and support any other interventions needed regarding research.

The SA IORAG provides direct assistance to DIRCO and DSI within the IORA programme and is a tangible platform for building relationships across the science–policy interface. Such direct engagement with national and regional partners allows SAEON to maintain awareness of regional challenges, formulate regional research agendas for collaboration with international partners, and promote SAEON as a national partner to assist the National Government with fulfilling international commitments to conventions and agreements related to environmental monitoring and management.

Delegates at the 13th biannual meeting of the IORA Committee of Senior Officials, Bangladesh.

Delegates at the high-level strategic dialogue on IORA’s 25 years – Reflection, Review & Renewal, Mauritius.

High-level Strategic Dialogue on IORA’s 25 Years – Reflection, Review and Renewal, and IORA’s African Member States and the IORA Indo-Pacific Outlook (side-event)

SA IORAG delegates included Prof Juliet Hermes, Ms Nicole du Plessis, Mr KGame Molope and Ms Yanga Malotana (PhD candidate at the University of Pretoria, and early-career professional). The meetings were held in Mauritius in June.

Since it was established in 1997, IORA has developed into a mature and focused organisation. The Jakarta Concord, adopted at the first IORA Leaders’ Summit in 2017, outlines the core objectives to be achieved in the six priority areas and the two cross-cutting issues. These are Maritime Safety and Security, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Fisheries Management, Tourism and Cultural Exchanges, Disaster Risk Management, Academic Science and Technology Cooperation, the Blue Economy (cross-cutting) and Women’s Economic Empowerment (cross-cutting).

The meeting provided an opportunity for policymakers, the business community and academics to reflect on the achievements and challenges within IORA and start the development of the “IORA Vision 2030 and Beyond” document.  As part of the meeting, the academics were requested to meet and discuss actions to create a more engaged IORAG, with feedback presented to the policymakers.

For the side-event, the African IORA Member States discussed their focus areas to implement the IORA Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, adopted by IORA on 24 November 2022. East Africa and African small island littoral states are increasingly recognised as key Indo-Pacific actors. These include the IORA Member States of Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania. The event was co-chaired by South Africa and Tanzania.

Prof Hermes gave the plenary presentation during the session “Climate Change, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience Building and Conservation”. The meeting deliberated on the key role that academia plays in the development of regional integration.

Key areas of research identified included climate change, the blue economy, disaster risk and people-to-people engagements.