Speech by HE Geoff Tooth, Australian High Commissioner to Kenya to the
Conference on the Political Economy of Maritime Africa in the Indian Ocean Region
InterContinental Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya 12 March 2014
Your Excellency, Ambassador K.V. Bhagirath, Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association
Your Excellency, Michael Kamau, Cabinet Secretary, Transport and Infrastructure
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am greatly honoured to be speaking on behalf of the Australian Government at this important event.
Australia, as Chair of the newly named Indian Ocean Rim Association, believes this Conference is another key moment in the growth in relevance of the Association. I am delighted to see so many representatives of IORA nations in the room today, particularly given the theme of this Conference those from African nations, and of course so many Australians.
To have you all here is an encouraging start for this Conference and one I urge you to build on over coming days. I guess the only criticism you could make so far is that we aren’t on Kenya’s extraordinarily beautiful coast. But I’m sure the organisers were trying to maximise your productivity over these three days and leave you the weekend to enjoy, and be distracted by, the many wonders of Kenya.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The key facts about the Indian Ocean rim speak for themselves.
The Indian Ocean is the world's third largest ocean and a lifeline of international trade and economy.
It carries half of the world's container ships, one-third of the bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the oil shipments.
The Indian Ocean Rim's supports a population of close to two billion people living in some of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing economies.
This means the stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region is increasingly important globally.
But compared to many other regional bodies, the Association has delivered relatively modest outcomes.
The Indian Government has made good ground in building the stature of our Association.
But it is now incumbent on Australia, with vice-chair Indonesia, to drive further progress on policy and administrative fronts.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop has called on Association members to lift our ambition and work with renewed vigour, focus and resolve.
This will help build economic integration and better address transoceanic challenges such as maritime security, economic growth and sustainable development.
At the 13th IORA Council of Ministers Meeting, held in Perth in November last year, Ministers endorsed the six priority areas for IORA collaboration:
• maritime safety and security;
• trade and investment facilitation;
• fisheries management;
• disaster risk management;
• academic and science and technology cooperation; and
• tourism and cultural exchanges.
Ministers also reaffirmed our nations’ (and I quote) “shared interest in the stability, security and prosperity of all countries of the Indian Ocean rim and our commitment to enhancing cooperation to deliver sustained economic growth and broad-based and balanced development in this strategically vital region.”
But the challenges and opportunities we face in the Indian Ocean region are increasingly complex, and it is critical that we maintain the momentum of the Perth meeting.
One of the flaws that has been identified with IORA was the monopoly on policy development held by foreign and trade/commerce ministries, and I acknowledge this even as a long-term employee of such a ministry. It is imperative that thematic officials - experts and scientists – become involved in the Association.
With this in mind, and as a sign of our commitment to IORA, Australia is supporting this Conference (the Inaugural Conference on the Political Economy of Maritime Africa in the Indian Ocean Region).
Today IORA and the Indian Ocean Research Group had brought together academics, experts and officials from the region and beyond to exchange views and stimulate participation by African IORA Member States in the strengthening of regional cooperation.
Africa has eight Member States in the IORA and we are very aware that the potential for regional cooperation between Africa and other Indian Ocean states is yet to be fully realised. This Conference is an important step in rectifying that. It is recognition of the growing importance and promise of African countries, demographically, economically and strategically.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Australia's future lies in the Indo-Pacific, so we have every reason to help build the Association's capacity and influence, including here in Kenya.
Australia will use its position as IORA Chair over the next biennium to further revitalise the organisation and sharpen its focus so that it is better placed to deliver practical outcomes for its diverse membership:-
• we aim to consult closely with Member States, through the Secretariat, to increase IORA’s capacity, impact and influence
• we are looking to build into IORA’s agenda a strong economic and business dimension
• we have had discussions with the Secretariat on setting up a Steering Group on Institutional Reform.
We intend to work with Member states to encourage greater Dialogue Partner engagement and engage the interests and expertise of these Partners. Let me warmly welcome their representatives here today.
We will work closely with member states and partners to deliver on Australian-funded activities announced at the Perth ministerial meeting. This $1.175m package of nine initiatives include:
• a regional meeting to enable an exchange of learning in the effective management of disaster risks;
• co-hosting with India, hosting a second IORA Customs and Trade Facilitation forum;
• a trade and investment capacity development program focusing on trade policy; promotion of private sector investment; and common policy reforms that IORA countries can pursue;
• enhancing the knowledge of techniques and tools in support of environment protection and safe water through a workshop of experts;
• a workshop on seasonal climate forecasting to further research and understanding on the use of climate forecasts to enhance food security;
• a workshop to develop a regional understanding of where the current gaps in science knowledge and capability exist for oil spill responses and monitoring;
• a fisheries stock assessment workshop of fisheries scientists to build capacity in understanding and interpreting fisheries stock;
• a workshop with East African IORA member states to bring together scientists to build a collaborative approach to addressing issues in sustainable coastal aquaculture and artisanal fishing; and
• a program to build capacity in fisheries management across IORA countries to develop and implement sustainable fisheries practices.
Finally, we will, with IORA Members, take forward work to mainstream gender empowerment and youth education across IORA’s six priority areas, as agreed by Ministers in Perth.
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
We are a diverse group of countries, but we have much in common — including a shared commitment to the peaceful, sustainable use of this magnificent ocean.
Our 'Perth Principles' Declaration captures this commitment. There is much useful work also to be done in IORA's six agreed priority areas.
Working collaboratively with member states, Australia wants to not only sharpen IORA's work program but also its way of doing business.
Our future, individually, collectively, lies in the Indian Ocean region and this future can best be maximised by grasping the opportunities that a refreshed, revitalised IORA offers.
Let me finish by thanking the organisers of the Conference for their hard work, for staff from the High Commission for their role in today and of course the Government of Kenya for their generosity in hosting us.
Thank you for listening me today. I hope you find the Conference productive and for those visiting you enjoy your stay here in Kenya.