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INSIGHT: Indonesia's leadership aims for peaceful, stable, prosperous Indian Ocean

Jakarta | Mon, March 6, 2017 | 08:16 am
INSIGHT: Indonesia's leadership aims for peaceful, stable, prosperous Indian Ocean Logo of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) (Courtesy of/bdnews24.com)

For the first time in its 20year history, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) will organize a Leaders’ Summit on March 7, themed “Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean.”

As the chair of IORA for 2015-2017, Indonesia will host the summit and assemble the leaders of its 21 members and seven dialogue partners for the proposed theme. The IORA Leaders’ Summit is of great relevance to national, regional and global interests. Indonesia’s leadership among the Indian Ocean littoral states in IORA therefore matters.

The area surrounding the Indian Ocean are home to approximately 2.7 billion people. It is an immense, rich and highly diverse region. It is the main shipping lane for 70 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas as well as the source of one-third of fish caught worldwide.

The ocean’s ports handle 30 percent of global trade. Around 100,000 ships traverse the Indian Ocean, carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil trade, one-third of the world’s cargo, and half of the world’s container ships. The statistics demonstrate that the notion of the Indian Ocean as the sea of the future is no exaggeration.

For Indonesia, the Indian Ocean is very promising for national development. In 2016, trade between Indonesia and IORA member states reached US$89.8 billion. Indonesia’s main export commodities are vegetable oil, textiles, tires and chemical products.

In the same year, IORA member states realized a number of investment projects in Indonesia, amounting to $11.67 billion, 40 percent of total foreign investment. In 2014, the number of visitors from IORA member countries traveling to Indonesia contributed to half of the country’s total tourist arrivals.

Simultaneously, the region is also home to an enduring myriad of emerging challenges, such as latent maritime disputes; piracy; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; human and illicit drug trafficking; extreme weather events; and mounting environmental pressures on coastal and marine resources.

The absence of leadership and governance poses enormous risks to peace and stability. Hence, the Indian Ocean needs competent management from its littoral states to minimize the risks and unlock the potential for growth and prosperity. The IORA summit, under Indonesia’s leadership, is expected to fill this gap.

IORA is the only institution in the Indian Ocean region that brings together representatives from government, business and academia. It aims to facilitate cooperation among the littoral states in various fields, including but not limited to the eight priority areas: maritime safety and security; trade and investment; fisheries; disaster-risk management; technology and education; tourism and cultural exchange; women’s empowerment; and the blue economy.

As the chair of IORA, Indonesia initiated the formulation of the IORA Concord — a strategic and visionary document to be adopted at the highest level that aims to provide a sound basis for regional cooperation. Noteworthily, the IORA Concord conceived the idea of the rule-based Indian Ocean, particularly full compliance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Moreover, in response to the pressing challenges of terrorism, radicalism and extremism, IORA member states will also adopt a declaration on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism.

On the sidelines, business practitioners and chambers of commerce from all IORA member states and dialogue partners will gather at the IORA Business Summit. The summit will adopt a joint declaration of the IORA Business Community to build a partnership for sustainable and equitable economic growth, committed to discussing actual projects in trade, investment and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will run the business engines of the respective countries. In particular, the summit attaches importance to the economic empowerment of women and girls, as well as increasing the capacity of small-scale fishers to improve their livelihoods.

Indonesia’s leadership of IORA corresponds to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s grand vision of Nawacita (nine development goals), in which he envisions Indonesia as a global maritime fulcrum. As the world’s largest archipelagic state, located between the Pacific and Indian oceans, Indonesia is destined to contribute to peace and stability in the region. Indonesia’s leadership of IORA aims to substantiate that vision. By carrying out the role, Indonesia can build stronger cooperation mechanisms to address current and future challenges in the region for the prosperity of the people.

In sum, the IORA Leaders’ Summit aims to fill a vacuum and ensure law-based stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean. Indonesia’s leadership will allow the Indian Ocean to meet its fate as the ocean of the future.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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