The Jakarta Post
Indonesia pledged to bring up issues about women's empowerment as the country officially assumed chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) from Australia on Friday.
At the conclusion of the 15th IORA Commission of Ministers Meeting on Friday, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said that Indonesia was ready to bring up issues about women's empowerment in every IORA meeting hosted under the chairmanship of Indonesia during the next two years.
The pledge was brought to the fore as the leading positions in the association were filled with an all-female ensemble of ministers.
'We stand here as a troika,' Retno said during a press conference after the meeting.
The troika of officials comprise Retno as IORA's new chair, South Africa's deputy minister for international relations and development, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, as IORA's vice chair and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as outgoing chair.
Meanwhile, IORA Vice Chair Mfeketo pledged to support the chair in bringing women's issues to the fore. 'Coming from South Africa, [...] we learn under difficult circumstances that if women are not free, that country will never be free,' Mfeketo said on Friday.
'We've taken [the reins of] a very strong organization, but definitely between the two of us and the troika ' it is all women ' it is an indication for me that we mean business.'
The issue of women's empowerment had become one of two cross-cutting issues adopted by the IORA, proposed by Australia during the IORA Council of Ministers Meeting in 2013. Since then, two women's empowerment events have been hosted, in addition to a landmark report outlining the status of women in the IORA region.
The issue was also highlighted in the Padang CommuniquÃ©, one of the outcomes from the past three days of IORA meetings in Indonesia's Indian Ocean capital.
Apart from women's empowerment, the communiquÃ© also expressed the organization's many commitments, including the decision to develop and integrate the Indian Ocean region toward sustainable economic growth, as well as establishing an ad hoc committee on the IORA Concord.
The IORA COM Meeting agreed on three documents at the outcome, namely the Padang CommuniquÃ©, the Declaration on Maritime Cooperation and the Decision on the Establishment of an Ad-hoc Committee on the IORA Concord.
The three documents will be the reference for IORA cooperation and activities during the Indonesian chairmanship. Furthermore, the COM meeting in Padang has also welcomed Somalia as the 21st IORA member.
Together with South Africa as vice chair for the period of 2015 to 2017, the country is determined to 'work closely with all member states of IORA to actively follow up on many projects and initiatives under the six priorities of IORA cooperation'.
'Indonesia understands the importance of marine resources, security and stability, as well as maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean for the prosperity of all the peoples in IORA member states,' Retno explained during the conference's opening earlier in the day.
Retno also conveyed a number of new initiatives for cooperation by Indonesia to enhance the capacity of IORA member states through, among other things, convening the IORA Business Innovation Center, cooperation in diplomatic training for IORA member states and organizing the third Indian Ocean Dialogue.
Aside from the various activities and programs to enhance the collective capacity of IORA member states, Indonesia's chairmanship will also strengthen IORA's organization and support regionalism in the Indian Ocean.
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