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UAE Sees the Strengthening of Cooperation between Indian Ocean Rim Countries as a Priority

Thu 04/2/2021

The seventh edition of the Indian Ocean Dialogue (IOD), from the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has concluded, following two days of insightful discussions from February 2-3, 2021. Hosted by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), in association with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the flagship event comes as part of activities during the UAE’s chairship of the IORA for 2019-2021.

The virtual symposium, held under the theme ‘Fostering a New Era of Cooperation in the Indian Ocean’, welcomed a distinguished panel of speakers, offering a broad range of expert insights. Participants from IORA Member States and Dialogue Partners (the US, France, China, UK and Korea), included international scholars, experts and policymakers from government institutions, think tanks, and research centers.  

The discussions focused on four themed sessions, spanning issues of vital importance to the Indian Ocean region. Session I, on the first day, considered ways of enhancing regional economic and trade cooperation, while Session II explored opportunities for joint maritime security in the region. On the second day, Session III discussed paths to inclusive public health and sustainable development, while Session IV focused on future trends shaping cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. 

His Excellency Dr. Sultan Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, delivered the welcoming remarks, in which he explained that the UAE sees the strengthening of cooperation between Indian Ocean rim countries as a priority, especially in light of the significant opportunities and challenges in a post COVID-19 world. 

His Excellency Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State, United Arab Emirates, delivered the first keynote speech, reiterating that as IORA looks to establish its new action plan, with refined high-level priorities, many of these priorities should be framed by the region’s response to the complex issues presented by the global pandemic. 

Dr. Gatot Hari Gunawan, IORA’s Acting Secretary General, from the Republic of Mauritius, delivered the second keynote address. He pointed out that while the COVID-19 crisis is the challenge of our time, IORA’s developmental agenda remains relevant and should be prioritized as part of IORA members’ recovery. He stressed that pertinent issues going forward should include ensuring the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, as part of the ‘blue economy’, alongside additional environmental initiatives to lift people out of poverty.   

Key issues highlighted by speakers during the sessions included the need to enhance intra-regional trade between IORA members, as well as the need for a joint Indian Ocean strategy in terms of security and economics, rather than a focus on separate national strategies for development.

The unequal attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals across the region was also highlighted as an area that must be redressed, as well as ensuring access to quality healthcare in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts highlighted the impacts of ongoing geostrategic competition between the United States and China within the Indian Ocean region, suggesting strategies for member states to navigate potentially shifting rivalries. While environmental degradation and the opportunities provided by China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the Africa Asia Growth Corridor, were identified as key issues shaping the region’s future.

During the dialogue, speakers also emphasized the growing role the UAE has come to play in the Indian Ocean region, supporting maritime security and safety through participation in various multinational taskforces. The UAE was also praised for its vital role in ensuring the critical flow of global trade during the pandemic.

The UAE joined IORA in 1999 and assumed chair of the association in 2019. IORA, founded in 1997, is a dynamic intergovernmental organization aimed at strengthening regional cooperation across a range of social and economic areas.

As the leading research center serving decision-makers in the United Arab Emirates, the ECSSR provides expert analysis of key issues and developments in various fields, including political, economic, social and cultural spheres. Through its insightful publications, events and educational initiatives, the Center strives to raise public awareness and inform leaders on pivotal issues regionally and globally.

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