Sri Lanka will assume the Chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for the period 2023 to 2025 at the forthcoming 23rd Council of Ministers’ Meeting hosted by Sri Lanka on 11 October 2023 in Colombo. The Council of Ministers’ Meeting will be preceded by the 25th Meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials. This is the second time that Sri Lanka will assume the IORA Chairmanship, having previously served as the Chair from 2003 to 2004.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association is the only intergovernmental regional forum that brings together 23 littoral states of the Indian Ocean. There are also 11 Dialogue Partners in the Association. Sri Lanka is a founding member of the Association. The Indian Ocean Rim Association marked its 25th anniversary in 2022.
The Council of Ministers is the highest decision making body of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry will be the Chair of the Council of Ministers during Sri Lanka’s Chairmanship. Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane will chair IORA Senior Officials Meeting preceding the Council of Ministers.
Sri Lanka has chosen ‘Strengthening Regional Architecture: Reinforcing Indian Ocean Identity’ as the theme for its Chairmanship of IORA. Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the 23 Member States and the 11 Dialogue Partners or their representatives and Senior Officials are expected to attend the Indian Ocean Rim Association Council of Ministers and Committee of Senior Officials meetings in Colombo in October 2023.
The Member States of the Indian Ocean Rim Association are Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The Dialogue Partners are China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, UK and USA.
The primary objectives of the Indian Ocean Rim Association are to promote regional economic integration, enhance trade and investment, facilitate sustainable development, and strengthen maritime safety and security and it focuses on several priority areas, including maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk reduction, academic and scientific cooperation, tourism and cultural exchanges, and women’s economic empowerment.
The Secretariat for Sri Lanka’s Chairmanship of IORA will function under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by Executive Director General Prof Sudharshan Seneviratne, former High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Bangladesh. Officials of the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and Sri Lanka Navy will be attached to the Secretariat, along with senior officials of the Foreign Ministry.