The meeting at Senior Officials level of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) Ministerial Conference on Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean opened yesterday at the Intercontinental Resort in Balaclava. The Ministerial Conference is co-hosted by the Republic of Mauritius, current chair of the IOC, and the General Secretariat of the IOC, with the support of the European Union (EU) through the Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Maritime Security Programme.

In her opening address the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (SFA), Ambassador Mrs Usha C. Dwarka Canabady, said that maritime security is fully an international concern thus the need to sensitise people about the contribution that they can make in addressing this issue. The idea, she said, is to look after maritime security based on a programme which is being developed and beyond that to list out priority actions that need to be taken in the region and then enlist the assistance of stakeholders to provide support on these actions.

The SFA highlighted the importance of working together when a problem arises in the Indian Ocean and to be practical in addressing issues. Even if countries have great institutions and legislations it so happens that sometimes they are unable to take practical steps to address issues, she pointed out.

According to Ambassador Dwarka Canabady, one of the outcomes of the Ministerial Conference would be to identify the focal points in countries that can come together very quickly at short notice and effectively implement those legislations as well international cooperation and coordination. We have to know how to focus our actions in such a coherent manner that we do not duplicate efforts but that we actually live out practical issues, she said.

For his part the Secretary General of the IOC, Mr Hamada Madi, termed maritime security as an essential element of global security of the indiaoceanie adding that the forthcoming ministerial conference will have to give a new boost to regional and international action for maritime security. He also gave an overview of key elements which make of the Western Indian Ocean a strategic zone. These include: perspectives offered by deposits of hydrocarbon in the Mozambique channel; regional biodiversity; abundant fishing resources; as well as the Western Indian Ocean region being a zone crossed by nearly half of the maritime traffic related to international merchant shipping.

In his speech the Charge d'Affaires, EU Delegation, Mr Michal Golabek, observed that there is a mounting debate at international level on the maritime domain with special focus on risks and threats involved.

We all agree that our seas and oceans are facing increasing pressures and we have to address those pressures and to do so we must manage more effectively the human activities affecting our seas and oceans and we need a coherent and comprehensive approach involving all sectors, he said.

According to him the approach should be based on fair and transparent rules for all allowing us to secure our oceans and protect resources in a sustainable manner. Thus it is imperative to observe that both the EU and AU converge in their respective approaches on integrated maritime security, he pointed out.

Also present the UNODC Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, Dr Amado Philip de Andres, who spoke about the organisation's mandate and work in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime as well as how the UN is supporting Member States to succeed in attaining the SDGs.

Senior Officials meeting

Participants are representatives of the Ministries of the Interior/Defence/Home Affairs, Fisheries, Justice, and national agencies in charge of the fight against money laundering, maritime insecurity, and drug trafficking.

The two-day meeting is being held to prepare the Ministerial Conference which is scheduled on 28-29 April 2018 and which will adopt a Ministerial Declaration with an Action plan. This document focuses on all the issues of Maritime Security namely cooperation mechanisms, the fight against illegal fishing and maritime trafficking (drugs, human, money laundering), terrorist risk, environmental crimes and marine pollution.

Four thematic working groups have been set up on: Regional Mechanisms for Maritime Safety and Security; Combating Transnational Traffic; Counter Terrorism; and, Marine Environmental Threats.

Maritime Security Ministerial Conference

The focus will be on all maritime threats and crimes and the collective solutions needed to secure the vast ocean areas for the economic and social development of the region.

The objectives are threefold: Identify priority actions in response to maritime transnational risks and crimes; Identify regional, tangible and value-added collaborative and comprehensive approaches to each of the threats to maritime safety and security in the ESA-IO region; and, Mobilise partners and institutions and generate specific commitments for concrete actions to be implemented according to an agreed roadmap.

One hundred delegates from 30 States as well as Regional and International organisations will be present.

Conference participants comprise IOC Member States (Comoros, France [Reunion], Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles); EU; States bordering Eastern and Southern Africa as well as other States bordering the Indian Ocean and those with interests in the region and partners; COMESA, SADC, IGAD, EAC, African Union; International Maritime Organisation; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; United Nations Department of Political Affairs; International Organization for Migration; FAO; EUNAVFOR Atlanta; NATO's Ocean Shield; and stakeholders of the Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia currently chaired by IOC.

Source: Government of Mauritius