Indian Ocean Rim Association
The Indian Ocean is the world's third largest ocean. It carries half of the world's container ships, one third of the world's bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world's oil shipments. It is a lifeline of international trade and transport. The region is woven together by trade routes and commands control of major sea-lanes.
The Indian Ocean Rim is a region comprised of the states whose shores are washed by the waters of the Indian Ocean. The region is home to about two billion people. It is a region of much cultural diversity and richness - in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines. The countries of the Indian Ocean Rim vary considerably in terms of their areas, populations and levels of economic development. They may also be divided into a number of sub-regions (Australasia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Eastern & Southern Africa), each with their own regional groupings (such as ASEAN, SAARC, GCC and SADC, to name a few).
Despite such diversity and differences, these countries are bound together by the Indian Ocean. For many centuries, explorers, pilgrims, fishermen, traders and merchants have traversed the Indian Ocean, establishing networks of communication and developing the economic and cultural interconnectedness of the region.
After the Second World War, the decolonisation process ended British hegemony in the Indian Ocean. Superpower rivalry in the region escalated, due to the strategic importance of the area. These common historical and geo-political experiences engendered a sense of shared identity among the states of the region. This, in turn, rekindled an awareness of the centuries-old littoral economic, social and cultural community that exists all along the shores of the Indian Ocean.
As Nelson Mandela put it (during a visit to India in 1995): "The natural urge of the facts of history and geography should broaden itself to include the concept of an Indian Ocean Rim for socio-economic co-operation and other peaceful endeavours. Recent changes in the international system demand that the countries of the Indian Ocean become a single platform."
This is the sentiment and rationale that underpinned the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in March 1995, and the creation of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (then known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation) two years later, in March 1997. Today, IORA is a dynamic organisation of 21 Member States and 7 Dialogue Partners, with an ever-growing momentum for mutually beneficial regional.