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SAEON Egagasini hosts the 2nd South African IORAG meeting

By Luvo Dunjwa, Jordan van Stavel, Nicole du Plessis and Juliet Hermes, SAEON Egagasini Node
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The Indian Ocean, the world’s third largest ocean, carries half of the world’s container ships and is a hub of international trade and transport.

The Indian Ocean Rim is a region comprised of the states whose shores are washed by the waters of the Indian Ocean. It is a region of much cultural diversity and richness - in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines.

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As the world’s third largest ocean, the Indian Ocean is a hub of international trade and transport.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was established in March 1997. South Africa is a founding member of IORA, and has participated in the Indian Ocean Rim Association Academic Group (IORAG). The group has a duty to promote scholarly dialogue between the participating member states, to serve as a vehicle for the development and dissemination of the Indian Ocean Rim concept, and to service the region by providing coordinated research.

The 2nd South African IORAG meeting brought together academics from the various South African higher education and research institutions, as well as the SA IORAG Steering Committee members comprising the Departments of Science and Technology, International Relations and Cooperation, Higher Education and Training as well as the National Research Foundation, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and SAEON.

IORA priority areas

The focus groups relate to the IORA priority areas of Academic Cooperation, Science and Technology, Blue Economy, Disaster Risk Management, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Maritime Safety and Security, Tourism and Cultural Exchanges, Trade and Investment Facilitation, and Gender Empowerment. The focus groups were constituted to inform South Africa’s academic agenda during its chairship (2017-2019).

Each group presented on their envisaged research themes and questions for the chairship period. Some of the highlights included discussion around the issue of security on the oceans, and piracy.

Tourism cruises were included in the scope of Maritime Safety and Security as the need for passenger safety was highlighted on account of recent attacks on both South African and foreign vessels. Port security was noted as an option that needs to be explored to alleviate this issue.

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The 2nd South African IORAG meeting brought together academics from various South African higher education and research institutions

Groundwater protection was also mentioned as the meeting recognised that South Africa is planning to exploit the natural resource to aid in their current water crisis. “We have integrated a regulations framework within the national water laws,” Dr Mamohloding Tlhagale (Water Research Commission) told delegates.

Gender transformation and economic empowerment were among the issues tackled in the meeting, with the main focus on women's empowerment. “We know gender equality on the global agenda is high - states commit to pursue gender equality, but somehow with all those policies in place we still find high levels of gender violence, economic marginalisation and exclusion,” noted Professor Joleen Steyn Kotze (HSRC).

Changing the view of the private sector and encouraging their involvement in IORA was another key topic during the seminar. It was highlighted that the academic group should promote outreach programmes to increase the prominence of IORA South Africa and the IORAG through public lectures, especially in institutions of higher learning.

South Africa currently serves as Vice-Chair to Indonesia and will take the reins of chairship from October/November 2017.

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