The Indian Ocean Commission’s fields of action
The IOC, since its creation in 1984, has built up recognized expertise which benefits its five Member States. (Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and France, through La Réunion).
The IOC implements regional cooperation and integration projects in the blue economy, managing natural resources and coastal environments, maritime safety and security, development, fishing, the environment and climate change, public health and university education. It is also proactive in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The IOC’s action is applied through several strategic focuses:
In 2019, the IOC adopted its regional action plan for the blue economy, which serves as a framework for conducting responsible and sustainable projects. The blue economy is a label that calls for ethical and sustainable use of the sea. This label encompasses both economic and climate-related issues, promoting aquatic and marine ecosystems through the economy.
The blue economy includes challenges as varied as:
• sustainability of maritime transport,
• the preservation of coastal ecosystems and marine biodiversity,
• sustainable management of seabed resources,
• blue tourism,
• the study of renewable marine energy.
France (through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD)) supports and finances the resilience of coastal areas and the protection of marine protected areas. This includes the Marine Park of Mohéli in Comoros (€3 million) and the Mayotte and Glorioso Marine Natural Parks (€3.6 million in 2018).
In 2021-2022, France also organized the Blue Year of the Indian Ocean, carrying out tangible projects (beach clean-up day, fisher training, etc.) in the IOC countries, and in coastal east African countries (South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania).
The IOC is not the only Indian Ocean organization that believes that the blue economy is a fundamental issue:
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) formed a working group on these challenges. France is playing an active role.
Since 2012, the IOC is committed to the preservation of ecosystems and the responsible management of natural resources and coastal environments, which is one aspect of the blue economy. Several initiatives have been drawn up with various international partners such as the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union in line with three key areas of action:
• Climate change: The Commission adopted, from 2012, a strategy on climate change and the reduction of disaster risks in order to support Member States faced with climate events. In this framework, the IOC and its partners implemented several projects, which have proven effective:
o The South West Indian Ocean Climate Outlook Forum (SWIOCOF) is carried out in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It has enabled the growth of a community of forecasters among the IOC Member States by organizing several training sessions on seasonal forecasts.
o The Hydromet project is an example of the importance of developing resilience against unforeseen meteorological, hydrological and climate events. The main purpose of this project, financed by the Green Climate Fund, the AFD and the EU, is to strengthen the adaptability of departments in charge of evaluating climate change.
• Biodiversity and managing marine and coastal resources: Thanks to close collaboration with key partners such as the African Union, the Nairobi Convention Secretariat and the United Nations Environment Programme, the IOC continues to implement its commitments in the sustainable management and use of marine and coastal resources. The Member States support the GloFouling initiative in partnership with the International Maritime Organization. GloFouling enables control and management of biofouling of ships caused by invasive marine species that can affect their trajectory.
• Waste management and reduction: This is a major challenge, as an estimated 140,000 tonnes of plastic waste are produced annually in the islands of the IOC. A regional action plan on waste management and recycling has been adopted and acts as a framework for the mobilization of funds and projects. To provide a varied response to the plastic proliferation problem, the IOC developed the ExPLOI project (Indian Ocean Plastic Expedition) which combats this pollution by encouraging a change in attitudes among businesses and the populations.
The COI islands are not just geographically close to each other; they are also humanly, historically and culturally close. To make the cultures of the Indian Ocean islands more well-known, the Commission created the “Indianocéanie” prize with the support of the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the Departmental Council of La Réunion. This call for writing highlights the talent and creativity of writers in the region and promotes French language production. The cultural spotlight also supports awareness-raising among young people on environmental and climate changes.
The IOC enables its Member States to share information and best practices and coordinate their actions in fighting unlawful acts at sea, such as piracy and sea trafficking, in particular of drugs. Its contribution to the security and safety of regional waters is significant, and its experience is recognized.
This field of action of the IOC is mainly manifested through the creation and strengthening of maritime information-sharing channels. One of the IOC’s major programmes, the Maritime Security (MASE) programme, has, with the European Union’s support, implemented a regional maritime security structure in the western Indian Ocean, from Djibouti to South Africa, supported by several dedicated operational centres, in which the Member States’ navies and maritime security agencies take part.
Efforts are also made in:
• Port safety;
• Fighting maritime pollution;
• Fishing (the area of action of the ECOFISH programme, for the development of sustainable fishing).
The region is subjected to natural disasters and environmental risks. This was illustrated by the sinking of the Japanese ship, the Wakashio, in a coral reef near Mauritius in July 2020, spilling tonnes of fuel into the sea. All of the IOC islands are affected, and joint efforts are being made in these areas.