Indian Ocean Commission
Created in 1984 by the Victoria Agreement, the Indian Ocean Commission is an inter-governmental organisation regrouping five Member States namely: Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Reunion (France) and Seychelles. Notwithstanding their different characteristics (Reunion is a French department; Mauritius and Seychelles are Middle Income Countries whereas Comoros and Madagascar are amongst the Least Developed Countries), the five islands share geographic proximity, natural resources and common development issues.
In 2008, the IOC was given the mandate to enhance its role in the economic area. In 2009, the IOC therefore developed an Aid for Trade strategy which was adopted by the Council of Ministers. The ACP member states of the IOC initialled an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) at the end of 2007, and Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar signed the interim EPA in August 2009. The IOC Council of Ministers of June 2010 restated the interest of Member States in pursuing their efforts towards a rapid conclusion of the negotiations of a comprehensive EPA with the EU and its implementation thereof. The Council also proposed the creation of a trade and economic area between the Member States of the IOC while enhancing collaboration with the other Regional Organisations, namely COMESA and SADC (Southern African Development Community).
The IOC is also leading, on behalf of the other three Regional Organisations, a programme of EUR 15 million to support two IMF Regional centres in the ESA-IO region (namely AFRITAC East, based in Tanzania and AFRITAC South in Mauritius which has recently started operations) in providing specific technical assistance to countries of the region to support them in their regional integration process.
The Commission has a Secretariat which is located in Mauritius and headed by a Secretary General. The current Secretary General, Mr. Callixte d'Offay, is a Seychelles national who was appointed in July 2008 for a four-year mandate. Political and strategic orientations of the organisation are under the responsibility of the Council of Ministers which meets annually. The latest Council of Ministers in October 2011. The organisation also has a system of rotating presidency of each Member State. The Presidency is currently ensured by Seychelles. The highest level of the organisation's structure is the Summit of Heads of States whose last meeting was held in Madagascar in 2005.
The aim of the IOC is to strengthen the relationship and solidarity of the islands towards their sustainable development objective through enhanced regional cooperation. Being an organisation regrouping only island states, the IOC has usually championed the cause of small island states in regional and international fora.
The IOC works on four pillars which have been adopted in 2005 by the Summit of Heads of States:
- Political and diplomatic cooperation,
- Economic and commercial cooperation,
- Sustainable development in a globalisation context,
- Strengthening of the regional cultural identity.
EU partnership with the IOC has been effective for as long as 25 years. The successive EDFs have financed programmes implemented by the IOC to the tune of EUR 100 million, mainly in the area of environment and natural resources.
The EU, which is the main development partner of the IOC, accounting for app. 70 % of total financial support to IOC, has scaled up its assistance to IOC during the last few years. The EU has three main on-going programmes with the IOC for a total amount of EUR 48 million*:
- The Smartfish programme for the Implementation of a Regional Fisheries Strategy in the Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region (ESA-IO region). Its overall objective is to contribute to an increased level of social, economic and environmental development and deeper regional integration in the ESA-IO through the sustainable exploitation of marine and lake fisheries resources;
- The Islands programme for the Implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) of the ESA-IO region, which will contribute to an increased level of social, economic and environmental development and deeper regional integration through the sustainable development of SIDS in the ESA-IO region. This programme will assist beneficiary countries towards this year's United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20). A grant agreement of EUR 470 000 was recently signed between the EU and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the design and implementation of a Monitoring and Evaluation System to track countries progress in implementing the Mauritius Strategy.
- A programme to support the IMF Regional Technical Assistance Centres (AFRITACs) of the ESA-IO, namely AFRITAC East, based in Tanzania, and AFRITAC South, based in Mauritius. The programme's objective is to contribute to the regional economic integration process, and higher growth and poverty reduction in the ESA-IO region. More specifically, the programme aims at improving the design, implementation, and monitoring of sound macroeconomic policies, and enhanced regional harmonisation and integration, in ESA-IO Member States and Regional Organisations. Two grant agreements amounting to EUR 14 675 000 were signed between the EU and the IMF on 17 October 2011 on the occasion of the inauguration of AFRITAC South in Mauritius.
- A Start up Project to promote regional maritime security (Start up MASE Project): the Financing Agreement, which amounts to EUR 2 million, was signed on 13 December 2011 by the Secretary General of the Indian Ocean Commission, Callixte d'Offay and Alessandro Mariani, Ambassador, Head of Delegation to Mauritius, for the Seychelles and the Union of Comoros. The objective of the Start up MASE Project is to support the implementation of short term actions of the Regional Strategy and Action Plan against Piracy and for Maritime Security as adopted during the 2nd High Level Regional Ministerial Conference on Maritime Piracy Meeting held on 7th October 2010 in Mauritius and co-chaired by Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission.
The IOC also implements part of two 10th EDF programmes which are under the responsibility of COMESA, namely:
- The InterRegional Coordination Committee (IRCC) Project to support the Indian Ocean Commission in ensuring its tasks within the IRCC configuration. Activities which have been undertaken by the IOC since February 2011, and will be continued up to August 2012 include: support to the preparation of new projects; support to the strengthening and restructuring of the IOC Secretariat; setting up of the IOC Project Monitoring and Evaluation System; facilitation for the development of an economic strategic plan for IOC; and drawing up of IOC Strategic Development Plan for 2012-2016.
- The Regional Integration Support Programme (RISP) which aims at advancing the regional economic integration in the ESA-IO region. The programme is jointly implemented by the COMESA, the EAC, the IGAD and the IOC for a period of three years from July 2010 to June 2013. Under the IOC annual work plans, the focus is on activities to facilitate Member States participation in COMESA regional integration agenda, and in the overall regional integration agenda process, while promoting the specificity of small island states, based on the principle of subsidiarity.
France/Reunion is not a beneficiary of EDF but may participate in programmes via its own funds, and contribute with its expertise in several areas. The collaboration is of primary importance to facilitate a good economic integration of countries and regions pertaining to the same geographical areas. It is pursued vigorously and positively by France/Reunion.
Detailed information on IOC is available on the website of IOC: www.coi-ioc.org