The United Nations Division of Political Affairs (UNDPA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) signed in Port Louis a Cooperation agreement which provides for a framework for the UN to build the capacity of the IOC in areas such as preventive diplomacy, conflict mediation and peace building.
The agreement was signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, and current chair of the IOC, Mr Seetanah Lutchmeenaraidoo, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs in the UNDPA, Mr Tayé-Brook Zerihoun. Several personalities including the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mrs U. C. Dwarka Canabady, and UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative to Mauritius, Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, were present at the ceremony.
In a statement following the signing ceremony, Minister Lutchmeenaraidoo said that Mauritius was transforming from a small country lost in the ocean to an Ocean State controlling 2.3 million square km of sea and constituting a much bigger ambition overall. The present ambition for Mauritius is to make the country become a beacon in the region and contribute to peace and security as well as to the development processes.
Speaking about the agreement signed with the UNDPA, the Minister outlined that the UN has chosen the IOC, which brings together the five Island States of the region to set up a peace and security UNDPA regional cell. He rejoiced that the cell which will be based in Mauritius at the IOC Secretariat is a testimony of trust which the UN has in the IOC on one hand and also in Mauritius.
The Minister also announced that he will chair a meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) created by the United Nations Security Council to address the problem of piracy in the region scheduled on 12-13 July 2018 in Nairobi.
Discussions will focus on the necessity to make the CGPCS a permanent entity and to request the UN to allow the Contact Group expand its responsibilities to address drugs, terrorism and other issues arising on the regional front. All these actions are geared towards setting up a solid foundation to make of Mauritius a global player with a much more decisive role in the region and beyond, he added.
The Assistant Secretary-General, for his part, spoke about the global challenge posed by drug trafficking. Certainly it affects some regions more considerably than others and definitely the Indian Ocean region is one of those regions and is a victim, he observed.
Within the UN there is a global strategy from which regions and sub-regions have crafted their own strategies to reflect the specific conditions and specific kind of challenges they face. So the UN comes in support, providing political assistance in terms of resources, expertise and lessons learnt, he stated, adding that it is a global fight and all countries in the UN system are fully committed to support regional strategies.
Other domains which will be covered under the agreement are:
- Combating drug trafficking and organised cross-border crime;
- Maritime safety in its various forms, including the fight against piracy;
- Fight against terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism;
- Reducing the underlying causes of conflict, including governance, poverty, inequality, discrimination, natural hazards, exclusion of youth from civic and social life, and natural resource management;
- Electoral assistance; and
Gender equality and women’s active participation in the peace process and the facilitation of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) “Women, peace and security” and the subsequent resolutions.
In October 2016 the UNDPA made a proposal for collaboration with the IOC in the area of peace and security. The prime objective was to have a UN presence within the IOC Secretariat. Since March 2017 when Mauritius assumed Chair of the IOC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade has facilitated consultations between the IOC and the UNDPA for the organisation of a regional workshop on “Security challenges facing the Indian Ocean”.
The objectives of this workshop were to analyse the challenges of peace and security in the Indian Ocean region; identify concrete measures on how to address these issues; consider a cooperation framework agreement between the IOC and UNDPA; and develop a work plan.
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