The Union of the Comoros
France / Reunion
of exclusive economic zones
international partner organizations
of cooperation and development since its creation
in funding since its inception
The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) was founded in 1982 and was established as a regional institution in 1984. It is an intergovernmental organization consisting of five Member States: The Union of the Comoros, France by way of Reunion Island, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
The IOC is the only regional organization in Africa to represent a group of islands. It defends the interests of its Member States in Africa and internationally. Island states are particularly vulnerable to external shocks, whether of an economic, financial, climatic and ecological, food or energy-related nature. The IOC’s mission is to unite Member States’ forces and pool their resources, raise awareness of the special challenges that developing islands face and promote Indianoceania as a region of unique human, cultural and natural diversity.
The IOC benefits from the active backing of a dozen international partners who finance and support its cooperation projects. Projects implemented by the IOC cover a wide range of sectors: climate change, fisheries, maritime safety, connectivity, food sovereignty, education, culture, public health, etc.
The geographers have forgotten us.
The absence of a place-name for our region, in the southwestern Indian Ocean, is in many ways the expression of a denial: scattered off the coast of eastern Africa, our islands are not considered a coherent geographical entity, unlike the Caribbean, Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia or Macaronesia.
But a poet addressed this shortcoming.
The Mauritian writer Camille de Rauville first expressed the idea of "indianoceanism" in Antananarivo in the 1960s.
On the 25th of September 2015, at the UN headquarters in New York, 193 countries adopted a new global agenda for sustainable development. Its goal is to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone.
This agenda, that countries around the world have committed to implementing until 2030, revolves around 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
For these goals to be achieved, everyone must play a part: governments, the private sector, civil society, citizens and, of course, regional organizations such as the IOC.
The following chapters provide an overview of the IOC’s activities in 2016, and highlight the organization’s practical contributions towards achieving the SDGs in its member countries.
On the 5th of May 2016, the IOC and the ATD Fourth World movement signed a memorandum of understanding in the aim of working together to eradicate extreme poverty. The memorandum was signed at a regional workshop on the fight against poverty. The event took place in Mauritius in the presence of a number of ATD Fourth World beneficiaries from the Indian Ocean. The IOC officially joined forces with the ATD Fourth World movement during the World Day for Overcoming Poverty, on the 17th of October 2016.
The figures are staggering: almost 80% of IOC member countries’ food is imported. This costly dependence is compounded by the risk of malnutrition (undernutrition or over-nutrition, depending upon the island). Yet Indianoceanic islands are technically able to produce more food at affordable prices and meet their populations’ nutritional needs. It is to this goal that the IOC has committed its efforts, in the ultimate aim of helping member countries regain their food sovereignty.
Predicated in large part on the productive potential of Madagascar, considered the “breadbasket of Indianoceania”, the IOC has developed a Regional Program for Food and Nutritional Safety (PRESAN) with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). PRESAN aims to boost productivity, production and trade of agricultural products of regional interest between member states, and ultimately to increase food security in Indianoceania.
To ensure our population’s safety, we must also respond to health risks. And Indianoceania, having suffered the shock of the chikungunya epidemic in 2006, remains vulnerable. In 2016, the IOC’s Epidemic Surveillance and Alert Management Network (SEGA) demonstrated its usefulness in both risk prevention and crisis management once again.
The network, led by the IOC’s Health Monitoring Project, itself funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), is a prime example of regional cooperation rooted in solidarity and a common desire to protect the region in the long term. The IOC also intends to further strengthen its response to major pandemics, in particular to HIV/AIDS.
The Multisectoral Targeted Technical Assistance and Capacity Building Project for Gender in Madagascar and the Comoros (PMATG-IOC), launched in July 2016 and financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), is part of a new regional strategy on gender for 2015-2019, adopted at the IOC’s 31st Council of Ministers.
Its objective is to help vulnerable groups in IOC member states, particularly in the Comoros and Madagascar. It does so by promoting faster and more inclusive economic growth that empowers women and youth and allows civil society organizations to voice their concerns.
With the support of the IOC-Biodiversity project, Rodriguan children were invited to watch a play called Dessine-moi un arbre [Draw me a tree] during the Passe Portes 2016 international theater festival. The musical fable tackled environmental issues such as water management and the interdependence of ecosystems in a playful and accessible manner. The IOC-Biodiversity project also contributes to the preservation of river ecosystems more generally.
81% of Indianoceania’s primary energy supplies (oil and coal) are imported. This represents a heavy financial and ecological burden for our island economies, which are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Yet there is considerable potential for the development of renewable energies and energy efficiency in the region. The IOC is therefore running a program to develop renewable energy and increase energy efficiency (IOC-ENERGIES), with financial support from the EU.
The employability of young people is a major challenge for all IOC member states. Though it is not a silver bullet, entrepreneurship is one way to address this social and economic challenge. That is why the IOC promotes youth entrepreneurship with the support of the EU. In addition, the IOC reinforces local communities’ economic stability via the Sustainable Management of Coastal Zones project funded by the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM).
The IOC has embarked on an ambitious regional connectivity project to better connect Indianoceanic islands to each other and the wider world. The aim is to better integrate IOC economies into globalized trade networks, improve their competitiveness and create new opportunities for growth.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face a specific set of challenges relating to sustainable development: isolation, a vulnerability to natural disasters, limited resources, a strong dependence on international trade… What’s more, the soaring cost of communications, energy, transportation and undersized infrastructures curb growth at a structural level. This is why the IOC takes the defense of its Member States’ interests to heart, in particular by arguing for their differential treatment at both a continental and international level.
Taking local action as close to communities as possible, while also involving local stakeholders, is the most effective way of creating genuinely sustainable development.
The IOC therefore supports initiatives carried out by village communities. It also supports the transition to green energy in small islands.
At the same time, the IOC is directly involved in risk reduction strategies to improve its member countries’ resilience to natural disasters.
Waste management is a substantial environmental challenge for Indian Ocean islands. One of the solutions is to reuse and recover waste. This approach generates unexpected income, particularly for vulnerable groups.
To this end, the IOC-ISLANDS project implemented the «Reuse Ecolab» initiative, whose activities generate income through the reuse of waste. At the same time, the organization launched a regional study on waste management and recovery.
In 2016, the IOC launched a regional action plan on climate change. The plan aims to identify the specific vulnerabilities of Member States, support them as they adapt to these challenges and implement the measures they set out in their national contributions to the COP21. The IOC also involves young people in its efforts to raise awareness of climate change.
Indianoceania’s geography is overwhelmingly oceanic. IOC member states intend to sustainably and responsibly harness the growth potential of the ocean in their 5.5 million km2 of exclusive economic zones.
Fisheries and aquaculture are already a major economic pillar of Indianoceanic economies. The IOC has now developed recognized expertise in fisheries conservation and management, as well as in their monitoring and surveillance. The organization also contributes to the monitoring of marine and coastal ecosystems of both environmental and economic value.
The islands of Indianoceania are one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots. The region’s fauna and flora are unique yet threatened. The IOC therefore contributes to the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems of major ecological importance and that also represent a potential ecotourism asset.
Political stability, the entrenchment of democracy, strong institutions and security are all prerequisites for sustainable development. It is therefore entirely natural for the IOC to intervene in these areas.
2016 was marked by the relaunch of the Association of Parliamentarians of the IOC Member Countries (AP-IOC), an event that was actively attended by some 20 elected representatives from Indianoceania.
The IOC also sent election observers to national elections in the Comoros and Seychelles.
Finally, IOC remains actively involved in the implementation of a regional maritime safety program that brings together some 15 countries in eastern and southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
It is thanks to the continued trust and support of its technical and financial partners that the IOC has been able to contribute to sustainable development and regional solidarity in the Indian Ocean for the past 30 years.