AUSTRALIA has for the first time assumed chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), an appointment foreign minister Julie Bishops welcomes as important in national development.

Meeting in Perth last week, the 20 IORA member states agreed to collaborate on maritime security, economic growth and sustainable development across the region, with Australia chairing the efforts until 2015.

“The diverse group of IORA nations which span from Asia to Africa and the Middle East are linked by common challenges; the need to keep shipping lanes open, to keep fishery stocks viable, to prepare for disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, and a desire to promote trade, education, the empowerment of women and girls and tourism and cultural links across the region,” Ms Bishop said.

“Australia is delighted to begin its two year term as chair of the IORA and welcomes Indonesia as vice chair.”

Ms Bishop points to the Indian Ocean region as key to economic development, as it is home to more than a quarter of the global population and acts as a trade route for half of the world’s cargo ships and two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments.

Australia will contribute almost $1.2 million toward IORA initiatives in 2014 to address disaster risks, water safety, seasonal climate forecasting, the sustainability of fisheries and oil spill monitoring.

For more information about IORA, click here.