The Implementation of UNCLOS: Supporting Maritime Governance in the Indian Ocean (Part IV)

Sri Lanka is a country positioned in the centre of the Indian Ocean (IO) with ambitions to be a pioneer of good governance and guarantor of international and regional cooperation in its surrounding waters. To this end, the Government of Sri Lanka has set an important agenda to advance dialogue in the IO region in order to foster regional cooperation and development through improved implementation of international and regional obligations in the area of the Law of the Sea.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is the only permanent pan-regional intergovernmental organisation focused on the IO region and is currently composed of 23 Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners (including Germany). The IORA Charter affirms maritime safety and security as a priority area, while IORA’s 2013 Declaration on Principles and the 2015 IORA Maritime Cooperation Declaration identified a non-exhaustive list of maritime threats and challenges at the pan-regional level. Sri Lanka has now assumed the position of Vice-Chair of IORA for the period of 2021-2023 and is also acting as Chair of IORA’s Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security (IORA-WGMSS).

Building on its previous engagement in Sri Lanka (See, Part I, Part II and Part III), the Foundation will continue to support Sri Lanka by providing technical and legal expertise to relevant stakeholders, including Expert Consultations with Professor Rüdiger Wolfrum, Honorary Director of the Foundation and former Judge and President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The Foundation will utilize the Baseline Study to further assist stakeholders in Sri Lanka concerning their respective areas of competence. Furthermore, the Foundation will undertake substantive research on aspects of the law of the sea most pertinent to assisting Sri Lanka’s various ongoing efforts to foster regional dialogue and cooperation concerning ocean governance, as well as to assist with domestic webinars on pressing maritime concerns identified by Sri Lanka.

Establishing a new formal engagement with IORA, the Foundation will provide technical and legal expertise to the IORA Secretariat and relevant stakeholders from the 23 Member States, including State Ministers and officials from the relevant domestic ministries. Through a series of interactive workshops, the Foundation will support IORA’s enhanced regional cooperation when addressing common safety and security concerns, including the legal rights, responsibilities, and tools available to IORA Member States and the sharing of best practices for possible consideration.

The objective of the project is to support the efforts to foster a regional dialogue on pertinent issues relating to the law of the sea and maritime governance; to advance regional cooperation; and to promote a common understanding and equal implementation of the framework established by the UN Convention on the law of the sea within the IO region. Significant advice will focus on maritime safety and security as a priority area identified by the partners.