Established in 1999, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is a leading intergovernmental organization in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). As a Dialogue Partner with IORA since November 2012, the United States has had a lengthy and productive relationship with the organization, underscoring our shared goals for the region, especially in the areas of climate resilience, protecting oceans, food security, and global health. Today’s meeting between Deputy Secretary Verma and IORA Secretary General Al Farisi marks another important milestone in the relationship and reflects our deep commitment to the Indian Ocean Region.
U.S. Commitment to the Indian Ocean Region
The IOR is home to 2.7 billion people—more than a third of the world’s population—and connects people and economies across the globe. Its vast coastline includes some of the world’s most important shipping lanes—from the Strait of Hormuz to the Malacca Strait. Eighty percent of the world’s maritime oil shipments traverse Indian Ocean waters, and the region encompasses many of the world’s most vital fisheries. In FY 2021 and FY 2022, the Administration announced plans to invest more than $800 million, working with Congress, to help IOR countries address key challenges including climate change, maritime security, and food security. In FY 2022 alone, the Administration announced plans to provide more than $2.2 billion, working with Congress, for global health programs across the region, including responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and other long-standing commitments to address global health concerns across the IOR. We will continue to deepen our engagement across the region and enhance our work alongside partners to address these challenges and help ensure economic stability and human prosperity across the IOR.
Societies and economies across the IOR are particularly vulnerable to a triple environmental crisis: rapid ocean warming, marine pollution (especially plastics), and biodiversity losses. Climate-related displacement due to rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding, and extreme weather events will become even more acute in this region. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation has invested $500 million in First Solar to boost solar power production in India.
- In Indonesia, the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) intends to mobilize an initial $20 billion in public and private financing over a three-to-five-year period, resulting in a cumulative reduction of more than 300 megatons in greenhouse gas emissions through 2030 and a reduction of well above 2 gigatons through 2060 from Indonesia’s current trajectory.
- In Bangladesh, the United States is implementing assistance to expand Bangladesh’s access to affordable clean energy and support innovation in the clean energy economy.
- The United States is also working with Maldives, Sri Lanka, and partners across the IOR to stop plastic pollution, develop climate smart agriculture, and adapt to the effects of climate change.
- The United States is working to create an Embassy Science Fellowship to support the IORA secretariat in planning on critical issues such as climate adaptation.
The World Bank estimates that acute food insecurity will reach new highs in 2023, surpassing the 2007-08 food crisis. Two hundred million people worldwide face emergency and famine conditions. UNICEF estimates that worldwide in 2022 one in five children under the age of five had stunted growth. Fisheries represent one of the most significant food security assets for the IOR as a source of nutrition and livelihood. For instance, Malaysia, Mozambique, Seychelles, Singapore, Tanzania, and Thailand obtain 20 percent or more of their animal protein from fish. In Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, this figure is closer to 50 percent. An absence of regulations, however, has resulted in overfishing and illegal fishing as well as habitat destruction and pollution that are exacerbated by global warming.
- In FY 2021 and 2022 alone, the Administration provided or announced plans to provide, working with Congress, over $400 million in support of food security in the IOR.
- In Timor-Leste. the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole program has committed to provide over $52 million over a 10-year period to support 90,000 daily meals in 440 pre-primary and primary schools, as well as technical assistance for a unified national school health and nutrition policy.
- Since June 2022, the United States has announced approximately $270 million in new support to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.
- Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S.’ nearly $1.2 billion a year whole-of-government initiative to combat global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition, is active in Bangladesh. Last year FTF expanded from 12 to 20 countries, to include Madagascar, Mozambique, and Tanzania where programs supporting agriculture led economic growth, food security, and nutrition will be implemented.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for strong and coordinated responses to tackle health challenges. We will continue to be a steadfast partner to IOR countries as we strengthen health systems that have been strained by three years of pandemic, enhance preparedness and global coordination for future health emergencies, and tackle existing health challenges compounded by COVID-19.
- The U.S. government has donated over 200 million safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses to 44 Sub-Saharan African countries (including all IOR countries except Djibouti and Eritrea) in partnership with COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust. In addition, the U.S. government donated $2.7 billion to support COVID-19 responses across Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Of the over 687 million safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses the United States donated globally, both bilaterally and in partnership with COVAX, over 265 million were to countries across the Indo-Pacific region.
- The United States also supported the production of additional vaccine doses in the region through the Quad Vaccine Partnership with Australia, India, and Japan.
- Following the confirmation of an Marburg virus disease outbreak on March 21, the United States worked closely with the Government of Tanzania, the World Health Organization, and other national and regional partners to mobilize an effective response. This included the provision of technical assistance, personal protective equipment, and plans to provide $1.3 million for key prevention activities and critical response interventions.
- On March 30, U.S. pharmaceutical company Moderna signed an agreement with the Kenyan government to build a $500 million mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Kenya, a significant expansion in regional manufacturing capacity to help improve health outcomes in African countries.
Safe and Secure Oceans:
- The United States is working with partners across the Indian Ocean Region to build and improve partnerships that strengthen regional capabilities and bolster interdiction and law enforcement capacities.
- The United States has provided over $13.7 million for Resilient Coastal Communities to improve the sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems in Mozambique, and over $1.1 million as voluntary contributions to the IAEA, which is being used to support a project with Indonesia on recycling plastic wastes before they can reach the ocean.
- Under a Five-Year National Strategy for Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the United States has provided $8.9 million for the establishment of the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast Asia Training Team to enhance maritime law enforcement, security, and interoperability in the region.
- The Administration is seeking to provide $6 million, working with the U.S. Congress, for regional maritime security initiatives partnering with Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
- Through the conduct of naval and maritime security-related exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training, as well as through maritime special operations forces partner training with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, we enhance our ability to work together on maritime security challenges.
Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles:
The U.S. commitment to the Indian Ocean Region includes collaboration with Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles to promote a safe, secure, and prosperous Western Indian Ocean region. Our commitment to partnering on maritime security is strong, as demonstrated most recently in their participation –along with fourteen other countries–in U.S. Africa Command’s March 17 Cutlass Express naval training exercise and in ongoing capacity building provided by UNODC and funded by the United States.