IORA's objectives are enshrined in the IORA Charter. The priority areas are:
- Maritime safety and security
The Indian Ocean maritime environment is becoming more dynamic and contested. IORA is an important forum for promoting habits of consultation and cooperation. A key meeting within IORA to progress this priority is the annual Indian Ocean Dialogue.
- Trade and investment facilitation
The Indian Ocean region has great economic growth potential but trade and investment between IORA members is modest. Australia supports efforts towards greater trade and investment facilitation between IORA members. The Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum is the key business-led sub-IORA grouping to advance this priority. It also informs discussions in IORA's Working Group on Trade and Investment.
- Fisheries management
Sustainable fisheries are critical for food security and as a source of economic development. IORA primarily addresses fisheries management through technical workshops. There is overlap between the work of IORA and regional fisheries organisations such as the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Australia supports the development of regional fisheries management and more innovative aquaculture technologies through our partnerships with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, CSIRO and the innovationXchange.
- Disaster risk management
With increasing traffic across the Indian Ocean, maritime, aviation and natural disasters become more likely (for example, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and disappearance of MH370 in 2014). IORA primarily addresses this priority through technical workshops. Australia has partnered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to support capacity building in search and rescue in three Indian Ocean countries.
- Academic, science and technology cooperation
Australia encourages education engagement with IORA countries. Nearly 27 per cent of international students in Australia came from IORA countries in 2015. The Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group is the key IORA sub group to address this priority. Australia supports the publication of the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region. The Australian Government has also funded the development of the transnational occupational standards in the ports sector for a number of Indian Ocean countries.
- Tourism and cultural exchanges
Australia welcomes tourism initiatives in IORA and has supported the establishment of a Tourism Core Group and Research Centre. IORA has held a number of tourism related meetings, most recently the second IORA Meeting of Experts on Tourism in May 2015 in South Africa.
During Australia's period as IORA Chair (2013-15) Australia lifted IORA's international profile and strengthened IORA's focus on maritime safety and security, the blue economy and women's economic empowerment. The Australian Government introduced two cross-cutting priorities to be integrated with the six priority areas above:
- Blue economy
The sustainable use of marine resources is critical for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development in the Indian Ocean region, and hinges on strong regional cooperation. IORA progresses this priority through an annual blue economy ministerial meeting and through an IORA blue economy working group. The IORA website provides further information about IORA's efforts and meetings related to the blue economy.