Following is the statement by Foriegn Minister Abdullah Shahid given at the UNGA75 general debate.
“A handful though we are, we dedicate ourselves to the principles of this world body and declare our faith in the support of the Charter of the United Nations”. 55 years ago, we declared our firm conviction that “the UN is the chief architect” of peace. 55 years later, our conviction remains stronger than ever.
In the Maldives our lives, came to a standstill, almost overnight. Responding quickly to Covid19 health impacts was our first priority. The dedication of our frontline workers in ensuring effective provision of quality healthcare & uninterrupted services has been extraordinary.
Our second priority was to minimise shock to the economy, and support households and businesses. A National Taskforce on Response and Recovery has been constituted, and it has prioritised building resilience into our post Covid action plan.
The aim is to ensure that the development gains we have made over the past decades are not eroded; to ensure that development projects promised & planned go forward without delay; &to ensure that our commitment to the 2030Agenda, does not remain unfulfilled.
The asymmetries in the international system have been laid bare like never before – whether it be the unevenness of the impacts, the digital divide, the deep shocks due to disruptions in supply chains, no country has been spared. But not every country has been affected equally.The toll that debt burdens have on the economies of Small Island Developing States like the Maldives is clearer now. We request the G20 to extend their initiative until the end of 2021.
Debt suspension is only half the story for SIDS. We need structural change, innovative facilities, and better and greater access to concessional financing. We need a proper assessment of our vulnerabilities that will shape the way for better-targeted approaches in SIDS.
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of global cooperation. In the Maldives, without the support of our friends, our bilateral &multilateral partners, we wouldn’t be able to continue weathering this storm. As we work towards finding a vaccine, our hope is that every person who needs it will have access to it. That we will work together to ensure equitable access.
The Covid pandemic has given us the opportunity to recalibrate our approach to development, and focus on building a more resilient world – one that delivers for planet, people, and prosperity.
For countries like mine – ClimateChange remains a significant threat – but also a threat that is difficult to overcome on our own. For the Maldives, the impacts of climate change are no longer the future. For us, it is our lived reality.
ClimateChange does not discriminate. It does not recognise borders. Climate change is a risk multiplier. It continues to be a threat to international security. We need actual realisation of pledges made, including financial commitments. We need easier, and faster access to finance. Climate financing has to be new, additional and predictable in nature, and rolled out now, to achieve the target we set in 2015.
As we rebuild our economies after Covid, it must not be business as usual. We have to build back greener. This is another opportunity to reduce emissions to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 celsius. Let us make the road to Glasgow, one that is paved with meaningful action.
Meaningful action is also required towards the protection of our ocean. President Solih announced at the UNGA last year, our pledge to phase out single use plastics by 2023. We continue to work with like-minded countries for an effective international framework to this end. It is our shared responsibility to preserve, and sustainably use, the ocean and all of its bounty. Let us not fail. Not on our watch!
Ensuring human rights is fundamental to a progressive society, & sustainable development. Of the core human rights Conventions Maldives has ratified 7 &withdrawn several of the reservations to CEDAW. We will also ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances in coming months.
We firmly believe that a rights-based approach focuses on empowerment of all segments of society–esp women & youth. For the 1st time, the Gov is working on a draft Youth Bill that will identify & ensure the rights of young people, including their participation in decision-making.
Mainstreaming gender equality in society, and in public life, is an ongoing process – a process that no country has completed. In the Maldives, several steps have been taken in the right direction. Recent amendments brought to Local Councils Act allocated a third of all local council seats to women, ensuring their participation in decentralised governance system. I am also proud to announce that we have achieved gender parity among Heads of Missions of the Foreign Service. It is because of the importance the Maldives places on the promotion and protection of human rights that the Government has taken the decision to present its candidature for the Human Rights Council for the term 2023 to 2025.
Terrorism remains one of the most complex &challenging global issues of our time–one that requires cooperation, coordination &also consensus. We have to work to address root causes of terrorism & violent extremism, esp in light of advances in social media &digital technology. For decades, Palestinians have cried out for dignity, respect, & statehood – to no avail. We reiterate our call for a two State solution on the basis of the pre1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
The Rohingya people continue to endure extreme deprivation and hardships. We will do all we can to challenge the mistreatment, displacement and wanton killing of the Rohingya people. We will continue to advocate on their behalf, including at the International Court of Justice.
As the UN celebrates 75 years in existence, there is much to celebrate, and be thankful for. The UN helped shape an international order following years of war, and strife. The UN gave the world a platform to share its problems and prepare solutions. The UN gave countries like mine – the smallest of the smallest – an equal voice, a place at the table, the ability to contribute, and to make a difference. It remains the best hope for the security of small States like mine.
We all agree that UN needs reform. But we cannot dispute that UN is still necessary. The UN still presents the best hope for humanity, the best opportunity for cooperation, the best platform for dialogue &the best check against the rising tide of ultra-nationalism, & xenophobia. We must once again come together, determined to uphold peace, preserve fundamental human rights, human dignity, and the worth of every person, and every nation large and small.
We must once again, commit to practise tolerance, promote dialogue over war, and employ global cooperation for the advancement of all people. We must once again, come together, resolute in our commitment to the principles of the UN, to revive the true spirit of multilateralism, to herald in a truly just and happier world.
“A handful though we are” – the Maldives stands ready to do our part – just as we did 55 years ago!