Statement by

H.E. Dr. Hala Hameed, Secretary-Bilateral, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives 

at the  Third Committee General Discussion on Social Development 

28 September 2023  


Thank you, Mr. Chair,  

Let me begin by congratulating you on your election as the Chair of the Third Committee. The Maldives looks forward to working closely with you and your bureau as you execute your duties and lead the Committee’s work on social development.  

I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to the Secretary-General for his reports under this Agenda item.   

Mr. Chair,  

More than two decades ago, the leaders of the world came together at the historic World Summit for Social Development, and pledged that development should always be people-centered; and that development should envision the perceived fulfillment of the world that they live in. In essence, a firm understanding emerged, advocating that societies that undervalue the quality of life of the people who reside in them, are neither sustainable nor desirable, for the overall development of a society.  

In principle, the Summit was a notable precursor to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it championed the societal integration of marginalised and vulnerable groups. Over the years, it has provided the impetus culminating in an expression that is synonymous with the multilateral fora of our present-day – “leave no one behind”.  

Small Island Developing States like the Maldives face a multitude of challenges in our pursuit of social development, including the challenges posed by our population size and economic capacity. Additionally, the looming threat of climate change, coupled with our geographical remoteness and dependence on narrow economic foundations further complicates our endeavors in advancing social progress. 

Amidst the numerous challenges, the current administration remains committed to fostering inclusive social development, lighting the path towards a brighter and more equitable future for all Maldivians.  

Mr. Chair, 

The Secretary-General’s report highlights the significant vulnerability to poverty, discrimination, and exploitation at work experienced by the youth, women, and persons with disabilities throughout the world. The Maldives recognizes the importance of ensuring inclusivity in our economic development as a key way to overcome inequalities.  

Young people account for over 35 percent of the Maldivian population. The Government is committed to promoting and protecting young people’s rights, including enhancing employment prospects, fostering economic opportunities, advancing education accessibility, and bolstering youth participation in decision-making processes. 

The Secretary General’s report additionally highlights the pervasive issue of unaffordable public education, and that the practice of education being treated as a commodity affordable only by the wealthy must end.  

The Government of Maldives launched a Free Education Scheme for Degree Students, providing the opportunity for all eligible students to attain their first university degree. Since its introduction 4 years ago, over 16000 students have enrolled in this scheme, while over 6000 students have completed their education. 

Mr. Chair, 

Alongside our commitment to youth and children, it is imperative that we ensure social security benefits and income security for our most vulnerable. In 2014, the Maldives introduced a National Social Health Insurance Scheme called ‘Aasandha’ to ensure affordable and accessible health care for all Maldivian nationals. During the current administration, the Scheme has been expanded to cover mental health services and to accommodate Maldivians seeking services from medical facilities abroad including in Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia.  

Prioritizing inclusivity for underrepresented demographics, particularly those with disabilities, continues to be a priority of our Government. In January this year, a significant milestone was reached with the establishment of the National Disability Registry (NDR). This registry marks a crucial step forward in accurately identifying and categorizing the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities, including those who face psychological and intellectual challenges. 

Furthermore, in June this year, a new financial support framework for individuals with disabilities was launched, resulting in a 50 percent increase in the baseline disability allowance. 

The Maldives has achieved significant strides in the health and well-being of its people. Maternal, neonatal and child mortality have decreased significantly, and life expectancy has improved to 79 years.  

Mr. Chair,

Despite the many achievements, we must also address the various challenges. Non-Communicable Diseases are a major burden needing immediate attention, and mental health and cancers are growing concerns. Furthermore, Maldives is moving towards low fertility and an ageing population and needs better sustainable social protection planning and targeting. Social welfare spending as a share of GDP is estimated to double by 2050 due to population aging. 

The Maldives takes pride in the progress we have accomplished in promoting gender equality. However, it is also crucial to recognize that we still have a long way to go in ensuring that women are empowered socially, economically and politically in order to achieve meaningful social development.  

Mr. Chair, 

As we proceed with the 78th Session of the General Assembly, it is imperative that we actively uphold the pledges we have made to advance our collective objectives and safeguard our shared principles. The Maldives reaffirms its dedication to collaborating with the international community in the pursuit of human rights, the rule of law, and fair social progress, despite the formidable challenges before us. 

Thank you.