Statement by Her Excellency Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Minister of Environment and Energy and Acting Foreign Minister at the Special Event of the President of the General Assembly to follow up on the efforts made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
Distinguished Chairs, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Excellencies, for convening this special event.
13 years ago, the world embarked on a journey: a journey of hope, of achieving dreams and ambitions, a journey towards attaining a minimum level of the rights and dignities associated with being human, a journey to alleviate suffering around the world; a journey to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
13 years later, though we as a community of nations have made remarkable progress towards achieving our shared vision, we recognize there have been shortfalls and key implementation gaps. Though the portion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level, poverty eradication still remains of critical importance. While many nations, such as mine, have seen the reduction of absolute poverty, we have seen an increase in urban poverty coupled with new social ills.
It is in the global interest to accelerate the achievement of MDGs and ensure the timely execution of global commitments, as inadequate funding, limits SIDS from achieving the goals. Maldives has been lucky in that it had achieved 5 out of the 8 goals by 2010, ahead of the deadline, and making it the only MDG+ country in South Asia. It has achieved remarkable progress in achieving the remaining three goals as well. Yet the Maldives continues to face enormous infrastructure, social and economic challenges that threaten progress made on MDGs. And we are not alone.
Those nations which have lagged behind face challenges such as high debt burdens, civil strife, weak institutions, and a lack of capacity which hinders the fruition of MDGs. In this regard we call on all nations to fulfill their ODA commitments and in doing so help the most vulnerable populations. It is also important to create SIDS specific funding mechanisms such as debt relief initiatives and debt conversion to encourage the conversion of official sector debt repayments into climate change adaptation resources. Debt service of this nature will enhance governments’ abilities to channel substantial amounts of domestic resources into climate change adaptation.
We cannot fail in assisting SIDS. If we have failed, we have failed to create the partnerships that would lay the foundations for sustained development. Partnerships that span the private and public sectors, that extend from local to regional levels, and is a vehicle for transfer of ideas, methodologies and technology for a holistic approach to development.
These partnerships will be essential in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Republic of Maldives welcomes the adoption of the inter-governmentally negotiated outcome document on this Special Event on MDGs.
The Post-2015 Development Agenda needs to be based on lessons learned from the MDGs. We believe that the story of SIDS is a cautionary tale of vulnerabilities which have gone unrecognized, undervalued and is now leading to economic hardships. The true mark of a developed nation is the graduation of that country from LDC status. However, use of distortive indices such as GDP per capita income to gauge development levels, fail to adequately reflect the ground reality of development in SIDS such as the structural and institutional weaknesses, the complex interactions between the environmental resources and vulnerabilities and social issues. The MDGs having taken aggregate and global benchmarks to develop the indicator and targets, misses the ground reality of SIDS.
As a nation, Maldives has borne witness to the trials of graduation without due consideration to the inherent vulnerabilities of small island nations. I draw you attention to Goal 7 of the MDGs and its target of accessibility to safe drinking water. As per the gauging criteria, simply having achieved improved access to water means we have achieved goal 7. But can drinking and using contaminated water be considered as having access to improved water and sanitation? How could we be categorized as having achieved Goal 7 despite the fact that a large portion of our ground water is contaminated with salinity as well as with over 100% fecal coliform and, and when our rain water is polluted due to trans boundary pollution.?
How could ODA be stopped when our national debt is extremely high, when almost of 100% of all our islands are eroding, when we have only 30 sewerage systems and 5 networked water systems to service a population of 350,000 people spread across 194 remote islands, and when our expenditure on unsustainable uses of importing fossil fuels stands at over 36% and we spend 26 million annually on water relief and when our trade deficit is 244% of GDP and when our external debt is at 43% and when national deficit is over 20% of GDP? Upon graduation SIDS like us lose access to concessionary finance, preferential market access and ODA in spite of existing vulnerabilities. Disregard for these vulnerabilities allow for a single economic shock to possibly cause developmental regression. Therefore there is an urgent need to comprehensively define SIDS and give full recognition as a special category within global governance regimes, multilateral and financial institutions and adequately integrate and institutionalize SIDS within UN system. SIDS require differentiated treatment so that concessionary financial mechanisms and access to aid for SIDS do not cease. Though limited in size and population, SIDS are in fact custodians of vast ocean reserves and associated marine biodiversity and any change or degradation to these has global implications. Why should action to protect and conserve these within the framework of sustainable development not be a global matter?
13 years ago, we shared a common vision that the community of nations should progress, rather than regress. We now know, that SIDS face acute vulnerabilities and are countries in special situations, deserving of special consideration. We now know the devastating effects of global economic, fiscal, fuel, and food crises and the need for resilience amongst developing nations. It is our dearest hope that the Millennium Development Goals are not left incomplete and the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals are not seen in isolation to MDGs. That SDGs should be seen as a continuation of MDGs, whereby its achievements complement, and the gaps reflect the formulation of SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda. That no nation is left without an avenue towards progression. That no SIDS are left behind.