Opening Remarks by His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives, at the Informal Interactive Dialogue with the candidates for the President of the Seventy-Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

6 May 2021, New York

Mr President,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you, Mr President for organising this informal interactive dialogue today. I truly value this opportunity to meet with all of you and present you with my vision for the Presidency of the United Nations General Assembly.


Today, we are a world in crisis. A pandemic is upon us. Its impact on the global economy, monumental.

Poverty is rampant. Climate change is devastating. The ocean is suffocating. People are destitute. Their rights are being violated. Injustice remains prevalent. Inequalities are widening. Conflict is raging.

And yet, in a year of disease, despair and devastation, we have seen glimmers of hope.

            ….in the unrelenting service of doctors,

            …the undeniable dedication of healthcare workers,

            …the uncompromising commitment of essential workers.

            …the unprecedented quick development and delivery of vaccines.

This may be a crisis. But I believe that this could also be an opportunity.

            ...To enhance multilateralism.

            …To strengthen cooperation.

It is an opportunity for the United Nations. To play a central role, in rebuilding communities. Rescuing the planet. Recovering economies. And above all, restoring hope.

An opportunity, for a Presidency of Hope – delivering for people, for the planet, and for prosperity.

As you know Excellencies, the Maldives is one place where the sun shines throughout the year.

So, for my Presidency, I intend to bring to you five rays, but of hope, that symbolizes my priorities.

My first ray of hope—my first priority—is “Recovering from Covid19”.

Covid19 has overwhelmed healthcare systems. Devastated economies. Exposed and exacerbated vulnerabilities. Widened inequalities. Disrupted supply chains.  Interrupted education. Halted travel.

Locked us in our countries, and our homes—away from loved ones and families. I know this was the case for many of you here, as well.

We have lost loved ones. Isolation has led to rising social exclusion. Affecting mental health and wellbeing. Affecting our communities. 

And still this pandemic seems to be far from over, with new variants emerging – more lethal, more infectious. And while we are still assessing the impacts, and the long-term consequences.

The United Nations has done much work to address the pandemic. But we must do more.

The General Assembly must continue monitoring, and responding, to manage the health response to where it is needed most urgently. Including mental health and wellbeing, with a long-term view to end the pandemic.

The General Assembly must do more—to mobilise resources, data, research and materials for vaccines.

Yes, vaccines are here. But we are falling short. Roll out is slow. Most importantly, access is not equitable.

The General Assembly must continue bringing ideas and all relevant stakeholders like the private sector, philanthropic organisations, scientists, and academia, together. To find solutions, discuss best practices, and new approaches to address the socio-economic impacts.

We must work together, mobilising public and private funds to help the most vulnerable.

To build back better, to build back stronger, and to build back greener and bluer.

This is why, my second ray of hope – my second priority is “Rebuilding Sustainably”.

We have a unique opportunity to do things differently. A post Covid world should be more sustainable. Without extreme poverty. As envisioned in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is a world where we are more resilient against disasters. Where we have tackled the issues around hunger and food security. Where access to quality education is finally realized for all. And digital divides have been bridged.  

It is a world where we have the necessary means for implementation. Public and private finance. Meaningful trade. Technology transfer. Sustainable debt. Human capacity. As envisioned in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the many other discussions on financing.

It is a world at peace. Free from terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization. Where the proliferation of arms and crime is kept at bay. Where trafficking of people and drugs is tackled.

This is a world we can achieve.

The General Assembly must work to regain the lost momentum on the “Decade of Action”. Restart our efforts to eradicate poverty. To ensure that no country is left behind.

To do that,| to truly address the needs of every country | interventions need to be targeted. Especially for countries in special situations.

As outlined in the SAMOA Pathway for SIDS – a special case for sustainable development.

As outlined in the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs.

and as outlined in the Vienna Programme of Action for LLDCs.

The special needs of Africa, as outlined in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union must be addressed. And the serious challenges to development faced by many middle-income countries too. 


Our planet is crying. And we must respond.

My third ray of hope – my third priority – is “Responding to the Needs of the Planet”.

The world over, the impacts of climate change are worsening. It is a threat multiplier. Cross cutting, and all-encompassing. The greatest challenge of our time.

We simply must do more! And do more now!

Keeping ambition high, including in the NDCs and towards achieving the 1.5-degree target,

…ensuring focus on adaptation and mitigation equally,

…and meeting financial commitments will be crucial.

…Especially for the Small Island Developing States.

The ocean too, is suffering. Impacted by climate change. Under stress due to harmful consumption and production patterns. Inundated by marine plastic.

Desertification is escalating. Draughts are increasing. Disasters are intensifying.

We face loss of biodiversity. We need greener ways of generating energy. We need to maintain healthy stocks of resources.

The seventy-sixth session can truly be a “Super session for Nature”.

                        …With the High-Level Dialogue on Energy,

                        …COP15 on Biodiversity,

                        …COP15 on Desertification,

                        …COP26 on Climate Change,

                        …and the Ocean Conference.

The Food Systems Summit and the Global Conference on Sustainable Transport will also be important contributors. 

The time to act is now. To generate momentum. To motivate action. To cultivate hope.


We must also address the needs of our people. And we can do that by “Respecting the rights of all”—my fourth priority, my fourth ray of hope.

The General Assembly is uniquely placed

            …to mobilise the collective will and conscience of humanity

            …to address inequalities and injustices and ensure inclusion of all, especially persons with disabilities.

            …To counter the rising tide of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, and all forms of discrimination.

Violence against women and girls, discrimination and inequality continue to persist. And has worsened during the pandemic.

I am a lifelong supporter and advocate of gender equality. And I will make it my mission to empower women.

Responding to the spirit of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Building on good initiatives such as the current PGA’s Advisory Group on Gender Equality, I will walk the talk.

In fact, I am proud to say, that under my Minister-ship I have, for the first time in the Maldives, achieved gender parity among the Heads of Missions.

I am also a firm believer of the importance of youth participation. Young people must have a role in shaping the decisions that shape their tomorrow. I will ensure they are included and heard.

Mr President, Excellencies,

Delivering for people, for the planet, for prosperity – the realization of hope, is only possible, with a strong, effective, efficient, transparent, and accountable United Nations.

My fifth and final ray of hope is, therefore, “Revitalising the United Nations”.

We must continue efforts to reform the Security Council. Revitalise the General Assembly. And strengthen the Economic and Social Council.

We must focus on alignment of our objectives, and outcomes. This can be done when all the subsidiary bodies of the organization talk to each other. Coordinate with each other. This can be better achieved when the Membership is heard frequently.

We must bring the United Nations closer to the people – the people that it serves. Make it relevant to them, make it work for them.

I intend to increase opportunities for this to happen. We must endeavor to ensure the future we want, and the United Nations we need, as envisioned in the 75th Anniversary Declaration.

Mr President, Excellencies,

These are my priorities. This is what a Maldives Presidency would like. This is what my Presidency would look like. This is what a Presidency of Hope would like.

In delivering these priorities,

I assure you; I will fully abide by the Code of Ethics of the President of the General Assembly.

I will be independent and impartial. Work to promote the interests of all, and not any one or few countries.

I will be inclusive and representative: Consider the views and interests of all and represent all.

I will be transparent: Hold regular consultations with the Membership and the principals of the main organs of the UN.

I will work to make the UN more responsive: By creating opportunities for engagement between Member States, the Secretariat. And other stakeholders such as civil society, businesses, philanthropic organisations, academia, the scientific community and other partners. I believe this will enrich the debates here at the UN. Add value to our discussion.

I will be guided by the UN Charter, the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly. I will be guided by the membership.

My team will be gender balanced, multi-national, with geographical diversity, including developed and developing countries, and various groups of countries.

My team will be selected based on merit and uphold the highest levels of professionalism.


The Maldives became an independent State in 1965. The first foreign policy decision the independent Maldives took, was to join the United Nations.

There were some that questioned whether “very small States” like the Maldives, would be “able to carry out their Charter obligations”. Those that wondered whether countries like the Maldives would be able to independently make decisions.

To those questions we say—We are proud that for the past 55 years we have been an independent, and responsible Member State.

The Maldives has a proven track record of championing climate change, security of small states, human rights, and gender equality.

The Maldives has always adopted a principled foreign policy.

This will not change.

We joined the UN, because we were convinced that the UN is the ultimate guarantor of sovereignty, of equality and, of development.

We joined the UN because multilateralism is the ultimate guarantor of peace and security for all States, especially Small States.

This is also why we—A very small State—announced our candidacy for the Presidency of the General Assembly.

We want to serve. We want to contribute. We believe that every country—big or small—has the ability and should have a say in decision making.

If elected, I will be only the sixth PGA from a Small Island Developing State—a group that represents one-fifth of the UN Membership.

We believe that every country should have the opportunity to serve our hallowed institutions at the highest levels. We strongly believe in the principle of rotation. Giving everyone the opportunity to serve.

Mr President,


Despite being one of the lowest lying country in the world, we have the moral high ground.

Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, even as we continued to be exposed to development challenges, inherent vulnerabilities, and climate change impacts, | we continued to work, | we continued to dream, | we dare to hope.

As a Maldivian, it is in my ethos to hope for better, and work for better.

This is what a Maldives Presidency would like.

This is what my Presidency would look like.

This is what a Presidency of Hope would like.

A Presidency of Hope – one that delivers for people, for the planet, and for prosperity. I humbly request your support in realizing a Presidency of Hope at this critical time.

I thank you.