Since this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor, let me take this opportunity to extend my delegation’s warmest congratulations to you, and the members of the bureau on your election to guide this committee and its work during the 68th session of the General Assembly. Let me also express our profound appreciation to the outgoing Bureau headed by His Excellency, Ambassador of Guyana for successfully overseeing the work of the Second Committee during the 67th session. Let me assure you of my delegation’s full cooperation and support in the deliberations ahead.
We would also like to associate ourselves with the statement delivered by Fiji on behalf of the Group of 77 & China and by Nauru on behalf of AOSIS.
The Maldives has always been a strong advocate with regards to climate change and the ever growing threat that it poses. With over 80 percent of the Maldives land area lying just above a meter from mean sea level, tackling climate change is a necessity for our security and survival. We are acutely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including phenomena such as sea level rise, increased frequency of severe weather events and deterioration of coral reefs due to increasing sea surface temperature and ocean acidification. The coral reefs and seas are our life line. Our largest economic sectors, tourism and fisheries, which contribute more than 80 percent to our GDP is entirely dependent on coral reefs and seas. As of today more than 50 percent of all islands, in an archipelago of 1190 islands, are experiencing severe coastal erosion. The need to divert resources from productive investments to efforts to protect valuable coastal property from erosion, significantly hinders the development aspirations of the Maldives. The Government of Maldives is currently spending more than 27% of its national budget to build resilience to combat the effects of climate change. The adverse impacts of climate change have compounded existing critical economic, environmental, social and security related issues and placed additional burdens on national responses and development systems. Any deterioration in the natural eco-systems in the Maldives would have detrimental economic consequences.
We need scaled-up national, international and regional efforts, especially to increase the financial resources in addressing climate change adaptation to help the most vulnerable countries, as they generally are the States with the least resources to address such global challenges. In addition to financial resources, we need capacity-building and technology. We express deep concern over the lack of fulfillment of Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments from many development partners. ODA remains essential for development and in aiding national development objectives, including the MDGs.
Having achieved 5 out of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the remaining three being on-track, the Maldives strives to address pressing challenges to sustain those achievements. The Post-2015 Development Agenda needs to be based on lessons learned from the MDGs. We believe that the MDGs are still unfinished business and we are committed for one big push to meet the existing MDGs. As we reach the 2015 deadline for the achievement of MDGs, there is a need for additional financial resources to support the efforts of developing countries. The Maldives also welcomes the outcome document of the Special Event on MDGs, adopted by our leaders on 25 September 2013 calling for a renewed commitment to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs by 2015.
This is a critical session for development related issues at the United Nations. We have had the inaugural meeting of the High-Level Political Forum, the Special event on the MDG review and we have many crucial processes that are ongoing, including the SDGs, the post-2015 Development agenda and the preparations for the Third SIDS Conference to be held in Samoa in 2014. To ensure we succeed in mapping the way forward we must act collectively, in a transparent and cohesive manner.
This year we have also seen the conclusion of the work of the Commission of Sustainable Development which has now been replaced by the High-level Political Forum. It is now up to all of us as member states to ensure that the Forum is a strong and focused platform that would give us the political push that is needed to carry on the work of Sustainable Development.
My delegation is eagerly following the progress being made in the formulation of the SDGs. While poverty eradication remains the main concern, we wait to see the inclusion of the issues of importance to SIDS. Growing water stresses are a major problem for the Maldives. Salt water intrusion into groundwater damage crops and cause damage to properties. About 24-32 % of the households from selected wells show salinity. In 2012, the Government of the Maldives had to supply desalinated water to about 87 islands. 50% of the households rely on desalinated water.
Another priority area for the Maldives is the oceans. An SDG dedicated to oceans is critical for the Maldives as the oceans are a source of life, livelihood and the identity of the people. In the Maldives up-to 70% of all deaths are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Equitable access to health care is imperative to achieve sustainable development and the introduction of universal health insurance in the Maldives in 2012 is a significant step in this direction. Energy security is yet another issue of great concern to the government of Maldives. We in the Maldives achieved the goal of universal access to modern electricity in the year 2008. 20% of our national GDP is spent on importing fossil fuels to the country. In this regard we have put in place a 5 year investment plan to scale up renewable energy in the Maldives.
The Maldives remain fully committed to ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) and the Mauritius Strategy for further Implementation (MSI). The BPoA and the MSI remain the essential blueprints for addressing the sustainable development needs of Small Island Developing States. In this regard, we hope that the outcome of the Third SIDS Conference in Samoa in 2014 would take us another step closer in addressing the gaps, new and emerging challenges while creating new partnerships.
The absence of the definition of the SIDS is a fundamental reason for which countries in that grouping are not able to gain special treatment with development organizations and donor countries. SIDS need to be given full recognition as a special category within global governance regimes, multilateral and financial institutions and adequately integrated and institutionalised within UN system.
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 Maldives has borne witness to the trials of graduation without due consideration to the inherent vulnerabilities of small island nations. From the beginning, the Maldives had been vocal about the ad hoc and unsystematic nature of the UN transition period from LDC to non-LDC status, even more about the graduation criteria. How can a country like Maldives ever expect to be safe from the wrath of geological disasters? How can we stop being vulnerable to external shocks when our smallness mandates us to be entirely dependent on the world markets? How can we built strong and vibrant economies and sustain them without due support, when our smallness inhibits us from achieving economies of scale, and our remoteness from markets that stack up exorbitant travel costs?
In a world that is facing declining aid resources, global economic uncertainties and increased environmental challenges, particularly those associated with climate change, the Maldives remains the canary in the coal mine. What affects the SIDS will inevitably affect the world.