Statement by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Latheef, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations at the General Debate of the Second Committee of the Sixtieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 5 October 2005
Allow me first of all to congratulate you on your election as the Chairman of this Committee. Allow me also to congratulate the other members who have been elected to the Bureau.
The increasing frequency and ferocity of natural disasters in the world today are nothing short of alarming. Invariably, natural disasters leave behind unprecedented death, destruction and despair. Whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, big or small, no one country in the world can claim immunity from the devastating effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change. Nature does not distinguish between countries on how well they are equipped to overcome or mitigate environmental catastrophes. Nor does it consider important the question of how much, if at all, a country is at fault for environmental degradation.
As the distinguished members of this august body are well aware my country was amongst those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. No island in the country was spared. Some 62 percent of the GDP was destroyed instantly. More than 7 percent of the population were displaced. Over a third of the entire population suffered in various other ways. 12 inhabited islands were turned into complete rubble. Social and economic infrastructure in over a quarter of the inhabited islands were damaged or destroyed.
Our economy, which was used to an average growth rate of 8 percent per annum, is now forecast to register 3 to 4 percent negative growth this year. Rising oil prices, financing for reconstruction and the revenue shortfall from tourism are factors exacerbating the already critical situation. The IMF has alerted the Government to the serious risk of a financial crisis. For the first time in our history, we are left with no choice but to appeal for budgetary support from the international community. We can only hope that the urgent reality of the situation counts in our favour.
Environmental sustainability has suffered enough from empty promises. Decisive action is urgently needed if we are to halt and reverse further degeneration of our environment. Internationally-agreed standards of protection and preservation, such as the Kyoto Protocol, must be realized without delay. And sustainable practices should be embraced with renewed passion. We must, at the same time, be resolute in our efforts to develop alternative and cleaner sources of energy. Developing countries should be assisted in capacity building in order to improve their resilience and integrate adaptation goals into their sustainable development strategies. The special needs and vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) similarly require urgent attention. I cannot stress enough the importance of the meaningful realization of the Mauritius Strategy with regard to SIDS.
Globalization, with all its potential, continues to deepen the rifts between the developed and developing countries. The predicament facing the Least Developed Countries remains especially acute. We cannot afford to further stall the achievement of the goals and targets of the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs.
No longer can we survive with hollow words. Past commitments must be made good. Without unfaltering universal focus and drive the MDGs will forever remain mere goals.
While donors alone cannot fully overcome inequality between states, development assistance does play an indispensable role in the global development process. In this regard we are encouraged by and indeed appreciative of the recent initiatives taken by many developed countries to meet the ODA target of 0.7 percent of GNP by 2015. We particularly note the cooperation and understanding shown by the members of the European Union in the recent exercise of joint understanding.
We are hopeful of similar responses in our efforts to fully recover from the tsunami. Before the disaster, the Maldives had been well on track to achieve the MDGs by the target year of 2015. Some targets had in fact been already achieved by then. Unfortunately, with the tsunami we experienced severe socioeconomic setbacks on all fronts. Nonetheless, provided the help and assistance from our development partners, we are confident of reclaiming past momentum in our development efforts, and succeed in attaining the MDGs as planned.
Before I conclude, I would like to express my country’s full support to the Outcome Document of the High-level Plenary of the Assembly held last month. Of course, we would have preferred firmer and more explicit commitments, but we are optimistic about what we have managed to agree upon. Having said that, much depends, as always, on how well we follow-up and make real what we have agreed between us on paper. I trust the positive spirit that prevailed when negotiating the document will continue to drive us forward in our follow-up efforts. The Maldives is one of the smallest and most vulnerable members of this organization. In an increasingly interdependent world, we are if anything more reliant for the success of our development efforts on the other members of the international community. Thankfully, we have found the UN system and the international community to be most forthcoming in promoting development in the country in the past. The Maldives is today facing the biggest crisis in the history of its development. It is now more than ever that the country has need of the full co-operation of the international community and the UN system. I am hopeful our calls will be positively answered.
I conclude with my reassurance to you, Mr Chairman, of my delegation’s commitment to the work of this Committee, and my country’s firm belief in the ideals of collective development and peace.
I thank you.