Thank you Mr. Chairman,
Let me extend my delegation’s warmest congratulations to you and the bureau on your election to steer the work of this Committee. I am confident of your able leadership in guiding the work of this Committee and I assure you of my delegation’s full cooperation and support in the deliberations ahead.
Let me also thank the Secretary-General for the reports submitted under this agenda item, and welcome the recommendations contained therein.
We live in a world rampant with increasingly complex and interrelated global challenges. Economic uncertainty, social inequalities, food insecurity, lack of education and high levels of unemployment are amongst the many difficult and daunting challenges facing the youth and other vulnerable groups today.
The Maldives supports the recommendations of the World Summit for Social Development and believe that it is important to actively support vulnerable groups by empowering them and creating an enabling environment which allows them to optimize their capacities, resources and opportunities, exercise their rights and responsibilities to be active in their communities and become productive and valuable partners in development.
The youth are the building blocks of a healthy future of any country. Hence utmost importance should be given to address the challenges faced by young people, comprehensively and with a sense of urgency.
We believe that education is one of the most fundamental and necessary areas of priority in this regard. We must endeavour to ensure equitable access to, and enhance investment in quality education, especially for the youth and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
My delegation commends the Secretary General for his initiative – ‘Education First’ with the three priorities; put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship. We also welcome the appointment of an Envoy on Youth and hope that these initiatives together with the UN Youth Volunteers Programme and the establishment of Youth Advisory Boards to UN Country Offices, will play a vital role in achieving the objective of addressing the needs of young people across the world.
The Maldives is in a very critical phase of demographic transition, as we are struggling to cope with the rapid growth of the adolescent and youth population in recent years, which now accounts for more than 51% of the population. The Maldives in its recent past has made substantial investments in the development of youth. In addition to achieving universal primary education across the country, several important initiatives by various stakeholders are under way, including vocational and skills development programs for youth, counseling for youth, and the formulation of the Youth Bill and the Youth Health Strategy.
The Maldives looks forward to the world conference on youth to be held in Colombo in 2014, where a number of these issues that are confronted by the youth can be deliberated, mainly focused on the participation and involvement of youth in achieving internationally agreed development goals.
The Maldives also looks forward to the preparation and observance of the twentieth International Year of the Family in 2014. We believe that families are the most important agents for social integration and inclusion, and measures to promote family values through family-centered policies would address a number of cross-cutting challenges such as, on poverty reduction, access to education and adequate healthcare.
The Maldives remains fully committed to promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, which is guaranteed by its Constitution. As a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Maldives enacted the Disability Act in July 2010, under which a Disability Council has been established with the mandate to promote and support all sectors in compliance with internationally established norms and standards, and to establish a safe environment for persons with disabilities. The Council is also entrusted with the responsibility to carry out advocacy on disability related issues and to establish standards of facilities and services for persons with disabilities.
Under the Disability Act, the Maldives established a Disability Register identifying persons with disabilities, for the purpose of paying them an allowance. In April 2011, the Ministry of Health in association with the World Health Organisation developed a Roadmap to address issues related to disability, which includes developing a manual for categorizing and coding disability; their accessibility; development of community based rehabilitation programmes; and advocacy for disability. The government is presently in the process of developing a National Disability Policy in accordance with the Disability Act. The government has also initiated policies to allocate social housing for persons with disability and finalised measures for special schooling accessibility for children with disabilities.
The Maldives also attaches great importance to the issues of the elderly persons, who face different levels of discrimination and on many fronts are excluded from national development agendas.
In the Maldives, older persons are entitled to protection and special assistance under the Constitution. To support the constitutionally-protected rights of the elderly, a Pension Act was adopted in 2009 which established an old-age pension and a retirement pension scheme. This is a lifetime pension benefit that will be paid to all Maldivian citizens who are resident in the Maldives and who are 65 years of age or older. Our universal health insurance scheme, Single parent allowance and disability allowance schemes also enable access to health care for older persons and facilitate social protection and poverty preventions.
The Ministry of Gender Family, Human Rights is mandated to address and advocate for the rights of the elderly and under this mandate institutional care for the elderly is provided in the “Home for People with Special Need”. A draft policy has also been formulated by the Ministry which addresses issues relating to financial security, providing long-term health care, shelter and institutional care and legal protection of older persons. The policy also covers areas of education, awareness, research and partnerships with non-governmental and civil society organizations in this area. Further more, the Ministry is currently working on developing a five year strategic plan of the Ministry, which will address all aspects of improving the quality of life of vulnerable groups in the country.
With preparations to observe the twentieth International Year of the Family in 2014 underway, we continue to believe firmly in the positive role of family-oriented policies in the areas of poverty reduction, achieving work-family balance and intergenerational solidarity. We also support the establishment of partnerships with civil society organizations, private enterprises and academic institutions in support of family-oriented policy and programme design, implementation and evaluation.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are faced with unique challenges in achieving social development. Our challenges are made tougher and progress is made slower by geographically dispersed populations, lack of economies of scale, lack of domestic financial and human resources. We therefore strongly call on the international community to recognize the challenges and vulnerabilities of SIDS and increase efforts to mobilize resources in order to support the vulnerable groups in these countries.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Maldives firmly believes in the empowerment of its youth and other vulnerable groups through creation of enabling environments and people-centric policies, as an effective approach to the advancement of social development. It is only with their inclusion in national development agendas and full and effective integration of the social dimension of sustainable development in the global development agenda beyond 2015 that the world can truly realize its aspirations for a better world for all, where no one is left behind.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.