General Debate of the Second Committee

at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly


Statement by:

Mr. Hassan Hussain Shihab, First Secretary


New York, 08 October2014


Distinguished Chairperson,

On behalf of my delegation, I wish to extend to you and the bureau members, our warmest congratulations on your election. I would like to express our full trust in you and the members of your bureau to guide this committee and its work throughout the coming months. Our deep appreciation goes to the outgoing Bureau under the leadership of His Excellency Ambassador Abdou Salam Diallo of Senegal, who so ably chaired this committee during the 68th session. My delegation looks forward to constructively engage with all of you and in this regard, assures you of our full cooperation and support during the deliberations of the Committee.

The Maldives wishes to associate itself with the statements delivered earlier by Bolivia on behalf of the Group of 77 & China and Nauru on behalf of AOSIS.

Mr. Chairperson,

This 69th General Assembly is a crucial year for Sustainable Development. We are on the cusp of many decisions that will act as guardrails for our common path through the Anthropocene. The work of the Open Working Group on the Elaboration of Sustainable Development Goals has concluded, but the intergovernmental process to craft an inclusive and transformative Post-2015 Agenda lies before us., Just two weeks ago, the Secretary General convened world leaders around the most pressing issue of our time, climate change, which gave civil society a projection space to rally unprecedented public support. Yet, the UNFCCC remains the main and only negotiation body on Climate Change and we must find a way to harness that newfound momentum to reach an ambitious legally binding intergovernmental agreement at the COP in Paris, 2015.

The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States held last month in Samoa has given us an opportunity to chart the way forward together on a comprehensive range of issues that confront small island states such as the Maldives. The SAMOA Pathway, that was adopted at the Conference, clearly captures the vision of priorities and aspirations of all SIDS towards attaining sustainable development.  It is important that this Committee during its deliberations comes up with an action plan for the full implementation of the SAMOA Pathway.  My delegation further believes that the SAMOA Pathway need to be put into concrete action along with the previously agreed BPOA and MSI, if the commitments under these three documents were to be effectively addressed.

The Maldives and other SIDS face particular and unique vulnerabilities in our sustainable development.  This is clearly recognized in all three documents - BPOA, MSI and SAMOA Pathway.   SIDS’s challenges, needs and adequate and targeted support, can adequately be reflected only with the creation of a special category within global governance regimes, multilateral and financial institutions and by adequately integrating and institutionalizing this category within the UN system. It is no secret that SIDS being assessed for graduation do not meet the threshold for economic vulnerability. Maldives, as only the third country to graduate from LDC status can rightfully attest to. On 1st January 2011, the Maldives graduated from LDC status, yet the inherent structural challenges of being an archipelago of small, low-lying and remote islands remain. We, for example, cannot reach economics of scale and face large transport costs both in the international and domestic market. Our infrastructure is vulnerable to natural coastal disasters and extreme weather, and our economy relies largely on our biodiversity and coral reefs which are threatened by transboundary pollution, climate change & ocean acidification. The unique dispersion and remoteness of islands remain as a colossal challenge to our development. We note that following Maldives led efforts within the ECOSOC in 2009 and 2010, the Committee for Development Policy, among other issues, noted the imprecision in the definition of SIDS as a requirement for proper focus and effective monitoring of the development programs for SIDS. We therefore, in this regard look forward to the Secretary General's comprehensive review of the UN system support to SIDS, with the view to enhancing its overall effectiveness and the respective roles in supporting SIDS sustainable development.

Just a month ago, we all welcomed the Open Working Group's report and decided that it will be the main basis for integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Now that this crucial work stage is over, we are ready to engage in the new intergovernmental process to craft the Post-2015 Development Agenda. My delegation believes that we should move forward together in a transparent, inclusive and cohesive manner, maintaining the open spirit of the Open Working Group and together pursuing an agenda that will make the international community's approach towards sustainable development more dependable, consistent, integrated, and ambitious.  Moreover, the post-2015 development agenda must be developed taking into consideration the failures of the Millennium Development Goals. If the post-2015 development agenda were to be successful, a renewed global partnership, a more action-oriented update of MDG8 is an imperative.

In fact, the Conference in Samoa created a blueprint for genuine and durable partnerships.  We had called for partnerships where commitments are made to enhance international cooperation at all levels.  We demanded an international framework where SIDS are regarded as equal partners, based on mutual collaboration, respect and accountability.  It is only under such an international partnership, SIDS can achieve its ultimate goal of resilience. But perhaps more importantly, for these partnerships to be durable and meaningful, the world needs to start listening to SIDS. Our voices need to be heard, at the highest levels of decision making. We eagerly await the Secretary General’s recommendations for a partnership framework aimed at monitoring and ensuring the full implementation of pledges and commitments through partnerships for SIDS.

Mr. Chairperson,

Oceans had been neglected for far too long in the sustainable development debate and we are delighted to see them now firmly settled at the core of the new Sustainable Development Agenda, as a stand-alone goal. For the Maldives, sustainable development is inherently about Oceans, they are the livelihood of the people on which we have been dependent on for nutrition, livelihood, transport and many more. There are many synergies between the proposed ocean SDG and others. Sustainable, small scale fisheries, like our traditional pole and line fishing contribute to poverty eradication, employment and decent work, long-term food security and healthy nutrition. They also have considerable economic potential, but currently our economies do not retain enough of the economic benefit of those fisheries, as the domestic value chain is often short, processing and retail takes place in other countries.

Mr. Chairperson,

We could not possibly talk about Sustainable Development, without talking about climate change, which poses a severe threat to the Maldives' environment, economy and our very existence. The IPCC's fifth assessment report offers a bleak outlook for Maldives and other low-lying SIDS. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions continue to rise and temperatures are currently increasing at 0.2 degrees per decade. Projections indicate that there could be a rise of 1.8 degrees by 2050 compared to today. In the Maldives, our weather patterns are changing with extended dry periods. This adds the stress on the availability of fresh water supply and the demands on the government to provide potable water to outer islands. Highly conservative estimates for sea level rise until the year 2100 are consistently higher than previous estimates, with 40 to 63cm. As an archipelago of 1190 islands with over 80% per cent of its land area lying just above a meter from mean sea level this is a grave threat. High Sea Surface Temperatures, combined with ocean acidification, also caused by anthropogenic CO² emissions, is already threatening our coral reefs, which are a major attraction fuelling our tourism industry and act as nursery for our fisheries, thereby directly impacting our economy. According to recent estimates, in the relatively short run, for the next 10 years, the Maldives will need to invest USD 1.5 billion in climate change adaptation and mitigation measures: a huge investment for a small country, that is still developing and need to maintain investment in human resources and infrastructure. . The negative impacts of Climate Change do not only threaten to erode development gains we have achieved, they will increasingly hamper progress every step along the way. 

That is why ambitious global action on climate change is a prerequisite for sustainable development. We were extremely heartened at the outpour of global support around the Secretary General's Climate Summit. We hope that commitments will be met with full realization of the pledges that were made by the emitting countries.  Further, we remain hopeful that this unprecedented public support for action against climate change and reclaimed attention from world leaders will result in an ambitious legally binding treaty next year in Paris 2015. We also congratulate the new climate goals, targets and initiatives and contributions to the Green Climate Fund announced by both developing and developed nations.

Mr. Chairperson,

The recent horrendous attack on Gaza was a sharp and painful reminder to all of us of the continuing plight of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian territories, who are unjustly bereft not only of peace and the right to self-determination, but also of their sovereignty over their natural resources. As in previous years, we stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters and raise a loud and clear voice on this issue. We wholeheartedly believe in a two state solution based on the 1967 borders, with Israel and Palestine living side by side and at peace. While this process is ongoing we have time and time again called on the occupying power, to abide by international law, international treaties and relevant UN resolutions; to enable a life of dignity for the people under occupation; to give them their basic rights to water, sanitation, to basic infrastructure and to live a life of peace and security.

Mr. Chairperson,

Many challenges confront our global community, with more conflicts currently raging than in the recent years and some countries are still recovering from the after effects of the global financial crisis. Yet, can we really afford to stall progress and risk regression in the critical issues of our time, tackling climate change and achieving sustainable development? Indeed not.  We need to work on all of these challenges, without neglecting the others. After all, we have only borrowed the world from our children.

My delegation is determined and hopeful that the world will remember 2015 as the year in which the members of the United Nations took decisive action on Climate Change, stepping up to their moral responsibility to current and future generations. And also as the year in which a universal, truly transformative Post-2015 development agenda was crafted, which enabled substantive, inclusive progress across the development spectrum, without taking environmentally or socially unsustainable short-cuts and imperiling future generations' ability to achieve the same. If we want 2015 to be remembered this way, we must now, in 2014, finalize the groundwork on which these achievements will stand. We are ready to do our part and we look forward to working with all of you.

Thank you.