H.E Ahmed Latheef, Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives to the Federal Republic of Germany,
At the Plenary of the Seventy Sixth Session of the UN General Assembly On Sport for development and peace:
building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal
2 December 2021
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Maldives believes in the importance of sport as an enabler of sustainable development, and a promoter of peace, tolerance, and respect. In this regard, we are pleased to join in the adoption of today's resolution. We also congratulate Japan on a successful and thrilling Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Games were a rare moment of light in the global darkness wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they provided an inspiring example of the resilience and determination of the human spirit in overcoming adversity.
The Olympics continue to symbolise the benefits of international cooperation, peace, and understanding. However, the circumstances of this year's Games were also emblematic of the immense value of sport as a unifying force. It was the games that brought people across the world together, at a moment when we spent much of our time apart. Sport is a forum in which we rise above the fray, put differences aside, and engage with each other in a spirit of friendship and healthy competition. By its nature, sport demands cooperation, mutual understanding, collegiality and tolerance. These are also lessons that we can bring to our multilateral engagements in order to advance our progress on pressing global issues.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development rightly links sport to sustainable development. We see this particularly in relation to improving the lives of the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. In 2019, with assistance from the World Bank, the Maldives ran a pilot workshop using female-led soccer training sessions to empower and inspire self-confidence in girls.1 The aim was to use sport to help girls break societal barriers, pursue education and enter areas of employment that are male-dominated. The workshop yielded incredible results. After the sessions, the girls were less tolerant towards gender stereotypes and had changed their opinions about the suitability of girls undertaking jobs traditionally held by men. The Maldives has also formulated Paralympic and Special Olympic Committees in 2019, to promote the inclusion of all in sports and to remove barriers. In 2020, the Maldives participated in the Paralympics for the first time.
The Government of Maldives has prioritized sport to promote education, inclusivity, and health. The Maldives continues to make significant investments in sports infrastructure to enhance our communities' enjoyment of sport. We are currently on track to open our first Olympic-size swimming pool by 2023. It is crucial that sport infrastructure and policies be inclusive and promote opportunities for all including all the venerable groups. Our Government intends to modify at least eighty percent of sports facilities by 2023 to provide access to people with disabilities, as well as to provide equal opportunities for women and girls to participate more fully in national sports programmes.
The Maldives has also made it a policy to designate a Sports Councillor in all islands. The main role of Sports Councillors is to help create interest in sports and motivation within the community to initiate, and enhance participation in programmes for healthy lifestyles. Additionally, the Maldives is working towards the achievement of the target of having at least 33% women in the executive boards of all National Associations by 2023. And I am pleased to note that we have already achieved the target of equal allowance for men and women of all national sports.
Investment in sports is an investment in our society. Encouraging greater participation of youth in athletic activities promotes the development of leadership and cooperation skills, ensuring that they become positive role models in their communities and contributing to economic and social progress. In this way, sport programmes implemented at national and local levels remain key to facilitating sustainable development and peaceful coexistence.
Like in so many other areas of our lives and economies, COVID-19 has had a disruptive impact on sport. The closure of stadiums and facilities and the cancellation of events have had a significant effect on athletes, businesses, and the community at large. It has also had a profound effect on our nation, as we deeply regret the need to withdraw from hosting the 2023 Indian Ocean Island Games, owing to the difficult challenges caused by the pandemic.
Despite these setbacks, sport must remain a key instrument in improving our resilience and cooperation as we build back better from the pandemic. Sport is a social activity like no other in the way in which it unites people from differing backgrounds for a common cause. It also promotes determination, dedication, and teamwork - all necessary attributes to confront the broader challenges that we face. By continuing to recognise and promote the important social role played by sports in our lives, we will continue to profit from its ability to engender progress towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
I thank you.