Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations at "Eradication of Poverty and other Development Issues"
My delegation would like to associate itself with the statements delivered by Bolivia on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and Nauru on behalf of AOSIS. Let me start by thanking the Secretary-General for his comprehensive reports under this agenda item.
The international community has renewed its commitment to place poverty eradication as the cornerstone of the post-2015 development agenda, as most notably reflected in the report by the Open Working Group on the elaboration on the Sustainable Development Goals. The destination is clear: eradicate extreme poverty in the world by 2030. But the question is, how do we get there?
The Post-2015 Development Agenda, for which the Open Working Group's report will be the main basis, must flow from the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals and avoid silo approaches. Eradication of poverty is a truly multidimensional goal, with a multitude of inter-linkages and synergies to other elements of the agenda.
To eradicate extreme poverty for all, we need to address inequalities, not only between countries, but also within countries, including across age and gender groups, in urban and rural settings. We need an inclusive and people-centered approach. We must identify measures that can eradicate poverty through sustainable development not only in the short term, but indefinitely, because that is the meaning of sustainability.
In the Maldives, through legislation and policies, the government has ensured that no one is left behind. Programs have been formulated that identify, support, and empower vulnerable groups. The Employment Act of 2008 guarantees employees with equal pay for equal work. This Act also institutionalized the requirement of a minimum 3-months maternity leave with full pay for working mothers. The Pension Act of 2009 codifies protection for senior citizens through the establishment of an old-age retirement and pension scheme. This scheme guarantees a minimum monthly income for every senior citizen residing in the Maldives, over the age of 65. Recently, the Government has also formulated a policy to address the financial security, long-term healthcare, shelter or institutional care and legal protection of senior citizens. The Disabilities Act of 2010 ensures a safe environment for persons with disabilities, and empowers them through the provision of an allowance, social housing, as well as special education accessibility for children with disabilities.
The Maldives strongly emphasizes on the prominent role of gender equality in eradicating poverty. Women in Maldives enjoy equivalent access to ballot, education, employment and health care. Maldives believes that investment in both women and girls, including quality education, has crucial multiplier effects in society, particularly on productivity, efficiency, and sustained economic growth, which contributes towards eradication of poverty. We remain committed to the cause of women development and to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Program for Action.
Investing in children and youth is the best form of poverty eradication. In the Maldives, we value this investment even more, as young people account for 44% of the population. Youth-oriented programmes and policies are a cornerstone of the Government's priorities, encapsulated in the slogan "Youth, Economy, Hope" which spells out the focus of the Government on empowering youth. We are pleased to have made universal access to primary education a reality for the children of the Maldives. We have policies aimed at combatting unemployment by focusing on expanding educational opportunities, including greater access to higher secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels as well as vocational education programmes. In addition to this, we have launched an apprenticeship programme where students who are in their final year are placed with private companies.
In the Maldives, while the gains made in terms of economic development and poverty eradication is impressive, income distribution remains a major challenge. We recognize that building equitable societies requires social integration through full employment and decent work for all. The Maldives seeks to bridge this widening gap through the provision of Small and Medium Enterprise loans, together with a national effort to diversify our economy, to increase vocational training and skills development, and to expand employment opportunity.
While eradication of poverty needs to be inclusive, it also needs to be sustainable. As a large ocean state, the solution is inherently linked to oceans and marine resources. Our "pole and line" fisheries, recognized as the most sustainable method of fishing, has given high value to our tuna exports. Sustainable fisheries contribute in various ways to the eradication of poverty and provide us with the richness of marine biodiversity. Similarly, tourism sector is developed on a solid foundation of sustainable practices. It has contributed to raising its profile as an attractive destination worldwide, and generating high income for the country. We are proud of our achievements; reaching the Millennium development Goal target on Eradication of poverty already in 2004 and graduating from the LDC status in 2011.
Yet the Maldives' high dependence on few economic sectors like tourism, which accounts for 30 per cent of our GDP, and over reliance on imports for both goods and services, leave us with particular vulnerabilities. The unique dispersion and remoteness of islands, lack of scale economy, vulnerability to exogenous shocks and environmental fragility remain as a colossal challenge for us. The spatial disparity between the Capital Male' and the atolls contributes greatly to the existing Human Development gaps, most notably in the form of income and educational choices.
One cannot talk of poverty alleviation without emphasizing the need to integrate climate resilience measures. Climate change effects pose a threat to our people's ability to secure elements of basic living standard. Indeed, our livelihood, our homes and our ability to access healthcare are threatened due to the effects of climate change. Therefore, any framework that aims to achieve the eradication of poverty needs to consider climate change in two ways: (1) Achieving the ultimate goal of the UNFCCC, and (2) ensure that its measures, targets and goals are climate proof.
Poverty eradication is the centerpiece of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which quite literally means that it touches on all other elements of the Agenda. To reach this primary goal, the international community needs to deliver on the implementation of the full agenda. We look forward to working with you all in the deliberations ahead towards this objective.