Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations at International Drug Control
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It is good to see you preside over this Committee. You have my well wishes and full support in successfully conducting its work.
Let me begin by acknowledging the reports of the Secretary General on crime prevention and criminal justice, and international drug control. The Maldives commends the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Its activities in the South Asian region have included drug law enforcement and technical cooperation with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The programme's focus on the Maldives is much appreciated.
Transnational crime is a critical issue for this General Assembly to address; when crime crosses national boundaries, it can only be stopped through international cooperation and coordination among all states. It must be tackled at the source, destination, and every point in between.
Being incredibly porous, the Maldives is at risk of becoming a transit state for transnational crimes such as human and drug trafficking. Given our geography, as an archipelago of scattered islands at the intersection of several maritime trade routes, we are vulnerable to the pervasive international drug trade. Given our reliance on migrant workers, we also face the risk of becoming a transit and destination point for human trafficking and people smuggling.
These kinds of crimes pose a threat to peace and security, as well as the human rights and social development of our people. We are doing what we can to put an end to them, at the domestic and international level. Last year, the Maldives acceded to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. We are in the process of joining the Optional Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.
Law enforcement agencies regularly coordinate with international partners and also have strong inter-agency networks to deal with crime prevention and international organised crime. When Somali piracy spread to our waters, we stepped up our vigilance. The Government has since introduced an Anti-Piracy Bill in Parliament, which seeks to establish a legal framework to tackle piracy, and sets out the procedures for dealing with individuals suspected of committing piracy within the territorial waters of the Maldives. We are also keeping to our commitments under the Djibouti Code of Conduct, set up by the International Maritime Organisation to develop the regional capacity of countries in the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean to counter piracy. The Maldives is further building its anti-piracy capacity with financial assistance from the United Nations Trust Fund for Fight against Piracy.
The law enforcement agencies of the Maldives, are also working with a number of partners in addressing international and domestic terrorism and terrorism financing. A number of regulations and laws aid this effort. Most notably, earlier this year, the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act was ratified. Agencies are now working towards realisation of the provisions of this landmark Act.
While our institutions are gaining strength and capacity, corruption undermines their effectiveness. The Maldives is party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and is currently conducting a review to identify where the gaps are in the national legislature when compared to the Convention. The constitutionally created, independent Anti-Corruption Commission of the Maldives is overseeing our progress on all matters of corruption, with the full commitment of the Government. In addition to ensuring that the legislative framework matches with international best practise, the Government is also committed to ensuring that the regulatory framework is up to the mark to ensure timely and effective prosecution of corruption. With these initiatives on anti-corruption and transparency, the Maldives hopes to reduce the opportunities for crimes such as human trafficking and money laundering.
Trafficking in persons is an issue of grave concern for the Maldives, obstructing our efforts to ensure the rights of all migrant workers. The increasing demand for cheap labour has led to abuses in local industries as well as illicit recruiting practices on foreign shores. In our laws and policies, the Maldives has taken concrete steps to stop human trafficking by adopting a multi-sectoral action plan and enacting a new Anti-Human Trafficking Act last year. In acknowledgment of these efforts, the Maldives was upgraded from the Tier 2 Watchlist earlier this year. The new anti-trafficking legislation takes a more systematic approach to combating human trafficking, matching strong border control with care for victims of trafficking, such as shelter, counselling, medical care and translation services.
The victims of drug trafficking are those who become addicts. Rehabilitation is the key to preventing recurring cycles of drug abuse and the resulting social harms. The international drug trade targets the most vulnerable groups in our community. Too many of our young people are affected by, or addicted to, drugs and other substances. In some cases, young children have been recruited into a culture of gangs and violence. Preventing drug abuse is an important step towards containing gang violence, and restoring peace and safety in our communities. The Maldives recently established a dedicated Drug Court to deal with drug cases using a treatment-based approach. Our rehabilitation centres are already showing positive results, as former addicts are turning their lives around.
Rehabilitation efforts are being coupled with prevention efforts, to combat the entry and selling of drugs. This is a feat considering the wide dispersion of the islands of our country. Law Enforcement Agencies cooperate closely on the matter, with efforts being made to re-establish the canine unit at Maldivian ports and airports, as well as dispatching law enforcement officials to various regions of the country to attain information and work more closely with the local communities in combating drug trade.
Victim protection is of utmost importance for both drug trafficking and human trafficking. We emphasise that targeted solutions are needed, that differentiate between addicts, peddlers, dealers and traffickers. The human dimension must not be forgotten. At the same time, we must unequivocally commit to tackling transnational organised crimes—both the root of the disease and its social symptoms. With the continued support of international organisations, and the cooperation of the international community, the Maldives will fight to halt the course of transnational crime before it crosses our shores.