Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations at Sustainable Development
The Maldives wishes to associate itself with the statement of Bolivia on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and the statement of Nauru on behalf of AOSIS. Let me start by thanking the Secretary-General for his reports under this agenda item.
Sustainable development is a matter of the utmost importance to the Maldives as for other Small Island Developing States. The recently concluded SIDS Conference in Samoa renewed momentum for addressing SIDS priorities: for charting a new gateway for SIDS under the SAMOA Pathway. Now that the Conference is over, this Committee must come up with a concrete action plan for the full implementation of the SAMOA Pathway along with BPOA and MSI.
Sustainable development is inherently linked with combatting climate change. The consequences of irreversible climate change endanger the development gains that the Maldives has achieved so far and increasingly hinder progress in the future. As the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed clearly and unanimously yet again projections about our future keep getting bleak. No doubt, the international community is failing in its commitments. A rise of 40 to 63 cm of sea level rise is expected by the end of the century even by the most conservative estimates for sea level rise. As an archipelago of 1190 islands with over 80% of its land area lying just above a meter from mean sea level this is a grave threat to my country. In addition, coastal erosion, which is in turn exacerbated through sea level rise, large scale coral bleaching and ocean acidification severely decrease the resilience of our coral reefs. Coral reefs do not only build the physical foundation of my country, but are also the basis for our two main industries - tourism and fisheries. Another major concern for the Maldives deriving from climate change is the growing pressure on water resources due to salt water intrusion.
Sustainable development leads to success. The Maldives story proves that for economic development to happen, the environment need not be compromised. Throughout its development trajectory, the Maldives has in fact, based its strategy on growth and progress by incorporating sustainable practices.
As a fishing nation, we have traditionally adopted the most sustainable method of fisheries, which is "pole and line". Shark fin trade and turtle poaching were banned from the 1970s. Endangered species protected. Sustainable tourism has been, and still is, a major driver for growth and development in the Maldives as noted by the Secretary General of the World Trade Organization contained in document A/69/223. Tourism in the country was developed in accordance with the precautionary principle: with strict environmental assessments preceding any construction, and an emphasis on renewable energy and use of eco-friendly materials and technologies, as well as the sustainable management of waste. The country has effectively integrated climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into national development planning. We follow a low carbon development path and are in the process of transforming our island nation into a biosphere reserve, with one atoll declared already as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. In order to sustain the reserve, the Government of Maldives in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility has recently launched a Conservation Fund, the first of its kind in the country. Furthermore, we have begun a programme of phasing out the use of ozone depleting elements and rigorously abiding by the requirements of international conventions, as best as we can.
The Maldives is doing everything within its own means to contribute to a more sustainable world. But how much can we do on our own? The Maldives calls on the international community to double its efforts towards combatting climate change. We urge you all to take prudent policy measures based on science, predictable and reliable sustainable financing modalities for low emission development, climate change adaptation and capacity building. The Secretary General's Climate Summit sent a clear message on the need for accelerating action on a global level. The window of opportunity to secure our common future is closing fast. A strong and fair legally binding treaty at Paris 2015 is a must.
Since the Committee met in this debate last, we have begun to focus on the post-2015 development agenda. In designing the new agenda we need to consider the gaps, achievements and lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goals. The new Sustainable Development Goals need to address jointly the future challenges we face as an international community. My delegation agrees with many of the previous speakers that the proposals for the SDGs contained in its report should not be re-opened or re-negotiated.
As a large ocean state, the Maldives welcomes the creation of a stand-alone goal focused on the protection of oceans. This goal will allow the sustainable development and protection of coasts, exclusive economic zones and the high seas. For Small Island Developing States, oceans are the center and source of life, livelihood and identity for its peoples. Oceans need to be protected and preserved with prudent action and specific means of implementation.
The Maldives is entering a new phase of development. As a small, forward-looking middle-income country, we are transitioning into a stable and mature democracy. Building on decades of sustained and stable economic growth, the country has embarked on an ambitious economic transformation. Our vision is to become a resilient and diversified economy in the future. Yet, the inherent structural challenges of being an archipelago of small, low-lying and remote islands remain, in addition to climate vulnerabilities. We cannot reach economies of scale and face large transport costs both in the international and domestic market. These specific challenges call for adequate and targeted support mechanism and the creation of a special category, within global governance regimes, multilateral and financial institutions as well as through the institutionalization of this arrangement within the UN system.
This Committee has numerous challenges before us. You can rest assured the Maldives remain your partner in securing a sustainable, inclusive and fair future for all.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.