Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations, on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the Secretary General and Special Rapporteurs for their reports under this Agenda Item. During the past few days, my delegation had the opportunity to participate actively in the interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs on issues of global and local significance, ranging from the right to water to freedom of expression.
The promotion and protection of human rights is central to the Maldives' domestic and foreign policy agenda. The Maldives Constitution of 2008 entrenches a Bill of Rights for the people, enshrines the principle of the separation of powers, and establishes independent institutions of horizontal accountability. The Maldives has ratified key international human rights instruments and is working towards domestic implementation of its obligations. The Government has enacted a suite of legislation reflecting its commitment to uphold the rights of the Maldivian people, including the Disabilities Act and the Domestic Violence Act. Last December, the Social Protection Act passed into law, guaranteeing a social protection floor for the poorest and most vulnerable. All Maldivians can claim their rights to healthcare, social health insurance, and pensions; those in a state of high vulnerability and poverty are entitled to monthly income support; and low-income families receive Government assistance to obtain school materials, medical treatment and disability care.
However, the enactment of formal and statutory measures does not necessarily guarantee the delivery of fundamental human rights. Our experience shows that enjoyment of human rights and freedoms can only be attained through cultivating values and building resilience in society. The Maldives has, therefore, continued to advocate at the national and international levels, cultivating the value of human rights in society while enacting legislation required in the promotion of human rights.
To match our achievements at the domestic level, the Maldives has been stepping up to advocate for human rights on the international stage. We are currently serving our second term on the Human Rights Council. As the smallest country to be elected to the Council, we seized the opportunity to represent the voiceless and marginalized. The Maldives brought the human rights agenda of Small Island Developing States to the fore—an agenda that cannot be ignored as the international community hastens to complete two landmark assignments: (i) drafting the post-2015 development agenda, and (ii) securing a fair, ambitious, and legally binding agreement on climate change in Paris 2015. Slowly but surely, we are moving towards a human rights-based approach to development. It is time now for a human rights-based approach to climate change.
The Maldives has drawn attention to the indivisible links between climate change and human rights across the platforms and organs of the United Nations. We have been instrumental in bringing this issue to the Human Rights Council's attention, leading to a unanimous resolution which explicitly acknowledged that climate change has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.
However, there is more work to be done: serious and urgent action on climate change is needed as entire populations face violations of their fundamental human rights and freedoms. Gradual changes and extreme climate events are already affecting the lives of people living in Small Island Developing States. The scientific consensus is frighteningly clear: in the absence of major mitigation action, these impacts are due to get worse. Adaptation and climate resilience-building efforts must be combined with a strong, unequivocal commitment to cut global emissions.
Heeding the science, we join the voices calling for the protection and promotion of human rights particularly under threat due to the impacts of climate change. We echo the remarks made by Tonga yesterday on behalf of Pacific SIDS in this respect. The Maldives, as the most low-lying country in the world, is at grave risk of rising sea levels, leading to saltwater intrusion and land erosion, which could ultimately drive our people to relocate. As our friends in the Pacific have said, this emerging trend in migration is a human rights issue that has been neglected for too long; it must be examined and addressed at the international level.
Last year during an informal "Arria formula" meeting of the Security Council on the subject of "Security dimensions of climate change", the Maldives argued that climate change is fundamentally a human issue, as it threatens human prosperity, human rights and human survival. It is already interfering with human rights, including, the right to life, the right to take part in cultural life, and the right to property. We must now begin to acknowledge, that this is fundamentally an issue of international security and stability as well. The Maldives has great expectations for a day when the United Nations Security Council formally begins to address the long-term security threat that affects low-lying states such as ours and others that are vulnerable to impacts of climate change.
Contemporary challenges such as environmental degradation, climate change and global inequality undermine efforts to meet human rights commitments. Some nations bear a disproportionate share of these challenges, and do not have adequate resources to deal with them. While it is the primary responsibility of Governments to protect human rights, we insist that it is also the responsibility of the international community as a whole. The Maldives urges the international community to assist countries in need of support, with generosity and good faith. We must motivate each other to create an upward spiral of compliance with human rights—for human development cannot progress without it.