High Level Roundtable on South-South Cooperation
H.E. Ms Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
New York, 26 September 2015
Your Excellency President Xi Jinping, Your Excellency Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me begin by commending the Government of China, and the United Nations for this important initiative, which is very timely. I wish to also convey President Yameen’s regrets on not being able to be here today, and his best wishes for a fruitful discussion.
The Maldives, like many others in this room, is a Middle Income country. We graduated out of LDC status in 2011, only the third country to do so. Needless to say, the perils and challenges of a post-LDC status was unfamiliar to the Maldives and dare I say to the UN as well. Very quickly, we discovered that scoring high on the scorecards used to graduate us, did not accurately depict our ability to react and deal with the many challenges that we still face.
As a Small Island Development State, we have to confront the challenges associated with a small but highly dispersed population, and a narrow economic base, and inability to achieve economies of scale. Basic services and the necessary infrastructure including schools, hospitals, harbours and some level of administrative and security services needed to be provided in nearly 200 islands. This means that cost of delivery of services is undoubtedly very high.
Paradoxically, however, the development gains that had enabled us to graduate from LDC status, are now in danger. Because we are not able to access the concessionary financing necessary to sustain the high focus on infrastructure and service delivery, we have had to borrow at unsustainable rates. And because of these higher rates, our debt burden, which was already high, faces additional stress.
Our challenge now is on sustaining the development gains we have made. The experience of the Maldives shows that South-South cooperation can play an effective role in helping the newly graduated middle-income countries to consolidate development gains.
We are fortunate to have very strong bilateral relationships with economic powers in the South, most important among them, China and Saudi Arabia. They understand the challenges we face and the potentials we have. The infrastructure development programmes carried out in the Maldives under Chinese and Saudi concessional financing stand as a shining example of South-South cooperation.
Genuine and durable South-South partnerships will play a crucial role in advancing our core interests, in realising the sustainable development goals, in harnessing the full potential of engagement at all levels of government, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders. Partnerships are instrumental to the mobilisation of human and financial resources, expertise, technology and knowledge. And above all, partners are powerful drivers of change.
With the 2030 Agenda, the need for South-South cooperation has only grown stronger. More than ever, there is greater need for the developing world to collaborate and cooperate on all matters of development. Innovation, creativity, and ingenuity exist among us, and can be put to good use.
Our development trajectory is one that we are proud of: one that was achieved due to the foresight of our leaders past and present, the will of our people, but also, with the support and cooperation of our partners. And we look forward to working with our friends, our partners, in the spirit of partnership, mutual trust and respect, to reach our desired goal to become resilient, and to make Maldivians proud.