H.E. Ms Thilmeeza Hussain,
Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations,
at the Tenth Emergency Special Session
26 October, 2023
We gather here under the Uniting for Peace resolution, adopted by this Assembly in 1950. Each time that we have gathered under this resolution to address the issue of the Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it is with profound shock that we are confronted with unrelenting images of human suffering.
We welcome last Friday's resolution by this Assembly, advocating for an immediate, enduring, and sustainable humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. We strongly urge the Security Council to unite and take resolute action to halt the violence against innocent civilians.
The reality on the ground is that of the two million residents in Gaza, half of them are children. 30% of those children are under the age of ten. And today, it is these young children that are suffering the most.
Accepting the loss of these young lives as mere "collateral damage" is a severe breach of universally accepted ethical principles.
It is a severe breach of international law including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - the standards that reflect a global consensus that the lives of innocent children must be safeguarded at all costs.
It is a severe breach of our shared human values and diminishes the moral integrity of any society that chooses to tolerate it.
The Maldives was accepted to the United Nations in 1965 as its smallest member. In our very first statement to this esteemed Assembly, our Permanent Representative stated, “Whatever the size of a country or its population, a free State can make a contribution to the cause of coexistence.” These words, our commitment to the principles of the United Nations Charter, and our commitment to the rule of law continue to guide our work at the United Nations.
This is why, though oceans apart, Maldivians remain resolute in our support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. In this recent conflict, the Maldives has donated 2 million cans of tuna to the people of Palestine . Though modest, it is a gesture that underscores our enduring commitment and unwavering solidarity with the people of Palestine. The people of Maldives are also making financial contributions and organizing fundraisers to provide support to our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We will continue to speak up for the Palestinian people, for the Palestinian cause, and for peace in the region. Our support is driven not only by our principles but also by a moral obligation.
We once again, reaffirm our unwavering support for the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest for their inalienable rights, including self-determination. We are resolute in our belief that enduring peace can only materialize through the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State, founded on pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
What we are witnessing today is not a conflict that started earlier this month, but a continuation of decades of oppression of Palestinian people that have shattered multiple lives and suffocated hopes of innocent people, over several generations.
We firmly believe in equal application of the rule of law among all States. Accountability must be enforced for violations of international and humanitarian laws, eschewing selective justice. This conflict is, therefore, not merely a legal issue; it is a fundamental matter of justice.
But we have witnessed selective justice in play throughout this crisis. The evident double standard in the global narrative of this protracted conflict is concerning. The partiality—knowingly or unknowingly—serves to dehumanize and minimise, enabling and even justifying indiscriminate violence, and further marginalizing the Palestinian perspective.
The settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the major issues in which the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly failed. It has failed to take a unified stance against acts of violence, and hostilities directed at civilians, and the protection of medical and humanitarian personnel, as stipulated by international humanitarian law. These failures undermine the Council's legitimacy. We take this opportunity to emphasize the urgent need for reform of the Security Council to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness in upholding global peace and security. We reiterate our call to the Security Council to act decisively, building upon this Assembly's efforts, to halt violence against innocent civilians.
The rapidly escalating crisis in Gaza has reached an alarming point, demanding urgent and immediate action. As airstrikes increase and the death toll climbs – now over 8000 - a ground invasion has commenced even as the Assembly calls for a ceasefire. The situation gravely threatens to expand the conflict further.
The Government of Maldives unequivocally condemns the attacks on medical facilities, including Al Ahli Arab Hospital and most recently the continuous bombardment surrounding the Indonesian Hospital, Al-Shifa Hospital, the Turkish Hospital and Al-Quds Hospital. We condemn the unacceptable attack on residential areas of the Jabalia refugee camp just this morning. , the attacks on places of worship, and humanitarian workers. These actions not only cause irrevocable damage to essential infrastructure but also place the lives of thousands at dire risk, violating international law and basic human decency. We urgently call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and for strict adherence to international mandates safeguarding civilian infrastructure and personnel.
UN agencies are sounding the alarm about a dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. We extend our heartfelt condolences to all families affected. Our thoughts are also with the humanitarian workers who have sacrificed their lives in service, including the loss of over sixty UN staff in Gaza.
The Maldives is grateful to the UN, Egypt, and others for facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid through the Rafah border crossing. However, this is insufficient. We urge Israel to collaborate with its neighbouring states to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian assistance and the delivery of essential services at the required scale.
The blockade of Gaza must end to mitigate the acute humanitarian crisis.
We echo the calls for respect for the rule of law, and genuine political engagement to find a diplomatic, sustainable, and lasting solution. The Palestinians have placed their hope in international law, the UN Charter, and our multilateral system for their survival. It is abhorrent that we have allowed this hope to be met with nothing but hollow words.
The sanctity of innocent life, particularly that of children, is non-negotiable. Tonight, when I go home, I can hold my son as he falls asleep in my arms. But how many Palestinian mothers and fathers are mourning the loss of their children?
We implore the members of this august assembly to act with courage, not as a matter of political convenience but as a moral duty that transcends borders and politics, for the sake of a more peaceful world.
The lives of innocent children and families in Gaza hang in the balance.
War is indeed not an answer!
This emergency special session must continue to unite us; it must fuel our collective conscience to bring justice, dignity, and security to the Palestinians and to the Middle East.
I thank you.