Her Excellency Ms. Thilmeeza Hussain,
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations,
at the Plenary of the Seventy Sixth Session of the UN General Assembly:
Oceans and law of the sea
7 December 2021
Thank you, Mr. President,
The Maldives aligns itself with the statement delivered by the representative of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.
My delegation thanks the Secretary-General and the Co-Chairs of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea for their respective reports.
Ocean is the source of life on our blue planet. In a multitude of ways, it supports humanity's sustenance and provides for the brilliant biodiversity of our world. Disturbingly, the Secretary-General's report underscores the urgency and severity of anthropogenic pressures on our ocean. From acidification to coral bleaching, our ocean is under stress and for those whose lives are closely intertwined with it, so are our fates.1For, we may soon witness Member States of this august body leaving the United Nations, and not by choice Mr. President, but because the ocean has engulfed them, and these will be the smallest and the most vulnerable of us. However, Mr. President, with accelerated, united action to protect and restore our ocean, we can avoid this fate and ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for all countries, leaving no one behind.
Our islands proudly bear custodianship over 90,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean and it is an inalienable part of Maldivian identity, culture, and thought. It is also
the lifeblood of our economy and the guarantor of our prosperity. Our communities, industries, coastlines, and waters are at the front-line of the successes and failures of the world’s efforts to ensure a future of sustainable ocean development. Our tourism sector, inextricably linked to the health of our oceans, directly and indirectly accounts for 75% of our GDP. Similarly, our fishing sector, where we continue to practice our traditional, sustainable pole and line fishing, is a primary economic activity in nearly all of our inhabited islands and our leading physical export.
We continue to do all that we can as an individual Small Island Developing State to protect the Earth's most precious resource, but this protection is naturally an endeavour that demands global cooperation. Recognising this, the Maldives has always sought to advance a leadership role in promoting and progressing global cooperation on the sustainable management and use of our ocean. On World Ocean Day last year, we co-launched the Group of Friends to Combat Plastic Pollution. The Group's 46 founding members act on a shared recognition of this growing issue and our urgent need to raise awareness and advocacy for coordinated multilateral action. In this regard, we join AOSIS
members and others in calling for the launch of an intergovernmental negotiating to develop a new legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea remains of paramount importance in our common endeavour to safeguard the oceans. Its universality reflects the principle that international cooperation is truly our only option to mitigate and prevent the dire consequences of continued degradation of our oceans. We look forward to next year's resumption of the intergovernmental processes on Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.
We also note the ongoing work of the International Law Commission on sea-level rise in relation to international law. We welcome the observations of the Co-Chairs of the Study Group on this thematic issue, expressed in their First Issues Paper, that there is a body of State practice developing regarding the preservation of baselines and of outer limits of maritime zones measured from baselines. We reiterate that it is the Maldives' position that once maritime entitlements are determined in accordance with UNCLOS, those
entitlements are fixed and will not be altered by any subsequent physical changes to a State's geography as a result of sea-level rise. We look forward to continuing to engage with the ILC Study Group on this important theme.
The Secretary-General's report also discusses progress made with regard to climate finance, especially with regard to the Green Climate Fund and the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub. While we welcome any increases in climate financing, we stress that the current level of funding is miniscule compared to the estimated trillions required each year to build our resilience and make the necessary transformations to our energy, transport and other systems. SIDS are particularly vulnerable to climate change and the degradation of our oceans are a double burden that we must bear. Existing frameworks for international financing require urgent attention, evaluation and remedy, and we again stress the need for concessional, grant-based, adequate and predictable financing for SIDS.
The Secretary General correctly notes that achieving ocean sustainability will require urgent and greater efforts on all fronts to reverse the current disturbing trends. We need to transform humanity's current relationship with the ocean to ensure that our development does not endanger the planets most precious resource. In light of the intergovernmental processes ahead, 2022 will be a critical year for our collaborative efforts to yield results that will protect our ocean for generations to come. We do not have the luxury of settling for anything less.
I thank you.