His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs
General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations
Bismilliah ah Rahmaan ah raheem
Mr President, Mr Secretary General, Excellencies, Ladies and
1. Congratulations Mr President, on your election as the President
of the seventy-fifth session of the UN General Assembly. A
distinguished person of your wisdom and caliber at the helm of
this assembly brings comfort, during these extraordinary times
2. I also wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to the outgoing
President for his excellent stewardship of our work through
3. Mr. Secretary General, my country applauds your sincere and
hard work during these tiring times.
“A handful though we are, we dedicate ourselves to the principles
of this world body and declare our faith in the support of the Charter
of the United Nations”.
4. These were among the first words that the first Permanent
Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations Mr Ahmed
Hilmy Didi spoke at this chamber, 55 years ago. 55 years ago,
we declared our firm conviction that “the UN is the chief
architect” of peace. 55 years later, our conviction remains
stronger than ever.
5. Today, as we grapple with one of the greatest global challenges
in recent history, deliberating “the future we want, the United
Nations we need” and “reaffirming our collective commitment to
multilateralism” not only seems opportune but a necessity.
6. The stark and tragic images of the Covid19 pandemic still remain
etched in our minds. Healthcare workers treating patients on
makeshift beds. Undertakers struggling to bury the dead. Empty
roads, empty schools, empty airports. And the eerie silence
blanketing it all.
7. In the Maldives – a vibrant and thriving nation - our lives, came
to a standstill, almost overnight. With no tourists, revenue
declined, and debt increased. The economy is set to contract – for
the first time in a decade.
8. Responding quickly to the Covid19 health impacts was our first
priority. We immediately declared a National Health Emergency.
President Solih established the National Emergency Operations
Center, and chaired the Committee’s meetings himself. We
boosted testing capacity, established Covid treatment facilities,
mobilised and trained healthcare workers. The dedication of our
frontline workers in ensuring effective provision of quality
healthcare, and uninterrupted services has been extraordinary.
9. Our second priority was to minimise shock to the economy, and
support households and businesses. Income support, stimulus
packages, debt moratorium, and tax reliefs programs have been
initiated; Social security including universal health insurance,
single parent support and elderly pensions, have continued
despite many logistical and financial challenges.
10. A National Taskforce on Response and Recovery has been
constituted, and it has prioritised building resilience into our post
Covid action plan. The aim is to ensure that the development
gains we have made over the past decades are not eroded; to
ensure that development projects promised and planned go
forward without delay; and to ensure that our commitment to the
2030 Agenda, ensuring that no one is left behind, does not remain
11. There are many lessons that can already be learnt from
12. First, the asymmetries in the international system have been
laid bare like never before – whether it be the unevenness of the
impacts, the digital divide, the deep shocks due to disruptions in
supply chains - no country has been spared from the impacts. But
not every country has been affected in equal measure. In
countries like mine, where tourism contributions both directly
and indirectly account for 75% of GDP, the loss has been
13. Second, the toll that debt burdens have on the economies of
Small Island Developing States like the Maldives is clearer now.
We appreciate the G20’s debt service suspension initiative. But
there is little difference between 31st December and 1st January,
apart from the change in year. Economies will still be in recovery,
and hurting. So, we request the G20 to extend their initiative until
the end of 2021.
14. But, debt suspension is only half the story for SIDS. We need
structural change, innovative facilities, and better and greater
access to concessional financing. We need a proper assessment
of our vulnerabilities that will shape the way for better-targeted
approaches in SIDS.
15. Third, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of
global cooperation. In the Maldives, without the support of our
friends, our bilateral and multilateral partners, we would not be
able to continue weathering this storm. As we work towards
finding a vaccine, our hope is that every person who needs it will
have access to it. That we will work together to ensure equitable
16. I thank all our partners who have generously extended
financial, material and technical support during this crisis, even
when they themselves are going through challenging times. One
such example is India. The recent budget support of 250 million
US dollars, was the single largest financial assistance from a
donor during this pandemic.
17. The Covid pandemic has given us the opportunity to
recalibrate our approach to development, and focus on building a
more resilient world – one that delivers for planet, people, and
18. For countries like mine – climate change remains a significant
threat – but also a threat that is difficult to overcome on our own.
The number of islands that require emergency shore protection,
flood or disaster relief are rising each year. The frequency, and
severity of the events are pushing towards the limits of
adaptation. There is also an increasing trend on the slow-onset
events such as sea level rise. For the Maldives, the impacts of
climate change are no longer the future. For us, it is our lived
19. But climate change does not discriminate. It does not
recognise borders. Big or small, rich or poor, every nation is
facing the impacts, although at different scales and magnitudes.
Climate change is a risk multiplier. It continues to be a threat to
20. Our hope is in realising the lofty ambitions of the Paris
Agreement. What we need is stronger NDCs by all countries. We
will most certainly submit ours! We need actual realisation of
pledges made, including financial commitments. We need easier,
and faster access to finance. Climate financing has to be new,
additional and predictable in nature, and rolled out now, to
achieve the target we set in 2015. Adaptation is no longer
something to plan for, in the future. It is our every day.
21. As we rebuild our economies after Covid, it must not be
business as usual. We have to use this as an opportunity to build
back greener. In doing so, no country should be left alone. This
is another opportunity to reduce emissions to keep global
temperature rise below 1.5 celsius. Let us make the road to
Glasgow, one that is paved with meaningful action that includes
22. Meaningful action is also required towards the protection of
our ocean. Millions of people rely on the ocean and its bounty,
for their survival. For Maldivians, as custodians of over 90,000
sqkm of the Indian Ocean, it is part of our identity, our way of
life, our economy.
23. This is why protecting the ocean from the harmful impacts of
marine plastic pollution is crucial for us, and many other
countries like us. President Solih announced here at the GA last
year, our pledge to phase out single use plastics by 2023. We
continue to work with like-minded countries for an effective
international framework to this end. We have committed to the
protection of 20% of our own waters and are also committed to
working with the Global Ocean Alliance towards achieving the
global target of protecting 30% of the ocean in the coming years.
24. Friends, it is our shared responsibility to preserve, and
sustainably use, the ocean and all of its bounty. Let us not fail.
Not on our watch!
25. Ensuring human rights is fundamental to a progressive society,
and sustainable development. The promotion and protection of
human rights is a cornerstone of President Solih’s administration
from its inception.
26. Of the core human rights Conventions, Maldives has ratified
seven, and withdrawn several of the reservations to CEDAW. We
will also ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances in
the coming months. The Child Rights Protection Act, and the
Juvenile Justice Act are recent examples of our efforts to align
our legal instruments with international obligations.
27. We have also ratified the Third Optional Protocol to CRC, and
signed the Declaration under Article 22 of the Convention
Against Torture, allowing for enhanced access to justice.
28. We firmly believe that a rights-based approach prioritises the
empowerment of all segments of society – especially women and
youth. For the first time, the Government is working on a draft
Youth Bill that will identify and ensure the rights of young
people, including their participation in decision-making.
A multidimensional, holistic approach that includes leadership, political
participation, gender equality, counter-radicalisation, health and
wellbeing, guides our youth policies.
29. Mainstreaming gender equality in society, and in public life, is
an ongoing process - a process that no country has completed. As
we move towards marking the 25th anniversary of the Fourth
World Conference on Women, every effort must be made to
reaching the vision of Beijing Declaration and Platform for
Action. In the Maldives, several steps have been taken in the
right direction. For example, recent amendments brought to
Local Councils Act allocated a third of all local council seats to
women, ensuring their participation in the decentralised
goverance system. I am also proud to announce that we have
achieved gender parity among Heads of Missions of the Maldives
30. It is because of the importance the Maldives places on the
promotion and protection of human rights that the Government
has taken the decision to present its candidature for the Human
Rights Council for the term 2023-2025. We believe that domestic
and global efforts to promote and protect human rights go
handin-hand. And as a Small, Island State, we wish to share the unique
experiences of our efforts to align our laws, and cultivate a culture
of respect for human rights.
31. Terrorism remains one of the most complex and challenging
global issues of our time – one that requires cooperation,
coordination, and also consensus. We have to work together to
address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism,
especially in light of advances in social media and digital
32. The global community also has to work together to ensure the
rights of the Palestinian people. For decades, Palestinians have
cried out for dignity, respect, and statehood – to no avail. We
reiterate our call for a two State solution on the basis of the
pre1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
33. The Rohingya people continue to endure extreme deprivation
and hardships. We will not standby and stand witness to
genocide. We will do all we can to challenge the mistreatment,
displacement and wanton killing of the Rohingya people. We will
continue to advocate on their behalf, including at the International
Court of Justice.
34. As the UN celebrates 75 years in existence, there is much to
celebrate, and be thankful for. The UN helped shape an
international order following years of warfare, and strife. The UN
gave the world a platform to share its problems and prepare
solutions. The UN gave countries like mine – the smallest of the
smallest – an equal voice, a place at the table, the ability to
contribute, and to make a difference. It remains the best hope for
the security of small States like mine.
35. Yes, we all agree that the UN needs reform, to come to terms
with the current membership and the current times. But we cannot
dispute that the UN is still necessary. The UN still presents the
best hope for humanity, the best opportunity for cooperation, the
best platform for dialogue, the best check against rising tide of
ultra-nationalism, and xenophobia.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
36. We must once again come together, determined to uphold
peace, preserve fundamental human rights, human dignity, and
the worth of every person, and every nation large and small.
37. We must once again, commit to practise tolerance, promote
dialogue over war, and employ global cooperation for the
advancement of all people.
38. We must once again, come together, resolute in our
commitment to the principles of the UN, to revive the true spirit
of multilateralism, to herald in a truly just and happier world.
39. Mr President, “A handful though we are” - the Maldives stands
ready to do our part - just as we did 55 years ago!
I thank you.