Madam High Commissioner,
Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
A very good afternoon to you all.
While the world has endured numerous tragedies in the past, never did humanity envision, even for once, a pandemic that will change the course of global history forever. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only taken millions of lives; it has also crippled economies and redefined our idea of a “normal” world that exhibits safety and security.
Today, with united global effort and the roll out of vaccines, we have finally begun to see the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, and a possible end to this pandemic. This is the time to focus on building back more resilient economies, and more equal societies to bridge the gaps in our social security systems and to make sure that no one is left behind. As we chart the course of the recovery efforts, the values of basic rights and freedoms embodied in the UN Charter must remain at the heart of our efforts.
The Maldives is making significant progress in upholding and protecting human rights. We are, where we are today, because we placed human rights at the forefront of our democratic aspirations. Our journey has had its “ups” and “downs”, but we have persisted nonetheless. Today, it is an honour to narrate the significant events that has made this journey worthwhile.
When the Government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed office in November 2018, the Maldives witnessed the revival of its respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. These guiding principles soon became the cornerstone of the Maldives’ foreign policy and development framework. As a result, we have accomplished numerous milestones in the field of human rights, both at home and abroad.
I am particularly proud to note that in December 2020, the Maldives ratified the Optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, soon after ratifying the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child the previous year.
We had also hoped to welcome special procedures mandate holders during the past year, but unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned visits had to be postponed. However, our standing invitation for all special procedures mandate holders remains unchanged, and we look forward to welcoming them at their convenience.
Last November, the Maldives also successfully completed its third cycle review at the Universal Periodic Review. We remain committed to the UPR process and appreciate the opportunity to engage constructively to further strengthen our national human rights framework. We are also determined to deliver on our commitment to implement the recommendations provided by Member States during our review.
Despite several setbacks in the past, this administration has persevered in its promotion and protection of human rights in the domestic sphere. In this regard, the Government has undertaken several steps to prevent human trafficking, to reform prisons and to uphold the rule of law. In particular, I note the recent establishment of the Office of Ombudsperson for Transitional Justice, which has provided an avenue to redress past injustices to promote the rule of law.
The Maldives remains resolute in its efforts to ensure the protection and empowerment of women, children and persons with disabilities. We have continued to promote equal professional growth for women in the workforce free from prejudice, and launched a nation-wide campaign against domestic violence. In order to protect the rights of juveniles, President Solih also ratified the First Amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act of 2019 in December 2020. Despite the necessary restrictions of the pandemic, the Government has also ensured that people with disabilities and the elderly have unhindered access to social and medical services.
No threat is felt by SIDS such as the Maldives as acutely as the climate emergency. Climate change infringes on the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including peoples’ right to health, water and housing— all of which are, at present, further jeopardised by the COVID-19 pandemic. While climate justice remains a top priority for the Maldives, this is yet another aspect of sustainable development which is likely to lose substantial progress during the pandemic. Our government understands that we simply cannot afford to halt our investments in climate-resilient infrastructure and biodiversity protection, because our people share a mutual relationship with nature. Our most vulnerable will face increased flooding, food insecurity and displacement if we do not protect our fragile island ecosystems and if we do not continue progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
As I speak about the international community, I wish to highlight certain humanitarian issues that the global community must address. The Maldives remains deeply concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in the occupied territories. We continue to support the right to a sovereign and independent Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Maldives continues to support the ongoing efforts to secure accountability for the perpetrators of genocide against the Rohingya people, whose suffering continues to this day. The decision of the Maldives to intervene in support of the Rohingya people in the case before the ICJ, stems from our advocacy for justice for the Rohingya people. We also condemn the ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar and call on Myanmar to take immediate steps to protect the human rights of all its people and to restore democracy.
The Maldives is committed to working constructively with the international community to further advance and build upon the accomplishments we have achieved so far. We also wish to share our experience and contribute to the work of this august body. Therefore, the Maldives intends to stand as a candidate for this Council, for the term 2023 to 2025. We hope all Member States will support us.
In this critical juncture, Maldives remains steadfast in its belief that the Human Rights Council which has carried the hopes of the international community since its inception, will bring peace and prosperity to the world during these dark times.
I thank you.