54th Commission on Social Development
Agenda Item 3(a): Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World
His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations
8 February 2016
United Nations, New York
As this is the first time the Maldives is taking the floor, I wish to offer sincere congratulations on your election to preside over the work of the Commission for Social Development at its 54th session. We look forward to working with you and your bureau and assure you our full support towards ensuring a successful and productive session. Let me also thank the Secretary-General for the report submitted under this agenda item. Further, the Maldives aligns itself with the statement delivered by the delegation of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
The Agenda 2030 carries the voice of the youth, children, women and the vulnerable. It is an Agenda for all. However, we must bear in mind that while finalizing a global agenda is one thing, the successful implementation of the agenda required much more. To fulfil the future we all want, we need to go beyond business as usual, ensuring that we consolidate and coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders.
The Maldives believes that the goals contained in the 2030 Agenda provide a universal and global agenda to achieve sustainable development, while attempting to balance social, economic and environmental concerns. We need to draw from the Agenda and articulate coherent and broader social policies, while taking into account the level of development of each country, its political space and its economic policies. The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is committed to translating the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals into the domestic sphere through a strategically envisioned national mechanism.
As we embark on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, we urge the international community to reiterate its commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration and the Program of Action adopted at the World Summit for Social Development. It is important to bear in mind that social rights are interdependent and interlinked with economic development and political plurality. We cannot end poverty if employment is unavailable and if the economic advancement of individuals in vulnerable situations, namely women, youth and minorities, is not possible due to education being inaccessible. We must collectively recognize that achieving the SDG's requires Governments to identify the root causes of inequality and ensure resilient and sustainable development for all.
The Maldives believes that people must remain at the heart of development and that its citizens should be included in the formulation of policies to advance their rights. Education, health, decent jobs and social protection are high priorities of the Government of the Maldives. The national development programme devised by the Government focuses on the empowerment of all; women, children, youth, persons with disabilities as well as the elderly.
Social protection must begin with youth. However, we must recognize that the interrelated nature of implementing sustainable development requires holistic solutions that span numerous sectors. With 46 percent of the Maldives' population constituted by youth, special emphasis has been given to skills development and job creation for the youth. In the past two years, more than 7,000 jobs have been created and several skills development programmes have been launched. With the support from the United Nations Development Programme, the Government has launched its very first youth entrepreneurship programme – GetSet – targeted to open up entrepreneurship opportunities for Maldivian youth to innovatively take up these challenges.
The building of a Youth City is also underway, along with a bridge connecting our capital island Male' with Hulhumale, the significantly larger island we reclaimed from the lagoon in the Greater Male' area. This will provide more housing, jobs, infrastructure and services to a large number of the population, ensuring improvement of their social rights. This will further contribute to the diversification of the economy embarked upon by the Government in its election manifesto. The Government has also initiated a loan scheme for small to medium business enterprises which will foster the growth and promote entrepreneurship, resulting in the generation of jobs. In the past 2 years significant progress has been made on related development projects, such as those on sanitation, water and infrastructure in the Maldives. Through investments in different sectors and enhanced cooperation with the country's robust private sector more jobs are to be created, making the economy more resilient.
The Maldives has a universal health insurance scheme, which enabled access to health care for its entire population and there is a sustained investment in improving the quality of access and delivery of health services. Further, the Maldives Government has adopted social housing schemes as the best way to provide affordable housing to all. Over the last two years, the Government had built more than two thousand six hundred housing units that had met the housing needs of over seventeen thousand people.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women are vital to building transformative societies. It is the concrete foundation that is required to build stable societies and stronger communities. The Maldives remains committed to the advancement of women's rights and gender equality in the home, the office, and in society. The 2008 Constitution of the Maldives guarantees the same rights and freedoms to both men and women and upholds the principles of non-discrimination and equality. The Employment Act of 2008, ensures that both men and women enjoy equal pay for equal work. More recently introduced legislations - The Domestic Violence and Prevention Act, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Act, and the Sexual Offences Act - have further strengthened the legal framework to protect women, and young girls from violence and sexual abuse.
While we have made great strides in achieving social development, the vulnerabilities associated with climate change constraints our development. Women, children, youth and the elderly tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As a country at the frontlines of climate change, our climate adaptation costs are high, placing additional burdens on an already tight budget for its expenditure on social development. Building resilient societies through sustainable adaptation mechanisms to counter the side effects of climate change will be fundamental to the survival and viability of SIDS like the Maldives.
This Commission has an important role to play in promoting the implementation of the 2030 agenda. It should continue to function as a platform to exchange best practices of national policies of governments and should be the link between the other UN functional bodies to help strengthen social development including the 2030 agenda. You can be assured of the support and cooperation from the delegation of Maldives in this endeavour.