Statement by Mr. Jeffrey Salim Waheed, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations, at "Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children"
Thank you, Madam Chair,
My delegation would like to thank the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteurs for the reports submitted for our consideration. The Maldives also appreciates the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child for their dedicated engagement with Member States in the promotion and protection of the rights of children across the globe.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Maldives joins other State Parties in celebrating the progress made to protect humanity's most precious assets: our children. The Secretary General's report highlights a growing recognition that young people can, and must, play a role in defining our long-term development agenda. Through online and face-to-face consultations, the Sustainable Development Goal process has served as a platform to amplify the opinions of children and young people with respect to public matters which affect them. It is our hope that the voices and recommendations of children are carried forth to the post-2015 development agenda.
For the Maldives, the greatest single threat to our children's future is climate change. As global emissions continue to rise, those who will be affected most are the younger generations. Children and youth account for 44% of the population of the Maldives and are now at the risk of becoming physically and socially vulnerable as a result of climate change impacts. We must not forget that the protection of children's rights – including rights to health, education, an adequate standard of living, and, indeed, the right to a viable future – are inextricably linked to our global efforts to protect our climate.
The promotion and protection of the rights of the child continue to be a high priority issue for the Maldives. The Maldives ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, soon after it was opened for signature. We are also now a state party to its two Optional Protocols. As a member of the Human Rights Council, the Maldives has played an active role in the promotion and protection of children's rights. The Maldives was a lead negotiator of, and one of the first signatories to, the Third Optional Protocol to the CRC. As a Member of the Executive Board of UN-Women, we continue our advocacy for the rights of all children, especially girls. Bearing in mind that children are among the most vulnerable group in society, the Maldives reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the highest international standards on children's rights.
The Government of the Maldives has been working towards harmonising domestic legislation, in line with our international treaty obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols. We continue our efforts to fill emerging gaps and strengthen the system enforcing the rights of the child. The Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child of 1991, prohibit any from inflicting either physical or psychological harm upon any child, ensuring that all children are treated humanely, especially in school. Corporal punishment, either at school or at home is not only frowned upon, but illegal. The State ensures the protection of all children from harm, and to that effect it has begun to review this act, to strengthen it further and bring it in line with current norms and standards.
The Government has also swiftly responded to emerging challenges with regards to the rights of children. In response to the alarming rise in reported child abuse cases, new legislation was passed in 2010 for ensuring stricter punitive measures in cases of child abuse. In response to reports that the Maldives was becoming a destination and source country for child trafficking, legislation was enacted in the form of an Anti-Human Trafficking Act with specific provisions for child victims.
Numerous challenges remain in realising the rights of children. The Maldives is plagued by a high divorce rate, a large number of children live in single-parent households. Severe housing conditions, especially in our capital Malé, expose children to physical abuse, exploitation and substance abuse. Such conditions lay fertile ground for a culture of gang violence and criminal activity.
Youth empowerment is one important means of generating effective and sustainable solutions to issues affecting young people. The Government is committed to delivering policies that are youth-targeted and youth-oriented. We are also investing heavily in education, as the tool that will help younger generations to take control of their own future. In the Maldives, all boys and girls have been enrolled in primary education and are guaranteed free education until the end of secondary school. The Disability Act of 2011 further guarantees an inclusive education, as it makes it mandatory for the Government to provide proper access to education for children with special needs. Moving beyond universal primary and secondary education, the Maldives established its first University in 2012. As more and more young people are able to access higher education opportunities, we have renewed hope for the future of our country.
It is imperative that the global community comes together to safeguard children's rights, especially freedom from violence. The Maldives urges all nations to match their words today, with action tomorrow that guarantees the protection of children's rights both at the national and the international levels.
Thank you, Madam Chair.