55th Session on the Commission for Social Development
"Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all"
Statement by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations
United Nations, New York, 06 February 2017
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your election to preside over the work of this Commission during this session and to offer you the full support of my delegation towards ensuring a productive session.
The Maldives welcomes the opportunity presented by this session of the Commission for Social Development to discuss strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all. The theme is well chosen to informing our discussions during the 2017 high-level political forum, as well as being appropriate for every country to consider in terms of their national contexts, priorities, capacities and constraints.
Let me briefly touch upon some of the key lessons and national experiences of the Maldives in its development trajectory, and in particular with regard to poverty eradication. Maldives is a prime example of a MDG plus country. After four years of progressing towards the MDG's, only less than one percent of Maldivian population was living below the poverty line. For a young, small nation, with limited resources and with a population dispersed across 190 islands, this was no easy task. Our success is attributed to the commitment of successive governments to promote inclusive policies and the provision of quality services that are inclusive of all segments of the society.
The Maldives has made it a priority to invest in capital human development. By investing in free education for all, in the development of youth skills and with the establishment of a universal health coverage mechanism across the country, we have seen these investments bear fruit by continuous high levels of human development. Having a large share of young people, the Government has been working towards harnessing this potential by ensuring that adequate investments are made for youth advancement and for their employment. With 48% of our population below the age of 25 – several initiatives have been launched to maximize employment opportunities for youth. One such example is the development of a "Youth City" with a focus on youth and providing opportunities with the necessary infrastructure to encourage the creative entrepreneurship of the youth of the nation. Particular attention is also given to gender parity and to implement policies that support women's ability to work. Over the course of its development, regulated through legislations such as the Employment Act of 2008 and the Gender Equality Bill of 2015, the Maldives has ensured that both men and women earn equal pay for equal work. Further, a "Council for Economic Empowerment" has also been established to promote women's ability to secure decent jobs and to advocate for women's economic empowerment at a national level.
While the Maldives is hailed as a MDG plus country and is a middle-income country with a strong GDP, we find ourselves in the "island paradox" by virtue of being a Small Island Developing State. Our size, geographical disparity, narrow economic base makes us exceptionally vulnerable to external shocks and more prone to disruption in our development trajectory. Even more threatening to sustainable development and to our very survival is the effects of climate change. The progressive degradation of already limited natural resources including the eroding away of our islands is both a threat to our livelihood and sustainable development.
Given the diversity among different countries, strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all cannot be of the one-size-fits all variety. It is for this reason that the Maldives has always advocated for strategies that reflect varying national contexts, capacities and fiscal constraints.
The world has shown remarkable commitment to eradicating poverty by the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Agenda recognizes global poverty as the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. With poverty eradication as it's overarching goal and mainstreamed into all the other goals and targets, the Agenda is itself a strong framework for ending poverty. If we are able to address poverty in its multi-dimensional nature and as the first universal and integrated goal of the Agenda 2030, it will be a springboard for the success implementation of the sustainable development goals.
Ending poverty is an ambitious but an achievable reality. We know this because we have witnessed what a concerted political effort to eradicate poverty can result in. The collective global effort behind the Millennium Development Goals has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. Because the world came together in an unprecedented effort, more than one billion people have been lifted from poverty. Halving poverty within fifteen years is an extraordinary accomplishment by any standard. It also taught us that setting proper global goals and measuring results could drive meaningful change. Our work is however, far from over. When 767 million men, women and children are still scraping on less than $1.90 per day, we know we have more work to do.
Ending poverty in our generation requires a commitment to accountability, to innovative partnership mechanisms, to collecting accurate and reliable data and measuring results and maximizing financing options. It also requires us to direct our resources to the promotion of inclusive economic growth and to foster resilience to shocks. And lastly, if we are to ensure sustainable development for all, ensure prosperity and end poverty by 2030, we must invest in our greatest resource - the people- in their wellbeing, health and education. We must do so in an inclusive manner and by according priority to those furthest left behind, in particular women, persons with disabilities, older persons and youth. As former Secretary General Ban ki-moon has once said, "The poor and vulnerable are themselves indispensable partners in this work. Their knowledge and perspectives are vital if we are to find meaningful, durable solutions."
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.