Address to the UN General Assembly
H E Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed,
Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations
1 October 2018, New York
Thank you Madam President,
Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem
Madam President, Mr Secretary General, and Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to convey my Delegation’s congratulations to you, on your election as the President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly. Your election to preside over this Assembly represents the progress we are making towards gender equality, a momentum we need to enhance at the global level. Yet, you being only the fourth woman to do so, shows, how far we still have to go. I also wish to commend the Secretary-General Mr António Guterres for his leadership, in steering the organisation during this challenging time.
The theme you have chosen for this Session, “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable, and sustainable societies” is most appropriate.
Now, more than ever before, we need the international community, to work together, to build resilient societies; to ensure that everyone has a fair share of the benefits of development. To achieve that, we need the UN to assume greater leadership, in unifying our collective efforts. The focus should be on building communities that can withstand the shocks, and that can bounce back, stronger.
Recognising this, the cornerstone of the development strategy of the Maldives is building resilience; economic resilience, institutional resilience, environmental resilience, and indeed, political resilience.
The Maldives is an old nation, but a young democracy. In our journey towards democracy consolidation, the twenty-third September this year was an extraordinary day. On that day, the Maldives held its third, multi-party Presidential election. The election took place peacefully and seamlessly, with 89% of voter turnout. It was a moment that made every Maldivian proud, of how far we have come, and the accelerated progress the country has achieved. Following the election, the Maldives is currently going through the process of, transfer of power from one elected government, to the other.
The accelerated pace of democratization in the Maldives, is going in tandem with, even faster growth in social and economic developments. From the humble beginning, as one of the poorest countries in the world at independence in 1965, to an upper middle-income country today, is a success story by any measure. The Maldives has one of the highest human development indicators in our region, with nearly universal literacy rates, universal immunization, and the lowest infant-mortality, and maternal-mortality rates. The country has eliminated diseases, such as polio, measles, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis, although various types of non-communicable diseases, are emerging as new challenges.
The progress in social sector can be sustained and expanded only through strong economic growth. President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, in his five-years in office, focused on developing and modernizing critical infrastructure, to stimulate growth in the country’s main industries. The newly expanded runway at our main international airport, and the on-going expansion of the airport terminal, will significantly boost the tourism industry, creating jobs and increasing wealth.
Just a few weeks ago we opened a bridge, that connects the capital city Malé, with the main international airport, and a reclaimed suburb of the capital, Hulhumalé. This has transformed the physical landscape of the capital through, consolidating three separate populations, and thus, helping to achieve economies of scale, and better adaptation to climate change.
At the same time, we cannot create islands of progress and prosperity, without partnering with our friends; the kind of partnerships that are mutually beneficial; that are based on mutual trust; and partnerships that are envisaged in various international agendas and agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway, and the Paris Agreement.
The national developmental efforts by the small islands developing States, such as the Maldives, need support, in the form of capacity building, transfer of technology, and access to finance in order to achieve the goals set out in international development agendas. The United Nations can assume a greater level of leadership in fostering such support.
To be able to do that, the UN Secretariat, too, needs the support of this Assembly, to assist countries in special situations, such as SIDS, with a more balanced resource allocation.
The United Nations is the engine room of multilateralism, and the small States, especially, the SIDS, depend their existence on multilateral norms. And yet, the principles of international law that governs the friendly relations, and cooperation among States, are being challenged, at a fundamental level. There is, therefore, a need for countries, big and small, to return to the right side of law.
The State of Palestine is one place, where the Occupying Power, challenges international law and norms on a daily basis with a sense of impunity. Today, we once again join the many other countries, in calling for a permanent end, to the unlawful occupation of Palestinian lands, and to accord the Palestinian people their legitimate right, to self-determination. The Maldives firmly believes that lasting peace can only be possible, with a two-State solution in which the State of Palestine achieves, its sovereignty within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Unilateral measures, that go against the grain of this internationally accepted arrangement, are regressive and illegal.
The Maldives also calls for a peaceful end to the continuing war in Syria. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen. The Security Council has not adequately addressed the conflict, and its consequences. We must take more assertive action, to stop the tide of suffering in Syria. Humanitarian intervention is a necessity. A permanent political solution is a must.
Similarly, the atrocities that are being committed against Muslims in Myanmar, should not be set aside from discussion. The Maldives calls on the authorities in Myanmar to bring to justice, the perpetrators who committed the genocidal crimes, against the Rohingya Muslims. In particular, the recommendations of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, needs to be implemented, without any delay.
Article One of the Charter describes the United Nations as the “center for harmonizing the actions of nations”. The UN can meaningfully fulfill that function only, if it is fit for the purposes, set out in clear terms, in the Charter. The reforms that the Secretary-General introduced in recent months, in modernizing the development system of the UN, have begun to take shape. Yet, our attempts to bring broader systemic reform to the Organisation, such as the reforms to the Security Council, have produced more processes, with virtually no success, despite more than four decades of deliberations.
The United Nations needs to be an institution where every Member State should feel welcomed. Where the combined power of many ideas, many solutions, and many voices thrive to address challenges of climate change, ocean degradation, poverty, exclusion, and discrimination. For the small islands developing States, such as the Maldives, the United Nations will always remain the indispensable partner in building our national resilience. We see the UN as the key in determining our place, and our voice, in the global discourse. Ensuring the relevance of the UN, must mean ensuring that everyone, from the biggest to the smallest, play their part. It must mean, offering everyone a place, in finding shared solutions for our shared future. It must mean sharing responsibility to deliver a more peaceful, a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for our children, and their children.