“UN SIDS x Parley 2016 Call to Action for the Oceans”
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Asim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives
22 September 2016
Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me immense pleasure to participate at this event today. On World Oceans Day, earlier this year, a partnership between UN-OHRLLS and Parley for the Oceans was announced. It also coincided with the historical day when the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokulea, crossed the East River to arrive to the UN headquarters. The symbolism of the moment when the canoe made its way half way across the world, and the partnership announced for small-island developing states, truly made the world take notice of us islanders.
At the United Nations, SIDS are represented in many ways. When we speak of island states, the global community thinks of climate change and of our vulnerabilities in the face of it. However, we are much more than our susceptibility to the environments we inhabit. Our strength lies in our resilience, in our entrepreneurial spirit despite the enormous challenges, in the confidence we derive from being the custodians of our marine environments. If at the UN we seek partnerships and global collaboration to help us overcome our difficulties, we also present the global community with the chance to learn from us. And which is why partnerships like these are so important.
The goal of the partnership, as we know, is to combat ocean plastic pollution through adoption of the Parley A.I.R principles – to Avoid, Intercept and Redesign. This kind of life cycle approach is critical to reduce and eliminate marine plastic debris. I speak here, also today, as one of the two SIDS who have pledged their commitment to implement these principles. Plastic debris in our oceans threaten marine wildlife, affect fish stocks, cause significant ecosystem damage, and directly affect the economy and livelihoods of our communities. At the Maldives, we have already pledged and continue to do all that is necessary to fight against ocean plastic pollution through a partnership between Parley for the Oceans and local NGO BEAM, who we applaud here.
The international community is deliberating in other UN processes whether marine littering should be considered a ‘common concern of humankind’. However, as small island developing states, we cannot and must not wait any longer. The adverse impacts of deteriorating ocean health, the effects of climate change and ocean acidification, dwindling fish stocks and plastic debris washing up at our shores will not wait for the international community’s commitments. We must act now, and we must act for ourselves. There is a great need to improve the sharing of knowledge and expertise, to encourage a more multi-disciplined approach, to develop public-private partnerships and empower citizen-led movements. Given the complexity and the global scope of the issue, we need to involve national and local governments as well as the private sector, non-governmental organizations and citizens in a spirit of partnership and collaboration.
In the short-term, our focus must be on improving waste management and intercepting plastic waste to enter our seas. However, in the long term we will also need a shift in the way we think about plastic. We need to stop viewing it as something that can just be thrown away after it has been used, and start viewing it as a valuable resource. This means that both the production and consumption of plastic must be reduced. And most importantly, the plastic waste recovered must be recycled and viewed not as a problem, but as an opportunity, with an economic value. This will be the paradigm of the future – and I take the opportunity to congratulate both Parley and OHRLLS for having this forward thinking approach.
I also urge, through this platform, for other small island states to pledge their commitment through this partnership.
In closing, I would again like to emphasize the importance of SIDS in directing the international community’s attention on the health of our oceans. As islands, we depend on them for food, nutrition, livelihoods, economies and our identity and culture. However, oceans sustain the very life on our planet and should be the concern of all humankind. As AOSIS we have been successful in making the world take note of climate change. Let us now pool in our efforts to do the same for our oceans. And let us, once again, draw the world’s attention by practicing what we preach first.