Ms. Fathimath Niuma,
Deputy Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure
At the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)
"Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality"
16-18 July 2019, New York
Madam President, Ladies and Gentleman,
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is the most ambitious global agenda for peace and prosperity for the people and the planet. The successful implementation of the Agenda will undoubtedly have major positive impacts on the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, and on the long-term survival of the planet itself. To chart our path forward in realizing the SDGs, it is crucial that we take stock of what we have achieved and accelerate action where further attention is needed.
In the Maldives, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration pursues a “Jazeera Raajje” development policy which puts “people and sustainability” at its core, and where development occurs in harmony with the ocean that surrounds us. To ensure comprehensiveness in our national development planning, in line with the 2030 Agenda, the newly established Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure will soon launch a ten-year National Development Plan with the SDGs fully integrated throughout. As we enhance our work towards the realisation of the SDGs in our country, we count on the support of our international partners, including the UN bodies, to strengthen population and development data systems at the country level, to track our progress and to help us accelerate action where it is needed most.
The people-centered approach to development has long brought progress and prosperity to our people. The Maldives has made significant progress on gender equality, enacting several pieces of legislation on the protection of women, including our Gender Equality Law. However, we have a long road ahead to achieve true equality and inclusivity, especially for the most vulnerable groups. Violence against women and children remains a problem that could be addressed further. Women continue to be underrepresented in Parliament. These are matters of importance for my government, for which efforts are underway. As a first step, the current administration has ensured a higher number of women in leadership positions, including 35% of the cabinet and a 30% quota for women has been allocated in local councils, helping us realise the Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.
A further issue of growing inequality that must be addressed is an increasing disparity in quality services between residents of different islands resulting from the inherent geographical challenges faced by a small island state. In response, the new government intends to improve access to services, facilities and institutions within the atolls through a robust programme of inter-island connectivity and decentralisation. Major improvements in the education sector are underway, including providing free education through to first degree standards. On public health, efforts are being undertaken to improve the quality of and access to healthcare available in the atolls, including emergency care. Hospitals within the atolls are being upgraded in line with SDG 3 of ensuring healthy living and promoting the wellbeing of the people.
A well-functioning justice system is the only means through which we can achieve true prosperity for our people. Accordingly, we are embarking on an arduous journey with the goal of establishing a just society. The new Government had embarked on an ambitous agenda to reverse the malpractices of the previous administration, and have undertaken efforts to improve accountability and transparency in the Government. Furthermore, the Maldives remains committed to strengthen its governance and justice systems to ensure that recent democratic and human rights gains cannot be reversed again. Most recently, the Maldives held the first ever elections to its newly established Bar Council, an independent oversight body tasked with maintaining adequate standards for the legal profession.
In terms of economic development, the challenges we face are many. Our economic base is small, with the consequence that most commercial projects cannot achieve economies of scale; even the successful ones are not scalable. We are dependent on imports for essential items, making our economy highly vulnerable and volatile to external shocks. Despite these challenges, the Maldivian government is focusing heavily on building a Blue Economy, one that is sustainable,resilient and inclusive. We are working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, to diversify our economy, invest in micro, small and medium enterprises and improve consumer protection. Importantly, we provide young people with the skills and support to contribute to economic growth and to embrace innovation and technology.
All these efforts will amount to little when we are faced with the catastrophic effects of climate change and environmental degradation. In Small Island Developing States like the Maldives, years of hard-earned economic growth could be washed away with one tidal wave. A single natural disaster could reduce entire islands to rubble and force our economy onto its knees. The combined effect of our limited resources, lack of capacity and resilience and our extreme vulnerability to climate change does not fit into a traditional equation of growth and wealth. For these reasons, it is crucial that the international community understands the particular challenges and vulnerabilities of SIDS. No matter how well our economies may progress, SIDS will always remain vulnerable to the catastrophic impacts of climate change and natural disasters. The Maldives calls on the international community to accelerate action on commitments already made, in line with the Paris Agreement, to ensure that global temperatures remain lower than 1.5 degrees. We also call for concrete measures to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks as agreed to under the Sendai Framework.
As we embark on the Mid-Term Review of the SAMOA Pathway later this year, it is concerning to see that SIDS have not achieved the sustained high levels of economic growth required to meet the SDGs. The Maldives is working to expand its tax base, including through the introduction of a green tax. However, there are insufficient domestic resources, including private financing. This challenge is partly due to the negative impacts of external financial and economic shocks, and environmental challenges. It will require much more than business-as-usual if we are to see SIDS like the Maldives succeed in meeting these all-important milestones.
The Maldives calls on the international community to support and partner with us as we endeavor to develop sustainably and build our resilience against external shocks. A conducive multilateral framework that responds to the specific needs of SIDS is a necessity to leverage resources for their long-term sustainable development.
If we truly believe in "empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality", we should move away from one size fits all solutions. We must recognize the unique and distinct differences among SIDS as well as between SIDS and other countries.
I thank you.