Plenary of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Agenda Item 76: Oceans and the Law of the Sea


Statement by Ms. Mariyam Midhfa Naeem,

Counsellorm, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations

New York, 30 November 2015

Mr President,

As you are all aware, as a low lying series of atolls both reliant on the ocean and directly threatened by changes to the marine environment, matters relating to the oceans and seas are of critical importance to my country, the Maldives. As such we greatly appreciate this attention and time being paid to the significant challenges faced by the world's oceans and seas and welcome the adoption of the annual resolutions under this Agenda Item that further strengthen our moral and political voice on these matters. My delegation welcomes the Secretary-General's 2015 Report related to law of the sea, oceans affairs and sustainable fisheries, which serves as an important catalogue on the debate and negotiations on this issue. We also recognize and thank the coordinators of the draft resolution for their commitment in leading the informal sessions.

In September, this General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which Goal 14 sets out the necessary objective to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources, with specific targets to be achieved by 2030. The Maldives appreciates the efforts made to align the intent and design of SDG 14 within the Oceans Omnibus Resolution, as it is important that all stakeholders involved with oceans and oceans related affairs, embrace the goal and contribute to its success. This particularly applies to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea due to its specific mandate and responsibilities in guiding the UN membership on these matters.

The Maldives was a staunch supporter behind the Goal on Oceans and Seas. While having a goal, and related targets to ensure the sustainable use and management of our oceans and seas is a big step in the right direction, now, we have to ensure that the targets are implemented, and progress reviewed and followed up. Various processes undertaken in various avenues must all contribute towards the realisation of SDG14. And it is this need for targeted follow-up and review, that led us to put our weight behind the initiative to have a United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. We hope that through this Conference we are able to gather together all the various stakeholders and work towards a more clearer, ambitious implementation of the Goal on Oceans and Seas.

In addition to the importance of coordinating oceans activities with the 2030 Agenda, there needs to be also acknowledgement and engagement with the SAMOA Pathway, the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States. A focal area of the SAMOA Pathway is oceans and seas, spelling out the intrinsic link between sustainable development and the protection of maritime ecosystems for Small Island Developing states like the Maldives. Necessary linkages must be established in this regard, to ensure that efforts are coherent and coordinated and contribute towards the achievement of Goal 14.

In order to achieve this implementation the Maldives continues to call for capacity building in multiple areas including technical undertakings and data collection and analysis. This need to provide baseline data to contribute to understanding of and response to the many challenges facing oceans and seas as outlined in the 2030 Agenda, and in the Secretary General's report with the final paragraph affirming the importance of capacity building "for achieving sustainable development and for enabling developing countries to realize benefits from the oceans and their resources in a sustainable manner."

Mr President,

Sustaining the wealth of oceans and seas is vital for the Maldives as our citizens rely on the ocean for sustenance: traditional cultural practices and livelihood are intimately linked with the oceans. The two central economic industries in the Maldives are tourism and fisheries, both reliant on access to and sustainable management of oceans.

The Maldivian tourism brand is reliant on pristine ocean ecosystems, yet the Maldives is threatened by mounting marine degradation, including ocean acidification, which damages coral reefs. Nationally, the Maldives is undertaking many initiatives to preserve our highly successful sustainable tourism industry, in tandem with maritime regions. Domestic policy ensures strict environmental assessments that precede any construction, encourages the use of renewable energy and environmentally friendly materials, and includes improving the sustainable management of waste such as a new waste-to-energy site to provide electricity directly from heat, reducing reliance on petroleum fuel imports and greenhouse gas emissions. That said, the Maldives cannot tackle this issue alone – it is the responsibility of all states to address environmental management and combat climate change, and the Maldives hopes that the lofty commitments can be met with real action.

The Maldives fishing industry cannot compete with illegal fishing and overfishing practices in the world. Despite these setbacks, domestically, the Maldives is hard at work to achieve ecologically sustainable economic growth. From time immemorial, the fishing industry has adopted the "pole and line" technique, empowering local fishers to only capture sustainable amounts while preserving the marine ecosystem, although the lack of capacity for processing and manufacturing within the Maldives means that we are unable to retain much of the income associated with the fisheries.

Mr President,

We continue to be alarmed by the impact that climate change has on coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and vulnerability of ocean ecosystems. This is why the Maldives with other small island developing states, have been relentless in calling for a peak in temperature rise at 1.5C: because climate change threatens our economies, the impacts threaten our food security, and our homes, and our lives. This is why the Maldives with other small island developing states, eagerly await a legally binding, climate agreement with ambitious targets to be adopted by the end of this week, that will aim to reverse the rising rate of emissions, and stop the warming of the planet.

Mr President,

For those of us who live by the ocean, sustained by its wealth, maintaining the health of the oceans and seas of the world is vital. But oceans are the lifelines of the world. They are regulators of the global climate, the source of food, its treasures numerous. Oceans are not only an issue for islands, or for coastal countries alone, but also one that impacts every nation, every single economy.

For too long efforts to improve marine resilience have floundered, resulting in the dire situation facing our oceans and seas. Let us embrace the energy displayed here today to mobilize international political will, actualize our written commitments, and measurably conserve and sustainably use our invaluable oceans and seas.

I thank you.