Agenda Item 22: Groups of Countries in Special Situations
Statement by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the
United Nations, New York, 19 October 2016
The Maldives is pleased to be speaking on this important agenda item today. We align our remarks with those made the distinguished representative of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
I also wish to thank the Secretary General for his report on this agenda item and his work, along with Secretariat, in supporting countries in special situations
Let me first express solidarity with and support to the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs). As many of you know, the Maldives, Which graduated from the LDC status in 2011 was the third country to graduate since the group of countries requiring special consideration on allocation of global ODA was first approved by the UN GA in 1971. Because the international community was reviewing the graduation process constantly, and because of the limited experience with graduation at the time of the Maldives graduation, our transition was, in our opinion, relatively un-smooth. While the process on paper, outlines a relatively clear structure, it does not happen simply. And as such, our purpose today is to speak specifically on the strengthening of the graduation process.
We would like to share three reflections from our graduation and transition process. First, is the importance of investing in the diversification of our economy and our people. We realized that our development challenges would be exacerbated due to the loss of LDC benefits. In preparation, we invested heavily in a world-class tourism industry and a robust fishing industry, which have remained the backbone of our economy for decades. We increased public sector investments and strived to create an environment conducive for the private sector to thrive. We also put added emphasis to improve our human development, which is the driving force behind our economic progress and the key factor in determining our attainment of the graduation threshold as per the existing variables used in measuring it.
Yet in many instances, the large scale financing needed for large-scale infrastructure projects such as ports, hospitals, harbours, become difficult to access, due to loss of preferential and concessional arrangements for financing. These limitations put at risk, the development gains that enabled graduation in the first place.
Which leads to my second point. We continue to believe in the importance of enhanced international cooperation to accompany national efforts in the transition of graduating countries. This is also the backbone of the smooth transition strategy that is to be prepared as a joint initiative between the graduating country and their development partners including the UN system. The smoothness of the graduation from LDC status depends on how well the international community rallies around the graduating country, so that they don't slide back on their development trajectory. This includes the international community, including the UN system, international financial institutions to take into account the unique vulnerabilities of a country, harmonizing efforts to realize the Programmes of Action and the 2030 Agenda.
Advocating for the recognition of the specific vulnerabilities that countries like the Maldives – small island developing states – face, which do not go away with graduation, is an issue we have been advocating for, for years. Our islands are uniquely susceptible to a variety of shocks: economic, environmental and institutional, due to their inherent economic and ecological vulnerabilities. And while economic vulnerability is a benchmark for graduation, in the vast majority of assessments, one of the three main indicators could be overridden. This is especially significant for those LDCs that are SIDS. This is why we continue to advocate for the need for further review of the criteria for graduation
Relatedly, the existing assessment for graduation uses the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, as one of the major determining indicators. In our opinion this indicator is inadequate to measure real progress of a society or its vulnerabilities. GDP per capita fails to fully reflect the country's vulnerabilities due to structural challenges, its resilience to exogenous shocks or its ability to deal with new crises, or account for wealth inequalities and the added difficulties in distribution of wealth in relation to geographical features beyond our control. Therefore, we need to better integrate the concept of economic vulnerability of countries into the measures for development, without which our approach to development will be anything but holistic.
Graduation from LDC status is an achievement. It should be something we aspire for and a cause for celebration. It should not be something we fear. It should not be an abrupt stumbling block for countries that are working hard on their development. If the international community wants to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world to achieve universal development targets, their biggest challenges and specific vulnerabilities must be understood. I thank you.