Agenda Item 24: Eradication of Poverty and other development issues
Statement by the Maldives
New York, 13 October 2015
Let me begin by aligning ourselves with the statement made by South Africa on behalf of G77 and China.
2015 will go down in the annals of history as the year the United Nations made the biggest commitments to address the world’s most pressing problems. The Agenda 2030 is the blueprint for the most urgent needs of the world - and the center of its objective lies in the eradication of poverty. It is indeed a great achievement that the international community has been able to come together and resolved to end extreme poverty by 2030. However, the question has never been about intentions, the complexity lies in the implementation of noble ideas.
While the MDGs undoubtedly made significant progress and set us on the path of poverty eradication, the idea of sustainable development will be at the core of the new paradigm for a new world. We have made significant strides in understanding and acknowledging the multidimensionality of poverty - in its forms and manifestations as well as in the methods to tackle them. And this is why poverty eradication cannot be seen in a vacuum, but has to be understood in its entirety; not just as a separate agenda item but viewed according to the effects it has on all other elements of the Agenda.
The Maldives welcomes the Secretary General’s report (A/70/281) on the Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. Several issues discussed in the report are of key concern to the Maldivian Government.
The Government of Maldives has embarked on people-centered approach to development. In doing so, it has undertaken important social sector investments to boost health, infrastructure, employment and other key human development indicators to good results. Recently, the government has also been investing in social protection sectors such as the pension plan to ensure that senior citizens have a safety net after retirement, and the plan has been reformed to cover both public and private sector citizens.
The Maldives, like many other countries in the world, is experiencing an unprecedented youth bulge with more than 44% of our population under the age of 25. Therefore, the Government takes a keen interest in investing in youth and children. Several policies aimed at increasing youth employment, education opportunities for young people, and improving the health and well-being of youth, are underway. This includes the facilitating the setting up of several higher education institutions, which has expanded the access to education within the country, as well as introducing higher education loan schemes which has allowed more students to study abroad. Vocational training programs have been set up with students being placed within private companies for internships and other opportunities. The Government is also developing Hulhumale’, a satellite hub of the capital, as a “Youth City” where opportunities for employment, and recreation are abundant to ensure decent work, as well as the health and well-being of youth.
While we have come a long way in our developmental aspirations, other struggle have emerged, of which inequality between and within societies is of significant concern. As highlighted in the SG’s report, income inequality is a growing problem around the world and is one of the fundamental reasons why financial indicators need to move beyond the traditional economic measures of development. Because measures like GDP simply average national output, it fails to take into account many important aspects of society, including inequalities, economic risks, and environmental degradation, or over exploitation of resources. In the Maldives, for instance, while absolute poverty has sharply declined over the decades and poverty rates have reduced within atolls, the wealth gap has in fact increased between atolls. Although the Maldives is often hailed as a success story about eradicating extreme poverty - defined as living below 1.25$ per day - this figure often is not a realistic way to measure poverty. Because of the regional differences in economic growth, migration to urban centers exacerbates problems of urban poverty and insufficient public services to rehabilitate vast populations compound the problem.
The Maldivian economy is largely dependent on tourism and fisheries - both sectors that are highly volatile. In the face of unpredictable and extreme climatic and weather patterns, this is extremely risky. Fisheries, for instance, not only provide the backbone of our economies, but are also a huge part of our shared culture and heritage. Overfishing, pollution and ocean acidification threaten fish stocks while rising sea levels and the threat of natural disasters have a direct impact on tourism.
Diversifying our economies while building climate resilient infrastructure to counter the impacts of climate change, need to go hand in hand to ensure genuine sustainable development for SIDS. As we witness time and again with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, hard won developmental strides can be wiped away in a matter of minutes in island nations and this reality has to be reflected in the way we finance and invest in SIDS. High indebtedness and lack of access to concessionary financing in many cases restrict governments from investment in poverty alleviation measures.
We have accomplished a lot this year in committing ourselves for a better world. The task in front of us is huge and the opportunity we are presented with, momentous. Poverty eradication through sustainable development, is the cornerstone of all our other efforts and we as a global community need to ensure that the momentum we have achieved in 2015 continues till 2030 in order to do justice to the many promises we have made.
I thank you.