His Excellency Abdulla Shahid,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives,
at the
Security Council Open Debate
Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security”

25 January 2019, New York


Thank you, Mr. President,

I wish to thank the Dominican Republic, the President of the Council for the month of January, for convening this important debate. I would also like to thank the eminent experts for providing us with valuable insights in their briefing this morning.

Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected Members of the Council: Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa, who assumed their membership on the Council this month.

Mr President,

As I left the Maldives to travel here, I met a 5-year-old little girl, Aisha, at the Male’ International Airport. She asked me where I was going and I told her that I was traveling to New York to speak at the United Nations Security Council, about climate change. We had a little chat and she hugged me and waved me goodbye as I walked away to board my flight.

I sat on my very long flight to New York and couldn’t stop thinking about the little girl who embraced me. The bright sparkle in her eyes and the joyous innocence in her smile, unaware of the kind future she may have ahead of her.  And I questioned myself. Can I really do something meaningful for this little girl? Can we all collectively help her realize the hopes and dreams that she carries in her young self? Can we deliver to her the future that she aspires for, the one that she deserves? A future that is safe, secure and healthy. Looking at the current state of affairs in the world, I must say “No”!

Mr. President,

Climate change is destroying our tiny island country for years. It’s eroding our beaches. Killing the coral reefs protecting our islands. Contaminating our fresh water with sea water, and we are losing our fish stock. But most importantly, climate change is going to take our home away from us entirely.

On 17 April 2007, when the Security Council held its first-ever debate on the impact of climate change on peace, security, I spoke in this very room on this very same matter. I reminded the Council on that day, that climate change is not only an everyday fact of life for the Maldivians, but an existential threat. I reminded the Council that a mean sea-level rise of two metres would suffice to virtually submerge the entire Maldives under water. That would indeed be the death of a nation.

And yet, today, in this Council, 12 years later, I am still repeating the same message. While we are busy trying to decide which Forum of the United Nations must address which aspect of Climate Change, our lakes are drying up, depriving fresh water to tens of millions of people. Unseasonal draughts are leaving millions of people homeless. Hunger and displacement are leading to conflicts, and entire nations are sinking under water. What is a bigger security threat to us than this? 

Mr. President,

We are encouraged by the Paris Agreement with the aim to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for it. We also hope that the Katowice Rulebook will help improve our collective ambition to deliver on our pledges and keep global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 1.5 degree Celsius if possible. But for the Maldives, waiting and hoping is not enough. We must drastically reverse the current trends in climate change to ensure that a future exists for little girls like Aisha and her friends.

We need solutions; solutions that are based on the principle of justice. Solutions based on the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities, within respective capabilities. Solutions that are achieved through consensus and national ownership. The solutions we seek should narrow the gap between adaptation and mitigation. A larger share of funds must be reserved for adaptation. This will enable countries to build infrastructure to reduce the risks of climate-induced disasters, as envisaged in the Sendai Framework, and in the 2030 Agenda.

The solutions we seek should also aim to strengthen the capacity of the UN System to identify potential climate-related risks in conflicts and take mitigating measures early on. The Secretariat’s briefings to this Council should, in our opinion, include expert analyses of climate related risks and how such risks are driving conflicts.

Mr President,

The countries that are on the first line of impact, such as the Maldives, cannot afford to wait. We cannot wait until we can all agree with the facts on the ground: that climate change is a threat to international peace and security. We cannot wait until the impacts of climate-induced disasters destroys our economies and our livelihoods. We cannot wait for climate change to force us to abandon our identity and lose our homes. We need actions. Actions that are consistent with the commitments we have already made. Otherwise, our only option left for adaption to climate change, may be to grow gills to breathe under water.

I thank you Mr President.