Agenda Item 69: Promotion and Protection of Children
Statement by Ms. Zeena Mohamed Didi, Second Secretary
United Nations, New York, 16 October 2015
Thank you Chair,
My delegation would like to thank the Secretary General and the Special Rapporteurs for the reports submitted for our consideration. The Maldives appreciates the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child for their dedicated engagement with Member States in the promotion and protection of the rights of children across the globe.
The Maldives joins other State Parties in congratulating the countries who have recently acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is the international treaty with the most number of signatories. That suggests how much we value humanity's most precious asset: our children. The Maldives ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, soon after it was opened for signature. We are also now a State party to two Optional Protocols.
The Maldives welcomes the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which has undoubtedly opened up new hopes and greater opportunities for children. As we aim high, to ensure that no child is left behind, we have renewed our commitment to the rights of children for education and a better, healthier life. We have committed to nurture an environment conducive to the realization of children's rights and capabilities. For the first time we have the inclusion of a specific target to end all forms of violence against children. Let me assure you, Mr. Chair, of my delegation's full commitment to realise all of these targets.
I am pleased to note the considerable progress the Maldives has made towards achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Maldives achieved five out of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 deadline, making it South Asia's only MDG+ country. Progress has been substantial in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. These achievements stand true to the commitment of the Maldives to ensuring a better life for our children, particularly in the health and education sectors. The Maldives is also proud of our notable success in ensuring basic health care, and eliminating preventable diseases. In the Maldives, Universal health insurance is now guaranteed to all people.
Empowering young people remains fundamental to the development prosperity of any single country. It is through education, skills development and access to opportunity that we can foster our young generation to become responsible citizens of the future. The Maldives has achieved much in ensuring access to education to our children.
The Maldives regards education as a human right and as such a responsibility that falls primarily on the State. As a country where 46 per cent of its population is constituted of children and youth, we are determined to give all Maldivian children the best possible education. The Government has consistently dedicated over 6% of its total GDP to education expenditure, a record amount in the South Asian region. The Government of the Maldives has taken significant steps to ensure equitable access to education. The Maldives has achieved universality of primary education both in terms of literacy and enrolment, and more and more young people are given access to secondary and higher education opportunities with the establishment of the country's first University in 2012. The Maldives offers free education up to the higher secondary level, free textbooks and stationery, and free local and international exams.
Promoting the girl child has been a key development strategy of the Maldives. The country has achieved gender parity in literacy and enrolment rates in the primary, secondary and tertiary levels across the country. In recent years, girls have surpassed boys in both the number of graduates and the level of achievement in primary, secondary and higher education.
Yet, there still remains significant challenges to ensuring equal access and opportunities at home, in schools and in the work environment. The rise of religious conservatism and ideological views that constrain gender roles have created stereotypical practices and emerging trends such as non-vaccination of infants, child marriages and restrictions to formal education and medical care for girls. The task ahead of us remains immense. This is why, quality education and empowerment of youth is one of the key priorities of the Government.
This year, a new curriculum has been introduced with the aim of harnessing a knowledgeable future generation, that is highly skilled and caters more appropriately to the needs of the 21st century. It also focuses on nurturing attitudes and values for life-long learning and personal development.
Protecting the rights of the child continues to remain a high priority of the Maldives. We have been continuously harmonising domestic legislation to fulfil our obligations to ensure the rights of our children, especially those that are vulnerable. The Special Procedures to Prosecute Sexual Offenders of Children, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Act, and Sexual Offences Act have strengthened the legal framework to protect women, children, and migrants from violence and sexual abuse. The Gender Equality Bill, which is currently in its final stages, once passed, will define our national standards on gender equality, and confirm that our policies and legal frameworks are consistent with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The right of our children for a secure and safe environment is a shared responsibility for all nations. This shared responsibility can only be met through addressing the impacts of Climate Change. Climate Change is real and it is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Addressing this issue is the only way to ensure our children's rights - their right to health, education, an adequate standard of living and a right to a safe future. Today, let me reiterate our call, that all states are persistent in fulfilling their responsibility to ensure a radiant future for our young generations.