Agenda Item 27: Social Development
Statement by His Excellency Dr. Ali Naseer Mohamed, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations
United Nations, New York, 3 October 2017
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on your election as the Chair of the Third Committee. The Maldives looks forward to working closely with you and the Bureau, to ensure that this session is a successful and an effective one. I also assure my delegation's full support to you in the execution of your duties as the Chair of the Third Committee.
Social development continues to be one of the key focus areas of the Government of Maldives, the policies of which are framed to ensure the progress and well being of all individuals, through equal and equitable opportunities. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has inspired us to further strengthen our efforts on social development, with its core objective of leaving no one behind. Inclusivity is the cornerstone of my Government's social development policies and we strongly believe that the voices, aspirations and grievances of the disadvantaged needs to be heard and valued, and should be accorded the same priority as the rest. This is why the Maldives will remain committed to improving the lives of all people, including the poor, women, children, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The Maldives has a sizeable youth population, where nearly half of its total population consists of young people below 25 years of age. Since the future of the country hinges on the wellbeing and needs of this young population, a strong focus on their development is essential. This is the reason why my Government's key objectives and developmental aspirations are focused on youth progress and development. Access to free primary and secondary education and universal healthcare is guaranteed for all. There is also nationwide effort to create more opportunities to promote sports, recreational activities, music, arts and employment for youth. The Government also has special programmes in place to encourage youth leadership and entrepreneurship. The "Get set" Youth Entrepreneurship programme is a prime example of such efforts, assisting the youth in setting up small and medium enterprises. The Government has also pledged to facilitate the creation of 94,000 jobs by the end of 2018, and the current projections show numbers much higher for the specified period. The main purpose of this initiative is to reduce unemployment among the youth and encourage them to make a decent living.
The Maldives accords utmost priority to the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in national and social development. It has crafted and implemented sound policies towards this end, such as the enactment of the Act on the Protection of the Disabled. The Constitution of the Maldives also guarantees the full enjoyment of equal rights and fundamental freedoms to persons with disabilities. The Government has established mechanisms to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal employment opportunities and introduced a "disability allowance" to reduce the financial challenges they face. In order to encourage the private sector and industries to have an open, inclusive policy on hiring of employees, the government has taken the initiative to provide employment opportunities for persons with disabilities at State-owned enterprises and offices.
A country can become prosperous and sophisticated only when women are able to play a central role in shaping and implementing national policies. Meaningful progress is possible only when women's rights are fully guaranteed. The Government of Maldives therefore, attaches high importance to integrating gender equality in its national policies. The Gender Equality Act of 2016 enshrines into law, the principle of equal opportunities and equal outcomes, ensuring non-discrimination in employment and encouraging women's economic empowerment. In order to increase female participation at leadership positions, the Government made it mandatory for at least 30% of seats on the Board of Directors of State-Owned enterprises be filled by women. As of now, 80% of this target has been met.
The legislative framework in place to eliminate gender based discrimination and violence, has also strengthened immensely in the past few years, with the enactment of several legal instruments including, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (2012) the Sexual Harassment and Prevention Act (2014), and the Sexual Offenses Act (2014). The Gender Equality Act, in particular, is the most significant piece of legislation, aimed at promoting gender equality and eliminate gender discrimination at work place, society, and at all walks of life.
The Maldives will remain committed to ensure the well-being of the entire society, and will overcome the challenges it faces. We will continue to support women, children, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities, and help them reach their aspirations and goals, so that the society can prosper as a single unit and "no one will be left behind."
Thank you, Mr. Chair.