Statement by the Republic of Maldives

at the UNESCO IOC - Decade of Ocean Science Side Event

H.E Mr. Throiq Ibrahim, Minister of Environment and Energy, Republic of Maldives

25 September 2017


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you all for being here today to participate in this important discussion regarding the establishment of an International Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. I wish to commend the efforts of our partners from IOC of UNESCO for the leadership they have demonstrated in bringing this idea forward, and would also like to thank our very close friend Norway for joining us in this endeavor.

Achieving the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14, is critical for the continued growth and development of my country. Maldives is inextricably tied with the ocean. Our two main industries are fisheries and tourism, and our tourism success is largely linked to the beauty of our environment, especially the marine environment. Many people visit the Maldives to snorkel and scuba dive or to just simply enjoy our white sandy beaches.

While Maldives is often referred to as a Small Island Developing State, we also like to consider ourselves a large ocean State. While we have less than 300 square kilometers of land territory, while our exclusive economic zone is over 900,000 square kilometers, a ratio of over 3,000 square kilometers for every one square kilometer of land territory. It is critically important to my country that our vast marine environment is healthy and thriving.

However, we can't keep our marine environment in good condition alone. Its health is dependent not only on actions taken in the Maldives, but also on actions taken outside of my country. Marine pollution doesn't stop when it comes to our borders, populations of fish species, like yellow fin tuna, don't only stay within Maldivian waters and the increase in sea surface temperature is not controlled solely by the actions of Maldivians. Collaboration is necessary. And this collaboration extends to collaborating on scientific endeavors and the transfer of marine technology, efforts which the IOC's International Decade of Marine Science will promote.


In order to achieve SDG 14, meeting its targets and indicators, we must increase scientific knowledge of the marine environment. This is not only because target 14.a specifically calls for increasing scientific knowledge, but also because all of the targets of SDG 14 require robust ocean science programs, capabilities and data.

Much of the marine environment remains to be explored. More people have been to the moon than have been to, and returned from, the deepest parts of our ocean. New species are regularly being identified. We don't have a full grasp on what exists at the bottom of the ocean and we only have limited understanding of what we do know. Much of the seafloor still remains to even be mapped.

Maldives, like many developing States, lacks the capacity, both human and financial, to undertake this exploration alone. As IOC has reported, developing States generally have a smaller percentage of ocean science researchers as a proportion of the population, and citations attributed to developing countries equate to only a small number of total marine science publications. However, as we are so dependent on the ocean and its resources, it is critically important for the Maldives that we have a thorough understand of the ocean and its resources.

An efficient way to gain this necessary knowledge is through cooperation in marine scientific research between States. Cooperation and the sharing of resources and knowledge will help move all States towards a more detailed knowledge of the oceans in an economical manner. Working together we can more quickly understand the ocean than if we all embarked on separate endeavors.

The Decade of Ocean Science will help us in this regard and therefore will facilitate the timely achievement of SDG 14. As realizing the targets of SDG 14 will contribute to a healthier marine environment, an environment on which Maldives is heavily dependent, we are very supportive of the proposal for the Decade of Ocean Science.

Maldives needs capacity development for ocean research and the transfer of marine technology and we would like to see these, as well as the sharing of knowledge, as key components of the Decade. While we have been investing in the sustainability of our marine resources in order to ensure their continued success for years, our Marine Research Centre was established only in 1999 and there is much still to learn not only about our own marine environment but the marine environment of the broader Indian Ocean and beyond. Collaboration is key this pursuit. We believe that States must work together to come to a greater understand of our interconnected and shared marine environment.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we have artificially divided the ocean up and given it different names in different places, we must understand that it is just one common body of water. It is difficult for us to comprehend the full impacts of our actions due to our incomplete understanding of the marine environment. We currently don't have all the baseline data necessary to even measure our impacts on the ocean. This is a critical problem that we must address if we are to achieve SDG 14.

Other than the need for scientific pursuits to address damage human endeavors are causing to the ocean, marine science is needed solely for exploration. The breadth of possibilities that might be offered by ocean and its resources are boundless. There is a great potential for the development of novel pharmaceuticals and medicines. The ocean truly is the last frontier – one that is certainly worthy of exploration.

The Decade of Marine Science will help to bring attention to the need for more robust marine science internationally. We hope that it will also contribute to the development of the capacity to conduct marine scientific research in developing States like Maldives, increase the access to technology as well as to help facilitate the broad and open sharing of knowledge. By working collectively in our pursuit of ocean science and sharing knowledge gained, we have the best hope to ensure that the targets of SDG 14, Life Under Water, are met. For the future of our shared planet, we hope to have the support of Member States and the scientific community for the International Decade of Ocean Science.

Thank you.