Statement by:

H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations

Statement on Agenda 22: Groups of countries in special situations

20th meeting of the Second Committee

New York, 23 October 2014

Mr. Chairman,

The Maldives aligns itself with the statement made by Bolivia on behalf of G77 and China, and the statement made by Nauru on behalf of AOSIS. Let me start by thanking the Secretary-General for the comprehensive reports submitted for consideration under this agenda item.

Mr. Chairman,

The development challenges faced by the international community are immense. Poverty, unemployment, inequality and high indebtedness are a few of these challenges. They are further exacerbated by the threat of climate change, of more frequent and intense natural disasters, of the lack of access to natural resources and of water scarcity. They call for global sustainable solutions. In facing these grave threats, countries in special situations such as Small Island Developing States are exposed to particular vulnerabilities.

The Maldives has always voiced the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the international community, namely LDCs. We understand the challenges, the frustrations, as well as the hope and commitment of countries in this special category is to grow and strive for achieving a better future for their citizens. The Maldives is proud to have graduated from LDC status in 2011. The seeds we sowed for development during the past decades have borne fruit of growth and progress today.

However, the process of graduation for the Maldives was far from smooth. It is sobering to note that the international community has not yet found a recipe to shape and guide such a transition adequately. Therefore, we urge the UN Member States to consider the lessons learnt from the Maldivian experience in the strategy for the next graduates and to improve the support net for the countries entering transition. Nonetheless, one must note that current determining indicators in the process, such as the Gross Domestic Product do not reflect holistically the advancement of a society.

In the Maldives, with graduation, a host of issues surfaced: the official development assistance to the Maldives completely dried out; major markets erected tariff and non-tariff barriers to Maldivian products; and we no longer have access to concessional financing from international financial institutions. As a result, graduation has exposed the country's vulnerabilities to external shocks. We are already facing the risks of backsliding on some of the key social development indicators.

The Maldives face particular vulnerabilities and long-term challenges as a small island developing state. The Maldives consists of an archipelago of 1190 small islands that are widely scattered. This remoteness and dispersion, with a low economic base and high transportation costs do not allow economies of scale. Furthermore, 80 per cent of our territory lies just above a meter from mean sea level. Climate change and associated sea-level rise, the bleaching of coral reefs, coastal erosion and the growing number of natural disasters, present a growing threat to the Maldives. Moreover, the over dependence on one economic sector, tourism which accounts for 30% of GDP, and over reliance on imports for both goods and services leave us with particular vulnerabilities.Such exogenous shocks and environmental fragility endanger the future of SIDS such as the Maldives with regards to our vision and goal to become more resilient.

Mr. Chairman,

Special situations call for special solutions. For instance, the Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVE) category of the World Trade Organization (WTO) already acknowledges the inherent vulnerability arising from the smallness of countries, including SIDS. This category provides special benefits on the trade front to countries such as the Maldives. The Maldives urges the introduction of a similar category at the United Nations, which may or may not overlap the list of LDC's, in order to better acknowledge countries needing specific attention due to inherent vulnerability arising from the smallness of their economies.

Mr. Chairman,

This year, the international community has made a significant step forward in acknowledging the particular vulnerabilities of SIDS. The Third International Conference on SIDS in Samoa successfully drew the attention of the international community to the special needs of small island nations. The SAMOA Pathway, not only charted the course for SIDS priorities, but also accelerated action towards achieving sustainable development globally. Financing for development, technology transfer and capacity building are critical for the sustainable development of our small island economies. In Samoa, the international community recognized SIDS as a special category of countries; a group with special vulnerabilities and particular needs.

Mr. Chairman,

More than ever before, in the year of Small Island Developing States the international community has made a significant step forward to acknowledge the inherent vulnerabilities of SIDS. We created a new pathway for SIDS and sustainable development. This brings hope to a number of countries in special situations.  Let us hope that we remain committed in the implementation of these goals.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.