Third Committee of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
Agenda Item 26: Social Development
Ms. Shiruzimath Sameer, Representative of the Maldives Delegation to the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 8 October 2014
As this is the first time the Maldives is taking the floor in this committee, please accept my delegation’s warm congratulations on your election to preside over the work of the Third Committee during this 69th Session of the General Assembly. We look forward to working with the Bureau and pledge to you our full support towards ensuring a successful and productive session. Let me also thank the Secretary-General for the reports submitted under this agenda item, and welcome the recommendations contained therein.
The Maldives associates itself with the statement delivered by the delegation of Bolivia on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
The Maldives reaffirms its support for the International Conference on Population and Development agenda, including the Special Session of the General Assembly on the follow up to its Program of Action beyond 2014. Further, we welcome the report of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that the goals contained therein provide a universal and global agenda to achieve sustainable development, while attempting to balance social, economic and environmental concerns.
The Maldives believes that for the outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development and other social development goals to be realised, countries must adopt a policy approach that should empower individuals. This should include investment in social protection and improving access to decent work. This should include eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practises. We are happy to report that in the Maldives, we have come a long way in realising these recommendations. The Maldives has invested consistently in people; in human development. This is evident in the steady improvement that Maldives has witnessed in human development over the years.
Social development must begin with youth engagement. The Government of His Excellency President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is committed to delivering policies that are youth-targeted and youth-oriented. In the Maldives, children and youth account for 44% of the population, all of whom – boys and girls – have been enrolled in primary education. Moving beyond universal primary and secondary education, the Maldives established its first University in 2012. More and more young people are able to access higher education opportunities due to a sharp increase in the provision of certificate, diploma, undergraduate and graduate programs by the public and private sectors. Additionally, the Maldives has continued to invest heavily in the youth, ensuring that counselling, together with the formulation of a Youth Bill and Youth Health Strategy fosters a stabilizing and healthy environment for growth and socio-economic betterment.
Nonetheless, unemployment remains a major issue and has led to an increase in drug abuse, delinquency, and gang culture. The Government has given high priority to breaking the poverty cycle in the Maldives and ensuring delinquency is addressed head on. Major projects, such as the development of a “Youth City” which would become a major hub for employment and innovation, have been announced and are in the process of being realized. It is through bold initiatives that the Maldives seeks to address inequality, unemployment, and social welfare.
Youth advocacy goes hand in hand with ensuring gender parity and is the foundation to stable societies. Over the course of its development, formalized through legislation such as the Employment Act of 2008, the Maldives has ensured that its employers provide equal pay for equal work. This act institutionalised the requirement of a minimum of 3 months maternity leave with full pay, a provision that has existed even beyond the Employment Act itself.
The Constitution of the Maldives guarantees protection and special assistance to vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities and elderly persons. It also guaranteed non-discrimination based on sex, race, disability, and income group.
While our young population is large and their needs pressing, our ageing population as is the trend across the world is increasing. The Government is now thinking of measures to address the particular needs and concerns of this special group of individuals. The Maldives recognizes that elderly persons frequently face varying forms of discrimination and are often excluded from national development agendas. The Pension Act of 2009 codifies protection for senior citizens through the establishment of an old-age retirement and pension scheme. This scheme ensures a minimum monthly income for every senior citizen residing in the Maldives, over the age of 65. Recently, the Government has also formulated a policy to address the financial security, long-term healthcare, shelter or institutional care and legal protection of senior citizens. This policy also facilitates greater education, awareness, research and partnerships with civil society organizations to better address their needs.
The Disabilities Act of 2011 and the Pension Act of 2009 codified the protection and special assistance offered to disabled persons in the Constitution.
In enacting the Disabilities Act, the Maldives reaffirmed its commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to principles ensuring the protection of their basic human rights. The Act promoted compliance across all sectors in establishing a safe environment for persons with disabilities. It created a Disability Council, Registry and allowance. Further, the government has now enacted policies that provide social housing for persons with disabilities, as well as special education accessibility for children with disabilities.
Economic inequality is an age-old challenge that is only getting worse. The 2013 report on the World Social Situation indicated that over the past few decades, the wealthiest in the world have become wealthier while the relative situation of those in poverty remains practically unchanged. For the benefits of social development to be fully reaped, we must ensure that the fruits of development are distributed equally among everyone.
In the Maldives, while the gains we have made in terms of economic development and poverty eradication is impressive, income distribution remains a major challenge. However, it is a challenge that we seek to address. We recognise that building equitable societies requires social integration through full employment and decent work for all. The Maldives seeks to bridge this widening gap through the provision of Small and Medium Enterprise loans, together with a national effort to diversify our economy, to increase vocational training and skills development, and to expand employment opportunity.
In advancing social development, the challenges of climate change cannot be ignored. While the Maldives has made great strides towards social and economic development in recent years, our continued success is dependent on global action towards reducing carbon emissions. As elaborated by SAMOA Pathway, which was adopted at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, all aspects of sustainable development is being severely and irrevocably undermined by climate change. Our sovereignty, viability, and survival is dependent upon ensuring climate resilience pathways are enshrined in the Post-2015 development agenda.
Poverty eradication is central to social development. In order for us to progress as a global community, we need to put people at the centre of our development agenda. This means completing the MDGs, learning from past failures and ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda is one with tangible targets and measures guided by the promise of a more equitable world, where no one is left behind.
As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the World Summit on Social Development, the global community must come together to ensure meaningful action is taken on reducing inequality, increasing youth advocacy, ensuring gender parity and improving social protection. Nations can only progress through the holistic development of its society. Let us commit ourselves to going the full distance, with neither hesitation nor equivocation. We stand ready.