Statement by Ms. Iruthisham Adam, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations on Agenda Item 99: Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and Item 100: International Drug Control at the Third Committee Sixty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Friday, 10th October 2008
As this is the first time I am taking the floor on behalf of my delegation, allow me to congratulate you on your election as the Chairman of this Committee. We also congratulate the other members of the Bureau. I assure you of my delegation’s full support and cooperation.
International organized crime remains a dangerous challenge confronting the international community. Due to its complex trans-national character, no one country can tackle these issues on its own. Fight against this phenomenon requires unwavering commitment of the entire international community.
The Maldives, a remote small island developing country in the Indian Ocean, with a tiny population of a little over three hundred thousand people, have not been spared from this dangerous scourge. Drug abuse and drug-related crimes including cross-border drug trafficking, is the most serious socio-economic problem facing the country today. The number of drug abuse cases has been steadily escalating since the late 1990s, and most of the drug users fall between the ages of 16 and 24.
The key economic, social and cultural issues that are believed to have influenced the recent escalation in substance abuse in the Maldives are the rapidly changing values and norms in the Maldivian society resulting from lack of knowledge and skills or support system needed by youth to cope with challenges of the modern world. Although the relationship between crime and drug abuse has not been formally examined, it is believed that drug related crimes and associated gang violence have increased in recent years. More than 800 people were arrested in 2004 in relation to drug offences and 80% of prison inmates are or have been drug abusers, adding several problems to the already difficult situation faced by the penitentiary system.
In the past decade we have intensified our efforts to stop the drug menace. But much more remains to be done. My government recognizes the multifaceted nature of drug abuse. It requires a well-balanced, well-coordinated and multi-sectoral approach, encompassing measure to stop illicit drugs from entering the country and reduce the demand for them. We attach high importance to both these aspects.
The government has formulated a National Drug Control Master plan in November 2005. Under this Plan, the National Narcotics Control Bureau has been tasked to implement, monitor and coordinate measures and activities associated with national and international drug control.
We are also working with the related UN agencies and other regional and international bodies including the civil society to address these issues. In collaboration with UNICEF we have recently launched an awareness raising campaign entitled “Wake Up” to prevent drug abuse and promote recovery among addicts. The National Narcotics Control Bureau had also launched a “Safe Workplace” initiative targeted at large employers, particularly tourist resort islands. The purpose of the program is to ensure that the working environment is free of the threat of drug abuse.
The recently launched reforms agenda in the Maldives had been transforming the political, legal and judicial systems of the country. The Maldives would like to express its appreciation to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for the assistance that they are providing in this regard.
Maldives believes partnership, coordination and monitoring to combat international organized crime is critical and fundamental. In this regard, Maldives actively participates in the international and regional cooperation mechanisms for combating drug-related crimes such as UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
At the regional level, we have worked closely with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Association (SAARC) to implement the SAARC Convention on Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances including enactment of enabling legislations. Recently at the 15th SAARC Summit held in Colombo, we have signed the SAARC Convention of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. We hope that these regional and sub-regional efforts will complement our fight against the world drug and crime problem.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to reaffirm the commitment of Maldives to play our part in the international efforts in combating drug control and organized crime. Let me also express my Delegation’s firm commitment to work closely with the UN bodies towards prevention of crimes and international drug control in the Maldives.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.