Statement by Miss Khadyja Zahir, Representative to the Second Committee of the Republic of Maldives at the General Debate of the Second Committee on Groups of Countries in Special Situations (Agenda Item 52), Sixty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 28 October 2008
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the Committee on the specific issues and challenges facing the Least Developed Countries.
My delegation associates itself with the statements made by the representative of Bangladesh, Chair of the LDC Group, and the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Chair of G77 and China, on this important issue.
Over the last few years, many Least Developed Countries have achieved record level of economic expansion propelled by high commodity prices, debt relief and increased ODA. Real GDP of LDCs grew by 7.9% in 2005 and by 7.5% in 2006: reaching the highest in 30 years and exceeding the 7% target of the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs.
However, many challenges remain to be addressed and this progress may not be sustainable. The LDCs are characterized by low levels of domestic resource mobilization and investment, weak development of manufacturing industries, high levels of commodity dependence, rising costs of food and oil imports and growing trade deficits. Thus they are amongst the most vulnerable to global economic slow-down.
The LDCs as a group are unlikely to reach the goal of eradicating poverty by the 2015 MDG target date. Moreover, the current food, fuel and financial crisis is likely to slow down – or even reverse- the limited progress achieved so far towards reducing poverty in LDCs creating further challenges in attaining internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
As members of this Committee are aware, four years ago, the General Assembly decided to graduate the Maldives from the list of Least Developed Countries. Our 3-year transition period leading to graduation in 2011, has already begun.
To ensure a smooth transition on graduation and in accordance with General Assembly resolution 59/209, my country has already formed a consultative forum with our development partners with the aim of formulating a long term smooth transition strategy. The initial Maldives Partnership Forum was held in 2006. The 2007 Forumn was devoted to national adaptation to climate change and investment opportunities in the Maldives. This year’s Forum will focus specifically on the issue of graduation and formulating economic policies and strategies geared to tackle the challenges of middle income country status.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our development partners for their understanding and kind assistance. Especially I would like to extend our gratitude to the EU for their decision to grant us an extension of preferential trade terms after graduation until 2014.
As a Small Island Developing State, the Maldives faces numerous vulnerabilities and development hurdles.
Global environmental degradation represents the biggest threat to maintaining the high level of socio-economic progress achieved by the Maldives, on which the decision to graduate it from the LDC list was based on. Volatile and extreme weather patterns continue to force us to divert our limited resources away from strategic development to a path of recovery and reconstruction. Adaptation to climate change is one of the four pillars of the National Development Plan, the PRSP of Maldives. A National Adaptation Programme of Action which identifies the urgent and immediate needs of the country to address the impact of climate change has been developed and incorporated in the National Development Plan.
As a country that depends on the import of most of its food and all of its energy resources, the Maldives is extremely concerned about the rise in global food and energy prices. Although the situation at present is relatively stable, the potential of a severe blow to our economy is alarmingly high. The Government is fully aware of the risks involved and is taking all necessary precautionary measures to ensure that the crisis does not adversely affect the daily lives and wellbeing of our people.
While the Maldives is working to ensure a smooth transition into Middle Income Country Status, the country is also in the process of reforming and strengthening its democratic governance system. A new Constitution was adopted in August this year and the first multi-party presidential elections was held successfully last week and a new Government will assume power on 11 November.
At this very important juncture, we seek strengthened and renewed partnerships with our development partners to help us make this transition smooth and take Maldives to new heights of socio-economic development.
Instability in the financial markets, high food and fuel prices will affect the LDC’ most. Debt relief, increased ODA, and technology transfer is necessary to address increasing challenges of food security and to support action on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. At the same time LDCs also need international support to build their supply side capacities in particular trade-related infrastructure, human capital and technological innovation.
We believe that the early and successful completion of the Doha Development Round and the constructive outcome of the follow-up conference on Financing for Development to be held at the end of this year are crucial to sustainable development and eradication of poverty.
A global partnership and collective action, to address the special needs of the LDCs is necessary to build on existing accomplishments and deliver on the promises of the Millennium Declaration.
I thank you, Madam Chair.