Statement by His Excellency Ahmed Khaleel Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations On Oceans and the Law of the Sea, 4 December 2008
At the outset, allow me to thank the Secretary-General for the various reports that has been submitted under agenda item 70, “Oceans and Law of the Sea”. We believe that the reports provide a good basis to guide our deliberations today. We would also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to the coordinators for their efforts in trying to facilitate agreement on the two resolutions A/63/L.42 and A/63/L.43 before the Assembly.
As an archipelagic state that stretches over a total sea area of approximately 90’000 square kilometers, the ocean is of extreme economic, social and geopolitical significance to the Maldives. The international regime governing the oceans and law of the sea plays a very important role in the daily lives of the Maldivian people, as our main economic revenues are derived from the fishing and tourism industries. The Government bears the primary burden in the protection and conservation of the country’s marine resources. As such, the domestic legal framework, established as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, accords protection to our marine resources and security in our maritime zones.
The Maldives designated several Marine Protected Areas and encourages eco-sensitive fishing methods that further protect endangered and threatened species. Such conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity in Marine Protected Areas is intimately linked to the welfare of Maldivians. Therefore the importance of the management of sustainable fisheries given its primal role in ensuring food security to the people of Maldives cannot be overemphasized. In this regard, the Maldives welcomes the study prepared by the Secretariat on the assistance and measures available to developing states, the LDCs, SIDS and coastal African States in their efforts to realize the benefits of sustainable and effective development of marine resources and uses of the oceans within their national jurisdictions, contained in document A/63/342.
The challenges posed by the vast sea area and sensitive marine ecosystems of SIDS are further exacerbated by changes in the environment as noted in the Secretary-General’s report. Climate change continues to worsen the conditions of coastal erosion, coral bleaching, sea-level rise and the deterioration of our marine ecosystems. Such adverse effects are of particular concern to small island developing states such as the Maldives that are living through the dire effects of the ongoing global recession and the rising food and fuel prices, leading to a downturn in our sustainable development. As the Maldives have continued to emphasize at various international fora, the extensive developmental efforts achieved by the country over the years are being consistently threatened due to the impacts of climate change. Though, numerous efforts are underway in adopting mitigative and adaptive measures, we are constrained by the lack of resources and technical expertise in fully realizing them.
Given our vast sea area, the Maldives remains concerned by the increasing use of the oceans as well as the territorial waters of coastal states for illegal activities such as piracy, illicit trafficking in arms and drugs and IUU fishing. In particular, the Maldives wishes to express its concern over the adverse effects of IUU fishing in our EEZ given the complex nature of such operations and the lack of preventative and responsive measures to effectively address the matter. IUU fishing undermines the national efforts to conserve and manage the highly migratory fish stock which if unchecked, could result in the loss of socio-economic developmental opportunities.
The advancement of science and technology is crucial for the sustainable management of the marine environment, biodiversity and marine ecosystems. Access to modern technology and information sharing, especially in a regional and sub-regional context can serve as an important basis towards improving human security. In this regard, the Maldives is working with its regional partners in establishing a tsunami early warning system, in the aftermath of the lessons learnt from the Asian Tsunami of 2004.
It is against these facts that we stress the need for greater cooperation in our efforts to build and enhance the capacity of small island developing states. The Maldives notes with appreciation the opportunities accorded by the various trust funds established under the UNCLOS regime, especially those aimed at assisting developing countries in capacity building and meeting their various obligations under provisions of UNCLOS. We believe that such assistance is crucial for the national human resources development endeavours.
It is also imperative to re-double our collaboration to further consolidate the international regime to ensure the equitable sharing of marine resources whilst respecting the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of states. States such as the Maldives concentrate enormous amounts of resources to fully protect our waters and the marine environment. As such, it is vital that small island states are assisted in these important processes. For, oceans are a shared resource vital for the sustenance and well being of humankind.
I thank you, Mr President.