Statement by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Khaleel, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives at the General Debate of Second Committee on Sustainable Development (Agenda item 49), Sixty Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 27 October 2008
At the outset, I would like to join other delegations in thanking the Secretary-General for the reports that have been submitted to guide our discussions on this agenda item.
Although many Small Island Developing States have made substantial strides in economic growth, social development, and environmental conservation, their small size, isolation, susceptibility to natural disasters, and ecological fragility, means that such progress will always be precarious. SIDS are economically more vulnerable than other developing countries, largely because of their vulnerability to external shocks, dependence on international trade, and exposure to natural disasters.
There can therefore be no doubt that the current food, fuel and financial crisis, will have severe and widespread effects on the sustainable development of Small Island States and other vulnerable countries such as LDCs. Significant strains on balance of payments and increases in inflation rates amidst fears of a global recession, could hinder the progress made to attain internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Despite significant development challenges owing to the Maldives’ unique geography, its small and widely dispersed population, and its acute economic and environmental vulnerability; the country has achieved an admirable level of socio-economic growth over the past three decades. A strong private sector-led economic performance has enabled the country to achieve one of the highest rates of GDP growth in South Asia.
As a result of progress in the social sector, the Millenium Development Goals are now fully incorporated in our national development priorities and I am happy to note that we are amongst those countries which are on course to meet most of the targets by 2015. The Maldives has already achieved the MDGs of halving extreme poverty and providing universal primary education, and is well on-track to achieve the MDG targets of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. Ensuring environmental sustainability and achieving gender equality remain as key challenges.
The Maldives’ ability to maintain and improve-on this remarkable level of development is being undermined on a daily basis due to the malign impacts of global environmental degradation. For the Maldives, climate change is not a distant possibility; it is happening now and it is a reality that we are experiencing on a daily basis. Sea-level rise, flooding, diminished availability of fresh water and coral bleaching due to warming seas have become frequent phenomena, and this is already affecting our economy and the lives and livelihoods of our small communities.
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. In order to integrate climate change adaptation into our development priorities, the Maldives has developed the National Adaptation Programme of Action which identifies the urgent and immediate needs of the country to address the impacts of climate change.
The inverse relationship between responsibility for climate change and vulnerability to its consequences is often overlooked. The Maldives and other Small Island Developing States, contribute the least to global warming and yet our development and indeed our very existence are fundamentally threatened by global warming and its consequences.
We are all aware of the grim predictions in the IPCC’s fourth assessment report. If these predictions were to come true, the Maldives and many other Small Island Developing States and low-lying coastal areas would cease to exist within a relatively short period of time. It would create a threat to human security directly compromising the most fundamental rights, including the right to life and the right to self-determination, for millions of people around the world.
We are convinced that addressing the injustices of climate change is an obligation of the entire international community. We believe that a comprehensive rights-informed approach to sustainable and just development, anchored in the concept of common but differentiated responsibility, to be the logical and ethical way forward.
In this regard, we are happy that, on the initiative of the Maldives and 80 other like-minded countries, the UN Human Rights Council this year recognized, for the first time, the link between human rights and climate change. The Council will formally debate this issue at its tenth session in March 2009 and we hope that due consideration will be given to the outcome of this debate by our colleagues in the UNFCCC, as they work to reach agreement in Copenhagen next year on an effective and equitable successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
The international community is dealing with multiple challenges arising from food and fuel crises and climate change. These challenges, which are interlinked, adversely affect the most vulnerable populations and impede progress towards the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. It is therefore necessary to act in an integrated and coordinated manner at all levels in order to alleviate the impact of these crises and to create global partnerships for their solution in both the short and long-term. 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.
In the year 2000, at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, world leaders adopted the UN Millennium Declaration and in doing so, resolved to address the special needs of SIDS, by implementing the Barbados Programme of Action which was followed by the Mauritius strategy. Amidst the economic crisis and heightened threats of climate change, attention to the challenges faced by the SIDS and fulfillment of the promises made has never been more urgent. We already have the means and the resources to act, what we need now is the political will.
Thank you for your kind attention.