Statement by His Excellency Mr. Abdulla Shahid,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives On “The Human Dimension of Global Climate Change” At the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting organized in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly, 28 September 2007, United Nations Headquarters.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today our modern Commonwealth of fifty-three sovereign nation-states is a progressive and respected voice; and a committed advocate of international peace, democracy, and sustainable development. We have remained relevant over many decades by being at the forefront of global issues and working to safeguard the rights and prosperity of our people.
In 2007 global climate change and its impacts represents the most pressing challenge to our nations and the most urgent call to action for our organization.
When Heads of Government meet in Kampala at the end of November they will mark the 20th anniversary of the first discussion of climate change by Commonwealth leaders. In 1987 in Vancouver, His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the President of our Republic, described how unprecedented waves had caused widespread destruction in the Maldives. Following his speech, the Heads of Government “expressed serious concern at the possible implications of man-made climate change, especially for low-lying and marginal agricultural areas” and asked the Secretary General to look into the issue. Thus, the Commonwealth became one of the first international bodies to discuss and take action on the issue of global warming.
And yet twenty years later the threat looms larger than ever and so the need for action from Commonwealth states is more urgent than ever before.
I need not remind you of the perils we face. From the melting glaciers in Canada’s Arctic North to the droughts in Australia we see the signs of global warming. From the millions in Bangladesh’s great delta to the low-lying islands in the Maldives we see whole nations facing upheaval.
Small island states, which together represent almost half the total membership of our modern Commonwealth, are particularly vulnerable. For us climate change poses the most immediate and far-reaching danger to our natural systems. The degradation of these systems threatens the prosperity of our people and the very survival of our nations.
There is now a real sense of international momentum leading towards December’s crucial Conference in Bali. This meeting is our chance to overcome the failed promises and missed opportunities of the past, and build a new global consensus on climate change. The traditional architecture of climate change policy – mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, and funding – will be our focus and should form a central role in the conference outcome. We in the Maldives believe that the traditional policy approaches need to be reinforced by once again placing human beings at the heart of this debate.
Today the issue of climate change is more than environment, more than science, and more than politics. It is fundamentally a human issue as it threatens human prosperity, human rights, and human survival. It is already interfering with human rights, including, the right to life, the right to take part in cultural life, and the right to use and enjoy property.
Earlier this week at the Secretary General’s High Level Event, I announced our intention to launch an initiative exploring these issues. On the thirteenth of November we will convene a conference of Small Island States in the Maldives entitled “The Human Dimension of Global Climate Change”. This will provide an opportunity for AOSIS members to share experience on and insights into the Bali Process and prepare a common vision for addressing global climate change.
The conference aims to have two principle outputs: a Small Island State Declaration on the Human Dimension of Climate Change; and a Resolution that could serve as a common negotiating position for AOSIS in Bali. Both outputs could stress that successfully addressing climate change requires immediate, action by all States consistent with the principles of inter-generational equity, precaution, and common but differentiated responsibilities.
While this is primarily an initiative designed to mobilize Small Island States we would also urge our friends and colleagues throughout the wider Commonwealth family to support this initiative.
This is our window of opportunity to seize the current public and political capital and seriously address climate change. The Maldives is committed to an inclusive process. We hope that this conference and its outputs will play a part in mobilising Small Island States to take action at this important time.