Maldives foreign secretary addresses UN security council during special session on development in small island states
Twenty-five years ago, 14 island states gathered in the Maldives.
Together they decided to work in unity: “to seek international cooperation to protect small states of the world, from the dangers posed by climate change, global warming, and sea level rise”.
Today, the Republic of Maldives is proud to represent the Alliance of Small Island States, which was born out of that meeting.
We are thankful for the Government of New Zealand, the President of the Security Council for the month of July, for convening this important debate: a debate that signals a true mark of international cooperation towards the Small Island Developing States.
This debate, we hope, is a beginning. It marks a turning point in how the international community, and the Security Council in particular, view peace and security as they relate to the world’s small island nations.
To be sure, even as a host of crises with profound implications for the work of this body increasingly impact our communities, insufficient attention and resources are available to ensure an effective response.
In fact, in our recent SAMOA Pathway document, we reaffirmed that peace and security, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and other issues relevant to this body play a crucial role in achieving our sustainable development goals.
Peace and security is a prerequisite to health and prosperity. At the same time, the lesson of history is that peace will prevail only when we promote sustainable development practices.
SIDS understand this reality well. For centuries, communities in our small islands have promoted practices and values that not only helped to protect the fragile eco-systems of the islands, but also promoted the peace and harmony within and among the communities.
More recently, SIDS have also taken important responsibilities in promoting peace and security at the international stage. We provide a disproportionate number of peacekeepers to missions around the world and host many operations in our own backyards.
Yet our voice on this Council is vastly underrepresented: over the past 25 years, only six SIDS have served on the Council, out of the 125 elected members during that period. This must change.
The smallest in the world, said Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in Samoa last year, are like “magnifying glasses…when we look through their lens, we see the vulnerabilities we all face”. And the most profound vulnerability we have is to climate change.
Climate change is humanity’s defining challenge.
The science is clear that climate change has exacerbated existing problems and poses new ones, including threats to our food and water security, displaced communities, loss of adaptive capacities and ecosystems services and, for some of us, the loss of territorial integrity.
We have stressed that the UNFCCC should remain the primary forum for the climate negotiations.
Yet, we have to recognize that climate change is a threat to the survival of humanity, and our response to the threat requires us to redefine the concept of security.
The utter devastation seen in the wake of Cyclone Pam in particular to Vanuatu, and other neighbouring countries like the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati, as well as from two recent typhoons Maysak and Doplhins which hammered the Federated States of Micronesia, underscores the unique circumstances of life in SIDS.
Our small size, geographic isolation, and high exposure to impacts like powerful tropical storms and other extremes make it challenging to prepare for a disaster before it strikes.
More effective programmes for disaster risk reduction must be part of the effort to build resilient and sustainable island communities.
We are all too aware that we can’t do this on our own. Criminals often exploit the vast oceans off our shores to evade the rule of law on land.
While our waters are home to some of the most productive marine habitats in the world, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing also deprives us of the resources we depend on for food and income.
At the same time, drug dealers and human traffickers increasingly escape detection in these isolated places.
Maritime piracy has also been a challenge for some of our countries. And because we have limited surveillance capacity we are unable to deter illicit activities that have security implications for the entire international community.
SIDS are ready to lead. We are an important part of the solution. Vulnerability is a fact in SIDS. Yet, we refuse to be defined by them.
Although we are vulnerable, we are also valuable contributors in proposing global solutions to common problems.
Since the acceptance of the first small states into the UN, nearly five decades ago, SIDS have shown the world that small states are not only viable, but they in fact have extraordinary ability to survive and even thrive in the turbulent global political arena.
We engaged the United Nations on the serious security threats that small states face, and proposed a mechanism to address such threats. We highlighted the link between the dangers of climate change and the full enjoyment of human rights.
We continue to show that through genuine and durable partnerships, we can address our challenges and face any adversity.
We live in a time of dramatic change and uncertainty. Our pursuit of international peace and security faces new obstacles that will test our resolve at every turn.
But we also have new expertise and resources to make the world more secure—in all countries large and small, on the mainland and in the oceans.
We have a significant task in front of us, one that will require our attention over decades.
Let us consider this discussion as the beginning of that effort and commit to do what is necessary to achieve our common goals.
Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed is Maldives Foreign Secretary.