His Excellency Ahmed Khaleel
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives,
at the UNSC Open Debate on ‘Advancing the Women, Peace, and Security: Women’s economic inclusion and participation as a key to building peace’
8 March 2022
Thank you, Madam President,
I would like to thank the United Arab Emirates for convening this timely debate on Advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda today, on International Women’s Day. I would also like to thank our briefers for their invaluable insights.
Conflicts have deep and far-reaching consequences for all of society. However, women particularly, lose access to employment opportunities, natural resources, basic legal protections, and essential needs such as food, water, health, and education. We are therefore strongly encouraged by the commitment of your Presidency to advancing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. Since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, the nine resolutions the Council has adopted reflect significant collective advancement, however, let us not become complacent. There remains much to be done.
The Maldives fully ascribes to the notion that women’s inclusion and participation is fundamental to our efforts to build a durable, peaceful society. We further recognize that when conflict, disaster or other crises does strike, our responses in the immediate aftermath and in the longer-term recovery, must proceed in a manner that pays particular attention and focus on the situation and needs of women and their full and meaningful inclusion in decision making.
In a small country like ours, a natural disaster can wipe away decades of development gains in the blink of an eye. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was devastating for the Maldives and in that awful experience, we recognized that women were at the frontlines often bearing the heaviest burden in its aftermath.
Although some extreme events are unpredictable, we know that climate change will continue to increase our risk of storms, floods, and water and food insecurity. These situations create environments where women are marginalized, but also where terrorism and other threats to security can fester.
For this reason, Maldives and other small islands have been sounding the alarm that addressing climate change is fundamental to building a peaceful society. As the Secretary-General Guterres rightly stated last year “Climate change is “an aggravating factor” for instability, conflict, and terrorism” and therefore we must take urgent action to address this threat multiplier and driver of conflict.
It is not just in conflict situations, where we must better focus on women, but in all spheres. Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic and other humanitarian crises have exacerbated existing gender gaps, often unraveling decades of progress made towards gender equality. Clearly, women have borne the brunt of the economic fallout from the pandemic and as a response the Maldives provided an Income Support Allowance to workers who lost their jobs, placing a particular emphasis on those women who worked in the informal sector and lacked formal contracts.
But we know more can be done. As we emerge from the seemingly worst of the pandemic, we can redesign our recovery policies to advance gender inclusivity further. We should work to strengthen partnerships with local stakeholders across all levels, especially women’s groups, to more quickly identify and better understand the challenges women face on the ground and their underlying causes. We should also work to find ways to better integrate international partners and public private partners into these various settings to lay the foundations for enduring peace and security.
Some of the areas where we believe partnerships can prove useful include timely and robust collection of data on women’s economic participation in conflict settings. This will help us better understand the challenges women face.
To ensure action on the ground that is responsive to women, we need the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in leadership roles. Without adequate representation of women in decision-making processes, we risk creating laws, policies, budgets, and conflict responses that fail to adequately respond to the needs of almost half the world’s population.
Research demonstrates, and our experiences confirm firsthand, that women’s voices in political decision-making, in communities, in parliaments, and in peace negotiations are essential to support and sustain prosperous and peaceful societies.
The Maldives has always been committed to promoting women’s empowerment and President Solih’s administration places high importance on having women in decision-making and executive positions.
We have taken action to give this effect by passing legislation to allocate 33 percent of council seats for women in local elections. A third of the ministerial posts in the current Cabinet are women. For the first time we have female Supreme Court justices; a women leader for both the Judicial Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission. And in a historic first, in April 2021 we elected women to one-third of the local council seats. These changes will strengthen women’s voices in our decision-making processes and will help us to ensure more responsive and inclusive government policies.
We believe that empowered women empower society. And it is only through the full and meaningful participation of women in all facets of decision making and implementation can we ensure that we can build enduring peaceful society and advance the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.
I thank you.