Statement by H.E. Ms. Dunya Maumoon at the High Level Segment of the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

1 March 2016, United Nations Office at Geneva

Bismillah Ah-Rahman Ah-Raheem

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ah-salaam Alaikum, and good afternoon

On 19 October 1987, the former President of Maldives Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, spoke at the UN General Assembly and warned about the dangers that the Maldives was facing from climate change, and said (and I quote), "a mean sea level rise would of 2 metres" suffice to virtually submerge the entire country of 1190 islands, most of which barely rise two metres above mean sea level. That would be the death of a nation" (end of quote).

That was the beginning of our advocacy work: on the vulnerability of small islands states on building resilience of, and on mitigating against the impacts of climate change. For over three decades, we have persistently brought this issue to the forefront of international debates.

Some have tried to tame the Maldives for leading this cause. Such challenges only increase our resolve to argue for stronger measures. Fundamental rights of people, including those in small island developing states, should be protected, especially from the drastic effects of climate change. We will remain relentless and steadfast in our call on the countries responsible to pay for the loss and damage.

Mr. President

The Maldives recognises that its advocacy can only continue by building its national resilience: politically, socially and economically. The Government of His Excellency President Yaameen Abdul Gayoom believe that investing in the country's young democracy is the best way for making the nation politically resilient. Our efforts have been at times welcomed, at times jeopardised, and at times challenged, by various actors, both nationally and internationally. Despite that, our commitment remains firm.

We will, Insha Allah, transform the Maldives into an advanced democracy; a democracy that protects every individual's rights; a democracy that sustains human development; and a democracy that allows prosperity to thrive. We would not be able to reach there just in days, weeks, or even years; history shows that it takes at least few generations to bring and sustain democratic change in a society. To achieve that we need support and encouragement, to light up the road ahead. But we definitely do not wish to be bullied as we climb uphill on this journey. All we are asking is to give the people of the Maldives the chance, the space, and to give us the privilege to work at our own pace, in our own way, facing our challenges, and learning from them.

Mr President:

When I stood here in 2014, I pledged that our work in this Council would continue to be based on universality, objectivity, non-selectivity, and impartiality. Despite challenges, we have come a long way in achieving those objectives.

We have reiterated the call, to refrain from politicising the Council and to keep the focus on promoting and protecting human rights. We have advocated on bringing the perspective of Small Island Developing States to the Council which had led to the establishment of the voluntary trust fund for SIDS and LDCs, and the UPR support for SIDS.

The Maldives had its second review of UPR in May 2015. We received praise for our achievements; especially in strengthening the legal framework to safeguard the rights of women and children, and particularly for the enactment of key ground-breaking legislations. Over 60 per cent of legislations enacted in the last two years relate to the promotion and protection of human rights. The Maldives also just recently engaged in a long and constructive dialogue with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Reporting on every treaty body and mechanism is increasingly becoming a burden for small states. The assessments of countries need to be based on their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations; not on a yardstick that is unrealistic. Let us establish a pragmatic vision for a Council that helps, not hinders, countries to promote and protect human rights.

The rule of law remains the most important vehicle through which human rights can be protected. It is the anchor that allows countries to achieve economic and social development. Yet, we are asked by some, to set aside the laws in place, for one or two individuals. Such suggestions undermine efforts to protect human rights in the country. That is why the Government of President Yameen has made it a priority to uphold the law and will not be apologetic for doing that despite international pressure. And that is why the Government is working with its international partners, to ensure that people have confidence in the legal framework.

Mr President:

The Maldives has been observing the political turmoil across the globe. Countries across the world continue to be plagued by an endless cycle of violence and destruction. The escalating refugee crisis in Europe demands our unwavering attention and solidarity to find lasting solutions. I appeal to this Council, to be persistent in its efforts to address the root causes of these conflicts.

Every day we hear of confused people from across the world, joining terrorist groups created in the name of Islam. The Maldives has repeatedly condemned gross violations of human rights committed by these groups, and taken measures to curb this in our own country. Just a few days ago, the President of Maldives established the National Counter Terrorism Centre. The struggle against radicalism and terrorism need stronger global and unified efforts to succeed.

Mr President

The Maldives is pleased that the Palestinian flag is finally waving outside this building. While it is a symbolic triumph, a true victory will be the establishment of an independent Palestinian State on the 1965 borders. Until then, we will continue to remain steadfast in our strong support for the people of the State of Palestine.

As our second term at the Human Rights Council ends this year, we celebrate the productive debates we have led, the meaningful contributions we have made, and the new ideas we have proposed. We take this opportunity to pay our dues to our friends, our partners who have contributed to our development, and our critics who have encouraged us to strive for more.

As this Council completes its tenth year since establishment, we must not only celebrate our achievements. But also address our challenges. Resolutions of the Council should not be mere rhetoric. It should have bearing on the people fleeing war; the hungry child on a boat in the ocean; or every single man, woman, and child, who slowly see their hope for a better future diminish. We, this Council, need to revive that beautiful hope and dream of love, freedom, and humanity.

We need to work together to cultivate respect for values, cultivate cultures that understand and respect the beauty of difference. It is time we stop dictating; it is time we start listening with intent: listen to the pleas of the people, hear their cries. Walk in each other's shoes for a while. Perhaps then we can understand better, and bring about meaningful progress; progress that we are proud of; progress that is sustainable; progress that we can leave behind for our children and for our children's children.

I thank you all