بســم اللّـه الرّحمـن الرّحيــم
Your Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar,
Your Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
I stand here today, representing a country that has graduated - the third country to do so. I am happy to share the experience of our journey from LDC to Middle Income Country. It is a bittersweet story. While we celebrate the alleviation of our people from the poverty that goes hand in hand with underdevelopment, we have been unable to fully realize the promise of prosperity that graduation from an LDC is said to usher. The problem lies in how the graduation process makes scant regard to the underlying vulnerabilities that small states continue to possess in spite of improvements in their overall economic performance.
Upon graduation, we found ourselves expending great effort to ensure that some of the benefits and special consideration we received as an LDC were not discontinued. We believe that some of these benefits should have remained in place to minimize the impacts of vulnerabilities small island developing countries such as ours experience. As many of you would be aware such vulnerabilities arise from our geographical size and scatteredness, susceptibility to climate change, lack of economic diversification, inadequate access to development finance and geopolitical shocks.
For small island developing states such as Maldives, extreme vulnerabilities that linger well after graduation, can have the disastrous consequence of wiping out decades of progress and development.
The Asian tsunami of 2004 is a good case in point. It hit us while we were on the cusp of graduating from the LDCs. In addition to the tragic loss of countless lives the economic impact of the Tsunami was devastating - costing us almost 60% of our GDP.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, made our country, a thriving upper middle-income country, into a no income country for 3 months. That is 3 months without any foreign currency coming in. Foreign currency that is used to buy food, medicine, ensure social protection, cover universal healthcare, education, desalinate water, and provide electricity.
While we were making good progress on post-pandemic recovery efforts, the recent conflict in Europe has created havoc in global energy markets driving up commodity prices and disrupting supply chains. We are, once again, fighting to contain a reversal of our economic recovery.
Vulnerability is more than a measure of GDP. While the graduation criteria does include an Economic Vulnerability Index, the reality is, none of the graduating countries have ever satisfactorily met the EVI threshold.
We believe that the work on a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index that is presently ongoing in the General Assembly would greatly help in overcoming this challenge. An MVI would help look at a country’s vulnerability, beyond its GDP per capita, and make an assessment of its resilience to shocks.
Likewise, International Financial Institutions should move beyond the outdated metric of measuring development based for the most part on national income. Every country should be able to compete for development resources in a fair and equitable manner. This is how we ensure that the development gains achieved are sustainable. That there is no backsliding.
Climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier. It is all encompassing. It is devastating. LDCs and SIDS are disproportionately affected. Despite this, Mr. President, we do not have access to adequate, sustainable, and predictable finance to take action to adapt to a changing climate, reduce emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change impacts. We call on the developed world, to do more. To fulfil their obligations in delivering on the collective finance goal of $100 billion per year and fast track the establishment of the Loss and Damage fund as agreed at COP27 last November. And we are hopeful that we can make greater strides in the upcoming COP28 in UAE.
LDCs must also work to build resilience from within. LDCs must do more to build good governance. The Maldives has been on a journey of democratic reform and consolidation since 2008. It has not been easy and is a work in continuous progress.
Graduating and graduated LDCs must strengthen their governance and institutions to increase their capacity to implement policies and attract investment.
Women and girls in LDCs continue to face barriers, such as lack of access to inclusive and quality education and digital skills, healthcare services, social protection and decent work and opportunities in the labour market. The Maldives recognizes that sustainable development cannot be achieved without the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and girls in all facets of life. To achieve this goal, we need women in leadership roles and in decision-making positions.
Numerous crises are having negative effects on all nations. The LDCs are among those who suffer the most because of their numerous and unique vulnerabilities.
The Maldives welcomes the Doha Programme of Action and pledges its strong support towards its full implementation.
We call for immediate and urgent action.
The time to act, is now!