Delivered on 27 February 2017
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates and members of the Civil Society,
Ah-salaam Alaikum, a very good afternoon,
It is an honour for me to address a High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council, for the first time.
For the Maldives, this Council holds a special place. The Council accepted the Maldives request to constitute a study to examine the relationship between climate change and the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights. The Council also accepted the Maldives initiative to establish a special procedure on human rights and the environment. The Maldives also helped to establish three other mandate holders on key human rights issues. The Maldives has also had the privilege of serving as the Vice Chair of the Council.
Being a small state does not prevent the Maldives from promoting the values and principles that underpin the international human rights mechanisms. The approach that the Maldives has taken in protecting human rights is through the empowerment of its people: creating opportunities; helping the people to help themselves lead dignified lives. It was this belief that helped to propel the Maldives to reach to a new paradigm of development — human development — that places the rights of the individual at the center of development. In 1971, the Maldives was one of the 20 poorest nations of the world. Today, the Maldives is a middle-income country with a per capita income over 8,000 US dollars.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom continues to, and places great emphasis on human rights protection and promotion through human development. Providing free medical care to the entire population, providing free education to ensure that no child is left behind, and caring for the elderly and the vulnerable are some of our highly successful achievements. The existing national health welfare system “Aasandha” provides free health care to all Maldivians, which includes medical treatment overseas.
The Government provides assistive devices for the physically impaired; residential care for both senior citizens and persons with disabilities for those in need; and a special allowance to vulnerable groups including the elderly, single mothers and persons with disabilities.
The Maldives is proud to say that we provide fourteen years of free education for every child in the country. We have achieved universal primary education and gender parity in educational attainment in primary and lower secondary education, with 59 per cent of high achievers being girls.
Maldivian women have enjoyed the right to vote since the early 1930s, and our women enjoy equal pay for equal work. The Gender Equality Act which came into force last week, promotes gender equality in all aspects of life by ensuring equal opportunities and equal conditions to pursue these opportunities.
Our policies in youth engagement and empowerment through skills development and job creation have led to declined crime rates among the youth.
The Maldives benefited a great deal from its membership of this Council. Our membership of the Council, and our close partnership with the UN human rights mechanism helped to consolidate democracy in the Maldives. Our democratic transition and strengthening of human rights have benefitted from the engagement we have had with the international community, in particular, the United Nations system.
A recent example is the launching of the first National Human Rights Action Framework in the Maldives last December. We are currently working towards a comprehensive action plan which will include 14 priority outcome areas for the Maldives that also align with the sustainable development goals. We acknowledge and appreciate the close guidance and support extended to the national counterparts by various UN agencies for this national agenda. We will continue to work closely with the UN in implementing the National Human Rights Action Framework.
We need to cultivate and promote a culture of respect and a culture of tolerance more than ever before. It is through promoting such a culture of respect that we can promote a two-state solution in Palestine, which is now illegally occupied by Israel. We call upon Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian and Arab lands that it had occupied illegally since 1967 and to strictly adhere to the Resolutions of the UN Security Council as demanded by international law.
The Maldives calls upon all the parties involved in the conflict in Syria, including the Syrian Government, to end the violence and to respect the fundamental human rights of the people affected by the war. We call upon countries that receive refugees fleeing the war zones in various parts of the world, to show compassion, instead of showing the exit door. We call upon countries where Islamophobia and other intolerances are on the rise, to promote respect for cultural diversity.
The Council is uniquely placed to work with emerging democracies, such as the Maldives, to create opportunities for sharing of experiences and best practices. The Maldives believes that it can contribute in raising the voice and the profile of the Council and in the process, increase the credibility of the Council and the entire human rights protection mechanism of the UN system.
It is for that reason that the Maldives has put forward its candidacy to the Human Rights Council for the term 2018- 2020. We believe that we can contribute to make this council universal in its outreach, to give hope to the vanquished in every corner of the globe; and to give them their rightful chance to shape their future.