His Excellency President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has delivered the Maldives’ General Debate Statement at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), pledging that with the revival of the Maldives’ journey towards democracy following years of self-imposed isolationism, the Maldives will be a responsible and proactive member of the World Community.
Delivering his remarks at an unprecedentedly early sixth speaking slot – a privilege rarely accorded to small island states – President Ibrahim Solih is the first Maldivian Head of State to address the General Assembly and deliver the annual general debate statement in the past seven years.
“The United Nations was formed out of the ashes of two devastating world wars in which more than a hundred million people were killed,” President Solih said, reminding the member states of the tragic past that necessitated the establishment of the UN in the first place. “It was born out of a belief in the sanctity of human freedom and of self- determination, which means even small nations have a voice on the global stage.”
The President expressed his elation that the Maldives has come out of its shell of isolationism, reinvigorated with the spirit of liberal internationalism enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and now stands in bright contrast to present global trends of increased autocracy and illiberalism.
“Meaningful democracy is about more than just holding elections, it’s about involving citizens in the decision-making process,” the President said, detailing the long journey to win the democratic elections against seemingly insurmountable odds. “The responsibility they have entrusted in me is something I do not take lightly. There is much that needs to be done.”
Addressing the international community, President Solih summarised his administration’s transformative development agenda to safeguard constitutional freedoms, strengthen institutions, decentralise the government, protect the environment and ensure justice.
Outlining the country’s key priorities in the international arena, the President expressed Maldives’ desire to become part of the shared solution to the problems confronting the world today. He highlighted the rise in violent extremism as one of the biggest threats of the 21st century and called on the international community to be proactive in preventing the active efforts of opportunists who twist religion and poison young minds to do their bidding.
“What is required is concerted global action,” President Solih said, “This involves everything from intelligence sharing, counterterrorism training and best practice sharing, as well as reforming our financial system to starve terrorist networks of finance.”
President Solih also took a firm stance on the ever-present threat of climate change, stating that the lack of global action is alarming.
“For thirty years, we Maldivians have been saying that this is the fight of our lifetime, because it threatens our very existence as a nation.” He declared the Maldives’ intention to spearhead meaningful action towards solving the global climate crisis with the implementation of the Maldives’ Climate Smart Resilient Islands Initiative presented by the President at the UN Climate Action Summit. The model is a sustainable solution to combat climate change by utilising natural solutions, promoting innovation and leveraging new technologies to build resilience, one of which is to pioneer an ambitious countrywide initiative to phase out single-use plastics by the year 2023.
The President also reminded the UN Member States of their collective failure to resolve the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and affirmed the Maldives’ longstanding sympathy and unwavering support towards the Palestinian people. Further, he condemned Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements and violations of Palestinians’ rights.
The President also called on Maldives’ neighbouring states to redouble their efforts to implement a proper governance framework that will facilitate increased trade and cooperation within the region.
“We need the United Nations because the problems of our times are extraordinary. Extraordinary because none of us alone can resolve them,” he emphasised, calling on the international community to rekindle the spirit of open constructive engagement. “We need the strength of the collective to fix the challenges of our times.”
The President ended his statement by repeating his belief that international issues can only be solved by working together, to “resolve our common challenges.”