24 August 2015
Bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm
The United Nations Resident Coordinator,
Members of the UNDAF Steering Committee, and Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalaam Alaikum and a very good morning.
Last month we celebrated the golden jubilee of the Maldives national independence. Next month, we will be marking the golden jubilee of Maldives membership in the United Nations.
Over the last fifty years, the UN has been the stalwart development partner of the Maldives. After the country gained independence, the Government sought external assistance from various sources. And it was the United Nations System that showed maximum commitment to work with the Maldives. And the results speak for itself: in 1977, the life expectancy of a Maldivian was just 47 years, this has now risen to 77 years; in 1977 infant mortality was at 120.7, this has now been reduced to just 6 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality rate in 1977 stood at 680, this has now been reduced to 34. In 1977, there were just three government schools, all of which were in Malé; now there are more than 200 government schools all over the country teaching skills that will help to transform children to productive and responsible adults. These rapid developments in the social sectors have helped to propel economic growth, making Maldivians prosperous: in 1977, the GDP per capita in the Maldives was 160 dollars; now the GDP per capita of Maldives is more than 7,500 dollars. In our journey of success, the United Nations was an able, and indeed enthusiastic and reliable partner.
The UNDAF document that we just signed takes that partnership further. It places these accomplishments in the proper development context. The four outcome areas identified for the next cycle, Gender, Governance, Youth and Children, and Environment and Climate Change, were identified based on the priorities set out in the election manifesto of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s Government.
The four outcome areas demonstrate the Government’s commitment, in partnership with the UN, to gender equality and the empowerment of women; to strengthen democratic institutions and to cultivate a culture of respect in the society; to teach our children better skills and to inspire our youth to become successful adults; and to fight against environmental degradation and climate change. The UNDAF document provides a framework that will help the Government and the UN agencies to work together in these areas and consolidate the gains we have made in these areas.
A key aspect of President Yameen’s development policy is in investing in youth. The Government has prioritised skills development and job creation for the youth. Over the last twenty months, more than seven thousand jobs have been created, and several skills development programmes have been launched. We believe that through these instruments, and through empowering our youth, we would be able address and reduce the problems of drug abuse and gang-violence.
Equal emphasis has been placed on gender equality . The Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Abuse Act, and Sexual Offences Act have strengthened the legal framework to protect women, and children, from violence and sexual abuse. The Gender Equality Bill, which is currently in its final stages, once passed, will cement our national standards on gender equality, and confirm that our policies and legal framework are consistent with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
President Yameen’s development policy is informed by human rights principles that are explicit and implicit in the Maldives Constitution. The President’s economic agenda is one that not only protects the rights of the individual, but also, and most importantly, enables the individual to unleash the power of human creativity and, in turn, increase the welfare of the individual and the society. The policy is guided by the belief, that although legal instruments provide the basic framework, human rights are not just about international instruments or pieces of law. Human rights is also about belief; belief that needs to be carefully cultivated and nurtured; belief that needs space and time to grow organically, and become valued and cherished traditions in the societies concerned.
The four outcome areas and the outputs in each of these areas will complement the Post-2015 Development Agenda and SDGs that will be adopted next month by the world leaders. The implementation of outputs set out in the respective country programme documents of each of the UN Agencies will be aligned with the SDG national matrices as and when we develop the matrices. I am confident we would be able to achieve that level of coordination in the implementation of both UNDAF outcomes and the SDGs.
I would like to thank the UNDAF Steering Committee for its strategic direction in formulating the UNDAF document. And I would, in particular, like to thank Ms Shoko Noda, the UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, for her leadership in this process. The UN Country Team, participants of the thematic groups, and civil society organisations who contributed to the process deserve a big thank you. I wish you every success. And I look forward working closely with you all in the implementation of the UNDAF.