November 2015 marks the second anniversary of President Yameen’s election to office and provides a fitting opportunity to highlight the remarkable foreign policy achievements of the government so far.
The Foreign Policy of the Republic of Maldives was unveiled on the 20th January 2014, by His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom following election to office in November 2013. Under the leadership of H.E President Yameen and Foreign Minister, H.E Ms Dunya Maumoon the Government of the Maldives formulated a Foreign Policy that was focused on 6 key pledges:
- Enhance the national security and absolute sovereignty of the Maldives through increased bilateral and multilateral engagement;
- Protect the Islamic identity of the Maldives and help to promote the core values of Islam internationally;
- Increase the economic resilience of the Maldives;
- Promote greater regional cooperation in South Asia;
- Provide quality consular services for Maldivians; and
- Promote efficiency and professionalism in the service.
Enhancing the national security and absolute sovereignty of the Maldives through increased bilateral and multilateral engagement
Enhancing national security and absolute sovereignty of the Maldives is the first objective of the Maldives foreign policy, an objective that can only be achieved by maintaining sound bilateral and multilateral relationships with major regional and global powers. And now more than ever, with the Maldives facing challenging circumstances at home and scrutiny from certain members of the international community- it is vital that accurate and reliable information is disseminated to international stakeholders. The Foreign Ministry and missions abroad have therefore developed a timely and effective way of ensuring that key partners are kept abreast of political developments in the country, thus avoiding the spread of misinformation by unreliable sources that only serves to perpetuate domestic tension.
On a multilateral front the Maldives was re-elected, unopposed, to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2014-2016 term. As the smallest country ever to have been elected to the esteemed council, the Government continues to take great pride in the contribution it makes towards the promotion and protection of human rights.
Protecting the Islamic identity of the Maldives and helping to promote the core values of Islam internationally
As part of foreign policy goal of protecting the Islamic Identity, Maldives continues to work closely with Islamic countries and with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to further strengthen the relationships.
At a meeting with the Secretary General of the OIC in March this year on the side-lines of the High Level Segment of the twenty-eighth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Minster Dunya reaffirmed Maldives commitment to stand steadfastly with the OIC in all its endeavours. She also reiterated the Government’s unwavering support for the formation of an independent Palestinian State and in resolving the internal conflict in Syria. The Minister further raised concerns regarding the acts of terrorism taking place around the world in the name of Islam and Jihad, and reiterated the Government of Maldives condemnation of terrorism in all its forms.
Increasing the economic resilience of the Maldives
November 2014 was also a pivotal time for the Maldives, securing the Chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) by consensus during a plenary meeting earlier in the month. The decision was announced at the Meeting of AOSIS Ministers being held in the Seychelles.
The Maldives spearheaded the efforts to form AOSIS, following the first ever Small States Conference held in the Maldives in November 1989. In the past twenty-five years, the Maldives, through national, regional, and international efforts, has undertaken several initiatives and has been an agent of change on a wide variety of issues related to climate change and environmental degradation. The Maldives continues to further strengthen the character and status of AOSIS as the norm entrepreneur and bridge builder, in its position as Chair.
Indeed, the Maldives chairmanship comes at a very crucial period of UN negotiations on climate change and sustainable development. Following the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to drive the implementation of sustainable development is due to be adopted this year. In addition, with the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a new climate agreement post 2020 will be negotiated this year at COP 21 in Paris where Maldives intends to be a very prominent voice.
Promoting greater regional cooperation in South Asia
The emphasis on regional cooperation in South Asia is also a fundamental part of the Government’s foreign policy. The Maldives believes that promoting greater regional cooperation in South Asia is the only viable means of promoting peace and stability in South Asia. As a founding member of SAARC and Chair of the organisation until November 2014, the Maldives has and will continue to work towards consolidating the gains made in regional cooperation, whilst embarking on new projects that would promote greater trust and mutual respect within the countries in the region.
Providing quality consular services for Maldivians
Providing quality consular services for Maldivians is another important goal of the government’s Foreign Policy, with the aim to conclude visa waiver agreements with countries most frequently visited by Maldivians. The United Kingdom remains a preferred destination for Maldivian students for both postgraduate and undergraduate study, however each year Maldivian students accepted to study in the UK faced some difficulties in obtaining visas. In the past, the delay experienced by many Maldivian students in obtaining their visas hindered their ability to take up their university offers.
Following discussions with the British Government by the Maldives High Commission in London and with the support of The All-Party British-Maldives Parliamentary Group, the British High Commission in Sri Lanka have for the past two years provided a temporary enrolment location for student visas in Male'. This has proved a huge success and a welcome provision. The government will continue to work in pursuit of achieving a permanent solution so Maldivian students have access to renowned higher education institutions in UK.
Foreign Policy Achievements in the UK
Aside from the support extended by The All-Party British-Maldives Parliamentary Group in securing a solution for Maldivian students, the group has also worked with the High Commission in London to raise awareness of key issues relating to environmental problems, education, political and social issues in the Maldives. The High Commission meets with members of the group frequently to brief members on developments in Maldives, and discuss issues of importance to British-Maldives relations.
In the United Kingdom the main objective of the High Commission is to promote the Maldives, not only as a tourist destination but also to create a greater awareness about the traditions and culture of the island nation. The event held at London’s Southbank in August of this year is a fantastic example of such promotion, showcasing traditional Maldivian music and dance.
The event was a collaborative effort of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation and the High Commission in London. The highly entertaining items performed by popular ‘Harubee boduberu’ band and dancers of ‘Theatre Mirage’ captured the attention of thousands of visitors providing a rare insight into the rich culture of the Maldives. The performances on the Southbank were held as part of a number of events that took place in the UK and around the world commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of the Maldives.
In September of this year the High Commission in London also held a diplomatic reception to mark the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of Independence. The reception, hosted by Foreign Minister, H.E Ms Dunya Maumoon was attended by the Diplomatic Corps in London, Senior UK Government officials, British parliamentarians, and members of the business community, media and Maldivians living in UK.
The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi also attended the reception as Guest of Honour. Speaking at the event the Baroness explained that journeys to democracy take time and are sometimes difficult adding that even Britain has had it’s own very difficult history in establishing the mature democracy that it is today. Baroness Warsi concluded her remarks by conveying her best wishes to the Government and people of the Maldives on its democratic journey and expressed her hope that Maldives UK relations would remain ever strong.
The World Travel Market, which took place last month, is also a regular feature in the annual calendar of both the Maldives High Commission in London and the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). A leading event for the travel industry, it generates more than 2.5 billion tourism industry contracts and hosts more than 100 conference sessions with total delegate numbers of around 17,000.
This year the Maldives delegation was headed by H.E. Mr Moosa Zameer, Minister of Tourism alongside representatives from MMPRC and the Maldives High Commission in London. The Maldives was showcased in a 276Sqm contemporary stand which celebrated the exclusivity of the country, reaffirming its position as a destination that epitomizes“…the sunny side of life”. The event also saw the launch of the Visit Maldives year 2016.