21 April 2009
Faculty, Students,Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join you for this ceremony. Thank you for this warm welcome.
I have been in Malta just a few hours. But even in that short time, I have been able to see the active and wide-ranging engagement of your country in the work of the United Nations.
Your contributions on climate change have been especially notable.
As an island nation, you understand the grave nature of the threat from the rising sea levels and extreme weather that are associated with climate change. This is not an abstract matter, or some vague possibility far off in the future. Rather, the risk is real, with impacts today that are accelerating and outpacing forecasts.
And as a country that looks outward, that actively cultivates trading and other ties with the world, you also grasp the global nature of the problem.
So it is quite natural that Malta was the first country to formally table the issue of climate change as a political agenda item at the United Nations General Assembly. Since that initiative in 1988, Malta has played a dynamic role in ensuring that climate change would remain a matter of high-level attention for the international community.
One of your finest diplomats was an integral member of the UN team for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and went on to serve with distinction as the first head of the Secretariat for the landmark UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
And now, as we move toward crucial climate negotiations in Copenhagen later this year, Malta is a key player in efforts to “seal the deal”. That is admirable global citizenship.
It is fitting that a monument to those efforts be erected in Malta. And it is appropriate that it be located at this widely respected International Maritime Law Institute.
The Institute's mission is timely and important. The training and research that take place here are helping to make shipping safe and efficient. You are helping to prevent marine pollution. And you are building vitally needed human capacity so that developing countries can fulfil their obligations under maritime law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention.
I am pleased to note that the Institute was established with the backing of the International Maritime Organization, a member of the UN family.
This monument is also a striking addition to the grounds of the University. On an island of such renowned natural beauty, that is not an easy thing to accomplish.
I thank all who have made this monument possible. Most of all, I thank Malta for its strong and enduring commitment to addressing climate change, one of the most urgent challenges of our times.