Statement by

His Excellency Mr. Fathulla Jameel

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives

at the Fifty-eight session of the United Nations General Assembly

29 September 2003 New York

Check against delivery

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Allow me at-the outset to convey to you, on behalf of my delegation, our sincere congratulations on your election as the President of the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly. It is, indeed, an added pleasure for my delegation to see such a distinguished personality from a sisterly small island state preside over this august Assembly.

Allow me also, Mr. President, to extend my delegation's profound gratitude and appreciation to your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Jan Kavan, former Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, for the exemplary manner in which he steered the work of the 57th session.

I would also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of my delegation, to express our deep appreciation to the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, for his dedication and untiring work in promoting the noble principles of this Organization. I also wish to congratulate him in particular for his courage and foresight with which he has proposed last week the much-needed reforms to this Organization. I sincerely wish him every success in carrying them forward.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my delegation's sentiments of sadness and deep sorrow for the tremendous loss suffered by the international community in the recent terrorist bombings in Baghdad. I pay a special tribute to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, and the other staff members of the Organization who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of humanity.

Mr. President,

Terrorism has always menaced the human race in one form or the other. Yet, never before have we witnessed acts of terrorism so organized, so frequent and so lethal, threatening international peace and security in its entirety. The Baghdad bombing and other violent eruptions elsewhere in the world grimly remind us that serious threats to world peace and security remain, undermining the noble principles that so far had contributed to the survival of the world order and the sustenance of the values that we upheld. Much has been done. Yet the persistence of these deplorable acts signals our failure to address the fundamental causes of these threats. Bold decisions need to be taken swiftly to address them.

Since my country fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack in 1988, we had tried, on many occasions, to impress upon this Assembly the threats to small states by increased international terrorism. A decade and a half later, the heat of terrorism is affecting us all irrespective of our physical size, economic strength, political power or military might. For some small states, the danger is graver as a terrorist onslaught could severely threaten even their sovereignty and independence. Therefore, let me emphasize the importance of providing support and assistance to the small states in the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1373, and strengthening their institutional capabilities in this important field.

We should all recognize that the strength and stability of the international security system or any political order would be determined by the strength of its weakest members, and not just the endurance or the prevalence of the strongest among them.

The Maldives will, nevertheless, continue to support the war against international terrorism in the spirit of contributing to enhancing international peace and security.

Mr. President,

The structural impediments facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Maldives are numerous. The geophysical characteristics of our island states combined with remoteness from major markets have accentuated our vulnerabilities. Nearly a decade ago, we met in Barbados to address the environmental vulnerabilities and developmental challenges faced by SIDS. However, addressing these vulnerabilities and challenges require a meaningful global partnership with shared responsibility and commitments at the highest level. My country hopes that the Barbados Plus Ten to be held in Mauritius next year would provide the impetus for the international community to renew their commitments for concrete action, made at Barbados, ten years hence.

Mr. President,

Globalization of the world economy and liberalization of the multilateral trading system are continuing to marginalize the developing countries, especially the Least Developed Countries. As tariff barriers fall, so does the potential for the developing countries to compete effectively in the open market. Hopes were dashed at Cancun since the Conference proved disappointing, leaving the developing countries in affliction. Abject poverty and disease in the developing world exist beyond comprehension, while deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB re main rampant. The development opportunities for the LDCs appear bleak. Therefore, I call for a level playing field for all countries, with preferential treatment for the weak, and in particular, for the narrowly based economies such as that of my own country, who find it hard, if not impossible, to sustain their share in the global market.

My delegation believes that greater commitment to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action (BPOA) for the Least Developed Countries is a prerequisite if we are to halt and reverse the deteriorating situation of the LDCs. While I express my appreciation of the donor community's willingness to help the LDCs in accelerating their growth and sustaining their development, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it must be said that, the Monterrey pledges remain far from being realized. The overriding objectives of the Brussels Programme of Action to arrest and reverse continued socio-economic marginalization of LDCs and to improve their share in international trade, foreign investment and other financial flows will also remain a dream if ODA is not increased and IDA is not augmented.

Mr. President,

As I have stated on many occasions, the Maldives is not simply an island nation, it is a nation of many islands flung over 90,000 square kilometers of ocean. Our islands are resource poor and the saline soil conditions prohibit most agricultural production. Transport and communication costs are exhorbitant. The scope for economic diversification is virtually limited. That is why, Mr. President, we have appealed to the international community to take a closer look at our real situation before the issue of our graduation from LDC status is considered by the ECOSOC.

As I emphasized in my statement before this august Assembly last year, the structural weaknesses of our economy can have grave implication on my country's development should it be deprived of the preferential access to markets and of the concessional capital that it has critically relied upon.

The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has fully recognized the special circumstances of small states like the Maldives who are environmentally fragile and economically vulnerable. The CDP has also, over the years, highlighted these vulnerabilities and the severe costs small island developing countries will have to endure in the event of graduation. We believe that, unless these vulnerabilities and costs are addressed in a concrete and meaningful manner, the conditions for graduation set forth in General Assembly resolution 46/206, particularly that of smooth transition, would not be met. We are concerned that graduation without adequately addressing them in advance, would reverse the progress that we have made so far.

Although the criteria for inclusion in the list of LDCs and graduation therefrom have been regularly reviewed and refined, the criteria still fail to capture the entire range of structural and other handicaps. We are glad that the CDP is continuing its work on the refinement of the criteria. We also believe that, of the three criteria for graduation, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) need to be a requisite criterion, in order to ensure that the country will not elapse back into a lower status of development after the dooming graduation.

The UNCTAD profile of the Maldives also highlights a number of circumstances not captured by the criteria. The profile very clearly states that graduation would result in an unsustainable debt burden even with sustained growth. The rate of our economic growth has declined significantly since 1997 and, hence, graduation at the present time would amount to a serious exogenous shock at the wrong time. This is precisely the situation that we are so desperately trying to avoid.

Mr. President,

In accordance with the decision taken at its 2003 substantive session in Geneva, the ECOSOC will soon consider the issue of graduation of the Maldives from the LDC status. We sincerely hope that we would get the necessary support and cooperation of all countries to adopt a comprehensive resolution that would address the issue of graduation in a holistic manner and require an appropriate mechanism to ensure a smooth transition. In this connection, we would like to express our full support to the call by the CDP to convene an expert group meeting to address the issue of smooth transition. We also expect the international meeting on SIDS in Mauritius next year to formulate recommendations to guide policies on the graduation of SIDS.

Mr. President,

After a glimmer of hope for the revival of the Middle East peace process, we are again witnessing an unprecedented deterioration of the situation in Palestine and the Middle East. We strongly condemn the Israeli move to deport President Yasser Arafat from the Palestinian territories and the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. We have consistently supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their inalienable rights and to establish an independent Palestinian state with AI-Quds as its capital. We call upon the members of the Quartet, particularly the United States to ensure the implementation of the Road Map for peace. While we sincerely believe that United Nations has an important role to play in the peace process, we are also convinced that the United States needs to remain actively engaged in the search for a just, permanent and lasting peace in the region.

Mr. President,

The international community should maintain the high priority it has accorded to disarmament and arms control efforts, without any discrimination among nations or regions, to make the world a more peaceful place. The international community must strengthen and improve the enforcement of the non-proliferation regime. In this context, we believe that the United Nations must not only be at the centre of the multilateral processes, but should remain the principal player in grappling with important global issues. We believe, with unity of purpose, bilateral, regional and multilateral approaches, with complementarity to each other, can lead to the resolution of these issues.

Mr. President,

The need to reform the United Nations, as emphasised by the Secretary General, to face the challenges of a changing world remains paramount. We are convinced that the United Nations with its universal membership is not only the sole and legitimate body responsible for the preservation and maintenance of international peace and security but also the unique body, capable of realizing the goals for a better and secure world for mankind. Therefore, the United Nations should never be allowed to be marginalized or be digressed from its role and the principles of its Charter. The Maldives remains committed and will do its utmost to contribute to strengthening of the role of the United Nations and to making it more efficient and effective.

Thank you Mr. President.