Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Let me begin by thanking the Government and the people of the Republic of Mauritius for their warm welcome and solidarity.
I am very pleased to be visiting Mauritius for the first time as Secretary-General.
I am here to highlight the important leadership role that Mauritius plays among Small Island Developing States – as well as its contributions in many areas including climate action, promoting the ocean economy, and advancing sustainable development.
Later today, I will attend the International Council on Commercial Arbitration. I am also very touched to be receiving an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Mauritius.
I look forward to visiting Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape tomorrow – two sites that are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – and that shine a light on the history, consequences and lessons of the slave trade.
I am impressed by Mauritius’ achievements in socio-economic development and in consolidating democracy.
Mauritius met almost all the Millennium Development Goals and is regarded as the most competitive economy in sub-Saharan region. In 2005, Mauritius hosted a critical international conference from which emerged the first global plan on Small Island Developing States for the 21st century – the Mauritius Strategy.
Its economic policies, focusing on growth and employment and its strong social welfare system, are models for others. These initiatives have contributed to helping Mauritius become an upper middle-income country.
I am confident that Mauritius’ leadership role and impressive socio-economic performance will also be instrumental in promoting women’s economic empowerment and strengthening gender equality.
As we all know, the impact of climate change is evident around the world, but perhaps nowhere more than in small islands developing states. Weather events are becoming more extreme. Rainfall patterns are changing. Coral reefs are dying. Sea-levels are rising.
I warmly welcome the signature and ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Mauritius was among the first 15 countries who deposited its instrument of ratification at the same time of as signing the Paris Agreement on 22 April in New York.
Mauritius will continue to have an important leadership role in its implementation along with other States, and this ties into the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
I commend the Government of the Republic of Mauritius for already taking a step forward to develop its economic Vision 2030.
Taking this opportunity, I would also like to congratulate H.E. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim in her role as co-Chair of the High Level Panel on Water. The Water Panel aims to mobilize effective action to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water, which focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, at a time of unprecedented challenges.
Mauritius has much to offer the world, and in particular, Africa, by way of promoting peace, maintaining unity and national identity while respecting the diversity of its people.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Mauritius as Secretary-General of the United Nations – and to further strengthen our ties.
Thank you. Merci.
Q: I wish to know from you, looking at the past what is the biggest achievement and the most effective action by the international community?
SG: I think during the last ten years, and most recently, [in the] last four, five years, the international community has shown a strong commitment and solidarity and most importantly vision in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals with the 17 Goals. That will make sure that by 2030 there will be nobody who will suffer from abject poverty and there will be nobody left behind. Everybody will be put toward a sustainable path, together with our planet earth. That is a very important vision. Of course, this is the first year for implementation. The United Nations will make sure that this will be implemented in all Member States participating. Another important vision and commitment is of course the Climate Change Agreement which was adopted in Paris last year. The Prime Minister and I have discussed at length and he expressed his strong commitment as leader of this country to bring all these two vision [to] full implementation. There is, again, a very important achievement or trend that the United Nations has been putting human rights “up front.” You know that there are many people whose human dignity and human rights have been abused and violated and there has been a lot of discrimination based on race and religion and belief, even on different sexual orientation. The UN, while addressing peace and security issues, development issues and human rights, we take human rights up front. Whatever we carry on, we take human dignity and human rights as the number one priority. When people are not respected in their human rights and dignity, what is the use of having all this development when? Even though there may be some occasion when people can enjoy prosperity but without full respect for human rights, it is not a real sense of prosperity.
Q: This is your visit in this region. I just wanted to know what is your assessment as far as security is concerned in this region? And how do you envision the role of the small island countries in this region?
SG: In my role as Secretary-General, I have been trying to visit as many Member States as possible just to listen to the Member State’s visions and concerns and aspirations and what the United Nations and how the United Nations can do more in working with the Member State. Of course, one of my priorities was dealing with and addressing the concerns and plights of the Small Island Developing States. Now having visited Seychelles and Mauritius, I am going to visit tomorrow Madagascar. This gives me a good sense of appreciation [about] how the countries, small island developing countries like Mauritius, can make an impact on the UN’s and global vision and global commitment. I hav seen during the last ten years as Secretary-General, many such occasions when the voices and the visions of small island developing countries have been well respected and carried out. For example, it was in Mauritius in 2005 [that] this Mauritius Strategy was adopted through an international conference on how to address the concerns and plights of Small Island Developing States. That was built upon two years ago in Samoa in the form of the Samoa Pathway. So there [are] good systems and frameworks to address these concerns. In this area again, you have been suffering a lot because of security, organized crimes, drug trafficking, human trafficking and particularly piracy. And I really appreciate the Mauritius government for [its] strong commitment in addressing this piracy issue. I think you are a member of the Contact Group on piracy off the coast of Somalia and your active participation in this really helped the international community in reducing, if not totally eliminating, this piracy. Since 2013, there has been no such cases when shipping vessels have been hijacked by pirates but it has not been totally eliminated and there should be more support. Mauritius has been an active chair of the Indian Ocean Forum maritime crimes – this I really appreciate.
Q: You spoke earlier about human rights. What is your assessment of the Chagos issue?
SG: We discussed this matter and we have been following this matter closely at the United Nations and your Prime Minister has been discussing and raising this issue at the United Nations and multilateral forum. In fact, the United Nations does not take a position on such matters when it comes to territorial issues. But I understand that Mauritius instituted proceedings against the United Kingdom before an Arbitral Tribunal established under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The legal questions before the Arbitral Tribunal related to the establishment by the United Kingdom of a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Archipielago. Annex VII to UNCLOS, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, states that award issued by the Arbitral Tribunal shall be final and without appeal, unless the parties to the dispute have agreed in advance to an appellate procedure. And I sincerely hoped that, as I talked to the Prime Minister, I was pleased that the parties have agreed to resolve this issue through the mechanism in accordance to the United Nations Charter and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I hope there will be a peaceful resolution through dialogue.