Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Her Excellency Aishath Nahula
Honourable Members of Parliament,
High Commissioner of India to the Maldives His Excellency Sunjay Sudir
Commissioner General of Customs, Controller of Immigration, Managing Director of Maldives State Shipping, Government officials,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen

A new road for age old friends is what we embark upon today.
A new road that is so deeply rooted in our culture and our heritage.

For centuries, the Maldives has been at the heart of economic trade routes in the Indian Ocean. During a time when the Maldives was the main source of cowry shells used as currency, we quite remarkably formed a friendship with our beloved neighbour that has stood the tests of time. The Maldives-India relationship continues to grow stronger and stronger.

Today, we are here to celebrate the historic maiden voyage of the Maldives-India Cargo Ferry Service, operating from tuticorin to Kochi in India, to H.Dh Kulhudhuushi and Male’ in the Maldives. This highly anticipated Ferry Service has made an incredible voyage of approximately 509 kilometres in the space of 5 days to join us here today. Reflecting on our treasured maritime history together, it was only natural to cultivate this connection with our closest friend, India.

Certainly, the establishment of this infrastructure will greatly improve the bilateral trade between the Maldives and India and will help revitalise the economy, especially in the North of the country. It is worth noting that the recent advancements in air connectivity between the Maldives and India propelled our neighbour India to the top of the list of tourist arrivals in the Maldives. Similarly, it is our hope that the boost in sea connectivity also positively impacts the economic trade between our two countries.

The fundamental backbone of this entire Ferry Service, is the value of people-to-people contact between our two countries. From traders to students to travellers, this Ferry Service is the living, breathing embodiment of the closeness of people-to-people contact between our two countries. It is this closeness shared by the people of Maldives and India, that has and continues to prosper over the years.

Since November 2018, the traditionally close, bilateral relationship between the Maldives and India has strengthened and deepened. And it is the close bond and friendship shared by the leaders of both countries – President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Prime Minister Modi – that remains the crucial factor in committing to a resolute Maldives-India partnership that provides us the guiding light and the courage, to work hard to deliver results, and make this partnership a successful one.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my immense gratitude to the Government of India for their support in facilitating this extraordinary project. I would like to offer a special thanks to the Minister of External Affairs Dr. Jaishankar, for the high regard he places on the Maldives-India partnership. I would like to thank you, High Commissioner, and your team at the High Commission, for your tireless efforts in contributing to the success of this Ferry Service.

I would like to also take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to the local stakeholders especially, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Economic Development, Maldives Ports Limited, Kulhudhuffushi Regional Port, Maldives Immigration, Maldives Customs Service, Maldives Food and Drug Authority, and Maldives State Shipping for their immeasurable work ethic in realising this monumental Ferry Service we see here today. Finally, I would like to thank the Kulhudhuffushi Council and the lovely people of Kulhudhuffushi for their display of togetherness and personal commitment in making this inauguration a wonderful and joyous occasion.

It is our sincere hope that the new road we embark on today, encourages the constant care and support between our long-time friends to inspire even greater journeys ahead in the future.

Thank you.

Distinguished colleagues,

I wish to thank the delegations of Belgium, the EU, the Republic of Niger and the International Committee of the Red Cross for organizing this timely event on the “Humanitarian Impact of Combined Conflict, Climate and Environmental Risks.”

The Maldives has argued for decades that climate change is the defining issue of our time. Exactly one year ago, in an event similar to this, I pointed out that we can no longer ignore the humanitarian and security challenges that climate change presents to the world’s most vulnerable populations. Climate change is a threat that spans across continents, touching every nation; the human impact of this threat is enormous. Of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, 60% are also affected by armed conflict. We know that long-lasting conflicts and insecurity threaten people’s ability to cope with climate change and undermine the ability of societies to adapt to the consequences of extreme weather. If left unchecked, this crisis could worsen both economic and social tensions in conflict or post-conflict zones, with serious implications especially for the poor and marginalized populations.

Distinguished colleagues,

We know climate change is a threat multiplier, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water. With this in mind, the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih presented a plan, entitled Climate Smart Resilient Islands, at the UN Secretary-General's Climate Action Summit last year. The plan seeks to achieve environment-related targets in a number of areas, including designating environmentally protected areas, safeguarding food and water security, promoting green tourism, and ensuring climate-resilient infrastructure and sustainable waste management practices.

As the effects of climate change increase, the interaction of climate, environment and conflict-related crises are also projected to increase over time. Despite this combined threat, the humanitarian impact of climate change remains one of least understood dimensions of the climate crisis. For this reason, I join with the organizers of this event in their call for a deeper analysis of combined conflict, climate and environmental risks and vulnerabilities, and for further reflection on how humanitarian responses should adapt to bolster the resilience of the most vulnerable communities.

Distinguished colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a crisis can change the world with tragic consequences. Beyond the immediate health crisis of the pandemic, predictions are that it will cost the world economy up to 5 percent of GDP and push us towards the worst recession in decades.

In the case of Maldives, by the end of 2020, our economy is expected to contract by more than 10 percent. It is the developing countries, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable, that have been hit the hardest during this crisis, not necessarily by disease itself, but by the devastating socioeconomic ripples launched by tattered social safety nets, inequalities and disregard for our planet. Consequently, COVID-19 has further fueled both economic and social tensions in conflict or post-conflict situations, with serious implications for the most vulnerable populations.

But this pandemic is also an opportunity to reverse the conditions that brought us here. Our experience with COVID-19 has truly demonstrated what could be achieved if we act and work together to address global challenges. We need to exercise the same urgency as our response to COVID-19, to tackle climate change. Most importantly, recovery from crises must not be driven by a zero-sum game of economy versus environment, or even health versus economy.

As we recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must adapt so that our systems are more resilient to future crises. We must also assist countries experiencing the adverse effects of conflict and climate change to build back better, so that we may continue to progress towards a fair, equitable and sustainable future.

Distinguished colleagues,

My heart goes out to the millions of people dealing with armed conflicts who are also affected by climate change and the COVID-19 crisis. They are the first to suffer and the worst hit. Unless the international community takes decisive action to address climate change, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a higher potential for endangering communities struggling to survive conflict, insecurity or poverty.

I invite you all to share your experiences and work with the international community to reduce the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable populations. I would like to conclude by thanking the organizers for this important discussion.

I thank you.

Bismillah-ah-rahman-ah-raheem,

Your Excellency Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Foreign Minister of Nepal and Chairperson of the Meeting

Honourable Foreign Ministers,

Secretary-General of SAARC,

Distinguished delegates,

Assalaamu Alaikum and Good Afternoon,

Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude to the Chair and Foreign Minister of Nepal, for convening this Informal Meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers at a difficult and critical time. I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate and welcome the new Secretary General of SAARC H.E Mr. Esala Ruwan Weerakoon and thank the former Secretary General, H.E Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial for his leadership and guidance during his tenure as Secretary General of SAARC. 

Excellencies,

Unlike the past, this year, we are forced to hold our regular reunion virtually, due to the unprecedented and challenging circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of every nation today is on addressing this invisible enemy. The pandemic while affecting the whole world is also disproportionately affecting the South Asia region. 

In this regard, the Maldives applauds the timely initiative by Prime Minister, His Excellency Narendra Modi to convene the Video Conference of SAARC Leaders in March. The Maldives also welcomes the subsequent establishment of the SAARC COVID 19 Emergency Relief Fund to address immediate needs related to combating the virus in this region and follow-up activities.

As His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of Maldives noted in his opening remarks at the Leaders Meeting “in times of crises, we do come together”.

Excellencies,

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees, claiming close to 1 million lives globally and affecting over 32 million people, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in almost a century. In South Asia, which caters to almost one fourth of the global population, the numbers are staggering. I take this opportunity to offer, on behalf of the people of Maldives and on my own behalf, condolences to the families of those that have lost loved ones.

The Maldives, which is significantly smaller in population, has seen 9,885 cases and 34 deaths to date. Our economy is based on tourism, and the travel bans across many countries has crippled our economy beyond measure. Decades of progress and development have been leveled down to zero in a few months. Except for the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the Maldives has not seen a decline of this level in decades. No doubt, we are facing a long and arduous journey towards economic recovery.

Excellencies,

The Maldives could not have sustained itself nor commenced its recovery efforts without the cooperation and generous assistance from its international, regional and bilateral partners during this crisis. Our deepest gratitude goes to the Government of India for its overwhelming support to the Maldives on multiple fronts. The financial package of US $ 250 million pledged by India is the largest financial support announced by a bilateral partner during COVID 19. With the US $ 1.4 billion received in 2018, and the cash grants for community projects, India is by far the single largest donor to the Maldives. We also thank the Government of Bangladesh for its aid of food, protective equipment and deployment of medical personnel. We thank all member states for their assistance in repatriating our stranded nationals and in numerous other areas. 

Excellencies,

Let us take the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to seriously rethink, reorient and strengthen not only our health sectors, but the totality of our development sectors and society. Let us strengthen our preparedness to external shocks, enhance regional connectivity and trade, to make our countries more resilient.

Excellencies,

Time and again, we have stressed that access to quality education is key to unleash the full potential of the SAARC region. In this context, we are pleased to note that Maldives hosted the Third Meeting of SAARC Education Ministers meeting, preceded by the Meeting of Senior Officials of Education/Higher Education, from 9 – 10 October 2019.

Today, we are forced to revamp our educational strategies to adapt to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, to ensure the education of our children, youth and future leaders continue uninterrupted.

Excellencies,

Amidst the ongoing pandemic we must not forget the threats of the global climate crisis. This year, many of our member states have faced devastating consequences due to cyclones, heavy rains, catastrophic floods and landslides. These calamities have left in their wake, death and destruction of livelihoods and homes. Increased frequency of extreme weather events as predicted by climate scientists for decades, are now a clear and present danger to the whole world. Therefore, the need to address mitigation and adaptation to climate change through coordinated efforts cannot be emphasized enough.

Excellencies,

The heinous acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent people continue unabated. Unfortunately, the South Asia region has not been spared. Terrorism is the scourge that has been at the core, hindering development in our region and needs to be eradicated. For without peace and stability in every member state, the region cannot sustain progress and prosperity.

Excellencies,

More than ever, SAARC needs to galvanize and be proactive. As the SAARC Programming Committee prepares to meet later in the year to finalise the Calendar of Activities and budget for the coming year, the Maldives would like to see it being focused on COVID-19 recovery and beyond, with result-based action-oriented activities with limited expenditure.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and distinguished delegates,

The year 2020 has shown how unprepared the world is for crises, despite numerous warnings, be it health, natural disasters or economic crashes, among others. But the year 2020 has also shown how resilient we as humans are. Let us keep moving forward.

Thank you.

Ambassador of the United States of America, Her Excellency Alaina Teplitz, USAID Mission Director to Maldives Mr. Reed Aeschliman, and senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Assalaamu Alaikum and a very good morning.

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this ceremony, marking the official hand-over of 60 critical care ventilators to the Maldives from the US Government in support of our COVID-19 response efforts. This generous donation facilitated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) would greatly expand the current ICU capacity of the country and enhance our preparedness to address health emergencies even after the pandemic. It is also a perfect symbol of the growing friendship and cooperation between the Maldives and the US on multiple fronts.

Since this administration took office in November 2018, we have observed the traditionally close, bilateral relationship between the Maldives and the US flourish and take on to newer heights. The US is one of the first countries I visited since assuming office, and it is with reason. This is because we not only believe that the US is a significant partner for our reform efforts, promoting good governance or rule of law, but a close friend, that we rely on at all times; even in dire and challenging circumstances such as now.

The US has proven this to be true even at the start of this pandemic, by contributing generously to our COVID-19 response, while the US itself was grappling with the challenges posed by the pandemic. It has so far contributed over 4 million US dollars to our response and recovery efforts, which includes a grant aid of 2 million US dollars, multiple donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), PCR machine and related equipment, as well as donations through several multilateral agencies such as IAEA and UNICEF. The 60 ventilators that we received today is the most recent donation of critical supplies from the US towards our current efforts to combat the virus.

It is therefore with sincere gratitude and appreciation that I thank Secretary Pompeo and the US government for the continuous unwavering support extended to us as we continue our fight against this common enemy. Such generosity and friendship have indeed increased the capacity of our front-line workers to combat the spread of the virus as well as address long-term goals such as reviving our economy.

Let me also take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to the US for the continuous commitment to support the Maldives in its efforts to consolidate democracy and further socio-economic development, as well as addressing global challenges that impact both our countries and the broader Indo-Pacific.

Finally, I would like to thank you, Ambassador, and your team at the Embassy and at USAID, for your dedication and hard work in assisting the Maldivian people during these unprecedented times; your efforts are indeed extraordinary.

Thank you.

Madam High Commissioner, Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Chair of the NAM Geneva Chapter, for organizing this panel discussion.

Over the last few decades, the Maldives has seen rapid and sustained development. This enabled the Maldives to join the ranks of upper middle-income countries. While our development success is noteworthy, we also faced numerous challenges.

Excellencies, today we are facing a challenge that is rare in its impact, and its reach.

When the pandemic reached our shores, we mobilized a national response by declaring a State of Health Emergency.

A difficult decision was to close our borders for over three months, which brought our tourism industry to a halt. Tourism accounts for two-thirds of our GDP. So, this move affected thousands of people, and their livelihoods. But, the Government of His Excellency President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is committed to the promotion and protection of all rights including the right to development.

I believe this panel discussion ‘we are all in this together’, is both timely and relevant.

This is the time to rethink our development models. To ensure that meeting the needs of the most vulnerable is the common yardstick used to measure our success in building back better.

As we plan for the post-pandemic recovery in the ‘new normal’ it is vital to work together to embark on a global effort to develop new and innovative ways to meet the challenges of debt relief, promote investment and unleash the creative potential of our economies.

Excellencies,

We have come a long way since Judge Kéba Mbaye argued that development should be viewed as a right. And he was right to argue for it. We have made many strides, since the adoption of the Declaration of the Right to Development in 1986. We cannot let any pandemic or virus push us back another decade.

Like the Japanese practice ‘Kintsugi’, which is a ‘golden joinery’ that rebuilds something more beautiful than what was lost, let us also come out of this pandemic much stronger. Let this pandemic be a reminder of human vulnerability. Let this also be the moment that we come together to rebuild our common future, confident in the knowledge that the human spirit will always triumph adversity. Ladies and gentlemen, together we can overcome, and build a better and a more resilient world for all.

I thank you.