Opening Remarks by Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UN Resident Coordinator for the Maldives Partnership Forum, June 03 2007


Your Excellency, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom;

Honourable Ministers;

Partners in Government,

High Commissioners and Ambassadors;

other Development Partners and Colleagues in the UN system,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As the UN Resident Coordinator and on behalf of the UNCT in the Maldives, I am pleased to be a part of this meeting and to support the Government in the organization of the Second Maldives Partnership Forum.  This year’s focus on the two main areas of climate change and investment is indeed timely, as it draws attention to the real threats that climate change can pose to the low lying lands of the country.  It also provides the opportunity to collectively assess these challenges as well as what is needed to overcome them. This coupled with the focus on investment opportunities reinforces the holistic approach to sustainable development and that the drive to achieve national growth depends on human economic advancement while simultaneously addressing social, political and environmental concerns.

As we approach the halfway mark to the 2015 target for the Millennium Development Goals, this forum provides an important avenue for strengthening the relationships between the Government and its development partners.  It serves as another powerful motivation for us to redouble our efforts to foster sustainable development, and to achieve the goals.  While we acknowledge that the country has achieved most of the MDGs, much more must be done to advance progress in the areas of environmental sustainability and gender equality in which the country currently lags.

The importance of the timely implementation of appropriate climate change policies and concrete adaptation measures was once again highlighted a few weeks ago, with the unusual sea swells and high tides that were experienced in the Indian Ocean.  This seriously affected some islands in the southern Atolls and appropriate actions, including from the UN system, are currently being made in response to the international appeal of His Excellency the President.  We commend the Government for the advances made, since the tsunami, to initiate and institute a number of measures aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the country to the effects of Climate Change.

The focus on disaster risk management continues to receive priority attention and it is central to the draft 7th National development plan.  It is also essential to achieve the full integration of climate change adaptation into national development strategies and plans as a key step to ensure that the country is able to effectively meet the challenges of climate change.  The broader UN System, donors and other international partners in development also have a key role to play, as much more must be done to effectively support the country to better meet the challenges of climate change, and to bolster support to those most vulnerable to its damaging immediate effects.

The U.N. Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon, in a statement made in March 2007, argued that global warming is “an inescapable reality” and poses as great a threat to the world as modern warfare. The challenges linked to climate change can no longer be seen primarily as an environmental issue as they are undoubtedly a threat to human development as a whole. The UNDP Administrator and head of the UN Development Group, Mr. Kemal Dervis, speaking in support for the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), highlighted the need for a wider distribution of “sustainable forms” of economic growth to serve as a powerful ally in adaptation efforts.

It is clear that as societies advance and become more prosperous, they become better able to cope with climate change.   Fostering increased investment opportunities is one way to further develop the Maldivian economy and discussions held earlier today focused on the spectrum of investment opportunities.

In our opinion, there are a number of factors that need to be in place in order to efficiently promote investments. Firstly, there is a need to maintain the robustness of the macroeconomic framework in order to generate investor confidence. We are hopeful that continued emphasis on maintaining the integrity and sustainability of the ratio of the national budget to national GDP and strengthening of the implementation capacity will lead to more positive results in the future.Secondly, the international community is well aware of the logistical challenges of working in the Maldives, given the nature of dispersed islands.

In this context, appropriate steps to achieve the stated objective relating to population consolidation policy assume prominence. Thirdly, an enabling environment that supports a healthy investment climate is of utmost importance.   This enabling environment is typically founded on the rule of law and is accompanied by internationally acceptable standards and a regulatory framework that protects the rights of investors as well as safeguards commercial and private interests. In this regard, we support the Government’s initiation of the Integrated Framework, now in its stages of finalization.

The drive to create an enabling environment that is based on the principles of good corporate governance can only be further reinforced by structures that are democratic, rights-based and accountable.   Increased focus on achieving greater economic diversification, beyond the current focus on tourism and fisheries, is also crucial while adequately planning to meet the challenges and opportunities that will accompany the formal graduation of the country to middle income status in 2011.

The Maldivian authorities have the means to address the myriad of challenges; what is also needed is continued commitment and political will as well an adequate policy response to these challenges, particularly focusing on continued reforms and strengthening of the governance system, such as access to justice, putting in place the required legislations, and a Constitution of international standards. The UN system remains committed to support the achievement of the national goals outlined in the draft 7th National Development Plan and in meeting the MDGs.

Just recently, the Government and the UN System signed the UN Development Assistance Framework which outlines the areas of assistance for the period 2008-2010.  This reiterates the UN’s dedication to support the development process and the framework also serves to foster greater cooperation with UN member states and development partners in support of national priorities. In closing, we look forward to fruitful interaction in today’s forum and hope that the dialogue and partnership will continue and flourish into sustainable development results for the people of the Maldives.


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