Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Aishath Mohamed Didi, Resident Coordinator of the U.N. to the Maldives Ms Catherin Haswell, Director of the Social Development Division of UN ESCAP Dr.Srinivas Tata, Excellences, U.N. country team members, officials from the ministries, and my dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen;
A very good morning to you all.
It is an honour to be speaking here today, as social protection is an issue that many Maldivians hold dear. The Maldives has always been an ardent supporter of the Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection. We were also co-chair of the group of experts that drafted the action plan, adopted by ESCAP member states in 2020.
The administration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih oversaw major progress in the strengthening of our social protection system, with the launch of the new registry portal, by the National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) for people with disabilities. This new registry followed by the classification of disabilities to World Health Organization (WHO) standards. We also introduced universal cash transfers and allowances for therapeutic and assistive devices for people with disabilities.
Our administration has made major strides in our continued efforts to ensure universal social protection coverage for all individuals. Allowances for single mothers, subsidy utilities for vulnerable people and people below the poverty line and pension schemes have changed the lives of thousands across the nation for the better.
If we really want to work to get the world we all want, it is very important to work collectively. You know the Maldives is scattered with many small islands: more than a 180 islands. There is nothing better we can do, than looking at all these vulnerable communities. I think social protection in a government, in a state, in a country; there is also no other better thing than the social protection. Our main policy, the principles, are that we leave no one behind. I think with the studies that I have mentioned earlier will help us a lot in reaching to the right people. In these small islands, we must believe today that there has been some things that we have missed in the past. But as I have mentioned with this administration, especially the undertaking of the president is helping us reach these people.
On top of all these troubles that we have, I think with the Covid-19 and with the changing world there has been a great impact on everyone. And whenever we have an impact on communities, we must believe that it is again hitting the vulnerable. With the decentralisation of this government, we are not focusing just only about governance, but providing services is very, very important. Especially to these communities. I think if we really want to go for global goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the number one it says is the poverty, hunger over health wellbeing, or education, or gender equality. I think as I have mentioned today, it is really time that we work together. We can’t just leave things only with the government. It is I think all the NGOs, all those community groups within the country.
And we have to believe that strengthening the social protection system in the Maldives, as I have mentioned is no easy feat, and there is still a long way to go. In the near future, the government aims to redefine social protection via the new National Social Protection framework and categorise into social insurance schemes and social assistance programmes. I believe that regional cooperation on social protection will help us achieve this and aid us all in improving our social protection system.
Regional cooperation enables us to share knowledge, good practices and have productive discussions on social protection. It is vital for countries in the Asia and the Pacific to have strong working relationships with one another, given our many similarities. I wholeheartedly believe that there is plenty we can learn from one another, and I hope that this event and others like it can enable us to do that.
I would like to thank the Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services Aishath Mohamed Didi, Director of the Social Development Division of UNESCAP Dr Srinivas Tata, and all the participants. I also would like to thank the country team of the U.N. For the last four and half years, I have been given some chances and opportunities to work with; and I see how enthusiastic you were. As Ms Catherin Haswell has mentioned, that the early days of her arrival we have had many discussions. I think these kind of events are very important, as I have mentioned. We need to discuss, we need to learn from others.
I believe that the minister with the U.N. team and relevant partners have visited Georgia and I think seen. And I was fortunate enough to meet the prime minister of Georgia while I was in Sharm El-Sheikh and was mentioning about this, and I said they are ready to give whatever they have. Because we live in a world, we have to live together. That is very important. We need to share information and we need to share our knowledge. And that’s what I see from all the U.N. agencies and out partners and NGOs today how much they want to give us what they have. So thank you. Thank you very much for your willingness to uplift the situation of our, especially the vulnerable communities in the islands. I wish you a very nice day here and a fruitful discussion ahead.
Thank you very much!