Hon. Ministers, members of the UNCT, UN staff, ladies and gentlemen.
Warm greetings to the staff and families of the UN in Maldives.
Thank you for the services you render to the people of the country and the cooperation and support you give to the government and the independent institutions and the non governmental organizations promoting peace and development.
As we celebrate the 66th Anniversary of the UN and as we prepare to face a world with 7 billion people, it is a good time to reflect on the purpose of the UN.
From the outset the role of the UN has been to promote global peace and security, and peace and development in its member countries.
The purposes and principles of the United Nations are set out clearly in the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their relevance and capacity to inspire has not diminished. The role of the United Nations is as important today as it was when it was first founded.
Where there is poverty and deprivation, the UN continues to assist local authorities to improve the economic conditions of the people.
Where there are outbreaks of disease, UN's specialized agencies support governments to save lives.
Where natural disasters deprive people of their homes and livelihoods, the UN continues to provide necessary relief and care.
When national forces engage in war and destruction, the UN continues to provide a safe haven and protects innocent civilians.
UN missions in over 170 countries continue to do this work day in and day out. I am witness to this having worked in over 16 countries.
In very poor countries, I have witnessed UN staff travel to remote areas rarely visited by government officials to distribute food and medicine.
In conflict stricken areas such as Afghanistan and Yemen, I have seen my friends risk their lives to distribute books and medical supplies.
In more developed countries I have witnessed UN staff argue with government officials over the rights of victims of child labour, sexual exploitation and marginalized people.
I have worked with warlords who fear the UN because the UN stands for human rights and justice for all.
I have also heard government officials in some countries talk about the UN as if it was some sort of developmental mercenary competing for common resources.
UN is often misunderstood.
Despite the humanitarian work done by the organization, its staff are often harassed and sometimes killed in the very countries where they are most needed by the people. Sometimes, UN is prevented from reaching out to the people.
And sometimes, governments act like as if the people of their territories belong to them. Most such governments don't even have a clear mandate from the people, and yet they act like as if they own the people.
The United Nations today has a mandate to protect people from their own governments if governments become the enemy of the people. We are witnessing such examples in some Middle Eastern countries. The world will not stand by and watch another Rwanda or Bosnia repeat. Libya is finally saved, thanks for the timely actions of the Security Council.
While we talk about what the UN is, it might also be useful to talk about what it is not.
UN is not some autonomous entity that can go where ever and when ever it wants. It's there in every country including our own at the request of the government and when approved by the UN Governing bodies such as the General Assembly and the Security Council.
UN is also not there to do everything that everybody wants. It has a clear mandate, policies and programs. Its policies and programs are approved periodically on the request of the member states involved.
Individual country programs are approved with the government through bilateral discussions. For example the UNDAF in Maldives was discussed and approved by the government. So when a government department makes a request that is not part of the UNDAF, the UN is not empowered or resourced to carry out such a request.
I know these things happen because I have seen them.
On peace and security, the humanitarian law has to be upheld in every country. The UN has a mandate to support countries to build the necessary institutions to promote human rights and to monitor human rights abuses. Member counties have asked the UN to do so and yet, often, the UN is sanctioned and abused when it tries to do it's job. Unfortunately, we see that happen in too many countries.
On development, the UN is mandated to assist member countries to achieve the MDGs. Maldives has met some of the MDGs but there are some that have not been met. Equally important to note that there are some areas in which achievements may be eroding. In addition, there are MDG plus goals that are equally relevant for the MICs and more developed countries.
I am hearing that female circumcision is spreading in Maldives, that some girls are being kept away from schools and that some parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. These things are not acceptable. They are against the law.
There is a body of knowledge, an international and national legal system and a massive reserve of experience from other countries to help address these issues. No one is better equipped to help Maldives in these areas than the UN.
But....There are some who are starting to question the role of the UN even in our country. During the time when I worked in the UN headquarters and in two regional offices in South Asia and Europe I have heard questions about the presence of the United Nations at country level, especially in the MICS and more developed countries. Due to budget constraints and program needs, decisions were made to expand or contract offices. It was always a difficult debate but the role of the UN was never in question.
Almost always there was a realization that the role of the UN was relevant for big and small, developed and developing countries. Poverty is not unique to poor countries and problems of social exclusion and abuse are prevalent in all countries.
Today in Maldives we face a whole host of new problems in addition to the more conventional ones relating to poverty reduction, education and health.
We are facing new problems such as transnational crime, drug abuse, human trafficking, piracy, illegal immigration, minority rights, women and child abuse, and of cause, climate change. These problems cannot be solved in isolation and without the informed advice of experts who have dealt with them elsewhere in the world. Some of them are intonational issues which require international solutions that the UN is only capable of handling. As the Secretary General said global problems require global solutions.
Today, one of the pressing needs of the country is to redefine development through a sustainable development lens. We have declared a carbon neutral policy and the UN agencies including UNDP and UNEP are ready and have been ready along with the World Bank to assist us develop the investment plans needed. Next year we will attend the Rio+20 meeting. What is more important than having a well articulated sustainable development plan for the country which includes a sustainable energy plan. I know that the UN will support us if requested.
In conclusion, I thank the United Nations for all the support it has given to Maldives over the years. We will continue to play our part in the UN to promote it's ideals, to advance democracy and human rights not only in our country but everywhere in the world.
UN played a massively important role in the political changes in 2008. I know it will continue to play an equally important role in the future elections and in helping to consolidate democracy in the country.
Thank you all and your families for contributing to make the world a more peaceful and a better place.