Statement by His Excellency Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Climate and Security

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Secretary-General, Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues.

I thank you, honourable Prime Minister, for convening this very important Open Debate on Climate and Security, in your capacity as the President of the Security Council for the month of February 2021.

Let me also take this opportunity to warmly congratulate the newly elected Members of the Security Council who assumed their seats at the start of the year.

I also wholeheartedly agree and align with the statement delivered by Prime Minister Browne from Antigua and Barbuda, as Chair of AOSIS.

Mr. President,

It has been almost 14 years since the Security Council held its first-ever debate on Energy, Security and Climate, which was also organized by the United Kingdom. On that day, I told the Council that climate change is not only an everyday fact of life for the Maldives, but is an existential threat. Two years ago, I reminded the Council of the devastating consequences of climate change to the lives and livelihoods of millions of communities across the globe. For countries like the Maldives, we cannot afford to wait while we disagree on which forum of the United Nations must address Climate Change. A sea-level rise of two meters would suffice to effectively submerge entire nations underwater, including my country. Today, I am concerned to still hear opposition regarding the role of the Security Council in addressing the security threats related to climate change.

There is no doubt that climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier. It is taking away our homes and territory. It is eroding our beaches and killing the corals that naturally protect our islands. It is taking away our livelihoods and our way of life. Our culture and heritage. Climate adaptation is absolutely necessary to avoid potential risks to peace and security in SIDS. This is particularly relevant now, as climate impacts are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and our fiscal resources have been drained in our response. We are in a never-ending battle against the raging elements, fighting for survival.

The same could be said about the situation in the Sahel region. Countries that are vulnerable to drought, that are undergoing crop failure, made worse by conflicts forms a complex web of factors that contribute to the likelihood of conflict and instability. These climate-induced risks to peace and security are also already manifesting in situations of conflict, increasing tensions and disrupting ongoing peacebuilding efforts.   In every such crisis, vulnerable groups face the brunt of the hardships. In the case of climate change also it is the same. It is indigenous women that are most impacted, with women and girls generally bearing a disproportionate burden. But women are also the change bearers in our societies, so an effective approach should be gender-responsive and inclusive.

Mr. President,

While we acknowledge that the UNFCCC is the primary intergovernmental body dealing with climate change, we cannot turn a blind eye to the situation on the ground, which fall outside the scope of this instrument. The role of the Security Council and other UN bodies should complement the work of UNFCCC. Accordingly, this Council must make decisions and pass resolutions, being fully aware of the impacts of climate change on international security.   In this context, we welcome the progress that has been made at the Council on climate security risks assessments, including the establishment of the Informal Expert Group on Climate-related Risks to Peace and Security last year. During their inaugural meeting, which focused on recent developments in Somalia, there were useful recommendations made by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia to guide the way forward.

Mr. President,

Maldivians may be powerless in unilaterally preventing the adverse effects of climate change but that does not mean we will simply accept our fate. In December, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced our intention to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 at the Climate Ambition Summit. We mean to lead by example. I am under no illusion that our ambitious targets and transformational actions will save us. Without your support, we cannot keep our heads above the water.   Everyone recognizes that associating climate-related risks to international peace and security is a complex and broad challenge. But for the Security Council to live up to its primary responsibility for international peace and security, it must solve difficult and complex issues.

In conclusion, Mr. President, let us do this for our children. I have a daughter and two sons. I want to leave them, and their children, a world that is habitable and a place that they can call home. It is my duty and responsibility to do so. We need to bring more young people on board and work with them. How can we continue to steal their futures through our inaction? Let us all join together to take decisive and meaningful action, before it is too late. If not for us, let us do it for our children.

I thank you.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fathulla Jameel Building, Malé, 20077, Republic of Maldives, | Tel Number: 00960 332-3400  |  Emergency Contact: 00960 798-3400