The Right Honourable Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs,

 

The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth,

 

Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Friends,

 

It feels great to be back in the Commonwealth family. A family where the voices of small states are always heard, are always delivered with pride. This is where we belong.

 

The effect of COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on all of us, and more so on the smaller and vulnerable members. The Maldives, like many of the small states, relies heavily on tourism.  However, our lives, the economy, have come to a standstill, almost overnight. With no tourists, revenue declined, and debt increased. The economy is set to contract for the first time in a decade.

 

The pandemic has also exposed the middle-income trap faced by many small states. Without access to concessional finance, we will continue to struggle combatting the double threat of COVID-19 and Climate Change.

 

In this context, the Maldives supports the efforts by the Commonwealth in assisting Member States in overcoming the negative impacts of the pandemic. We further welcome initiatives taken by the Commonwealth to ensure that Member States benefit from assistance regarding economic challenges, including the Disaster Risk Finance Portal, and calling for sovereign debt relief and access to international finance markets.

In particular, we believe that the time to re-visit the issue of the Commonwealth Vulnerability Index as raised in the recent Forum of Small States, led by Singapore, has come.

 

Along with COVID-19, we are faced with the ever-growing threat of climate change. As an island nation, we are constantly mindful of the fact that we are at the mercy of nature, but more so, at the mercy of humankind.

The Maldives is delighted to subscribe to the Commonwealth Blue Charter. We believe in the Commonwealth’s ambition for a fair, inclusive and sustainable approach to ocean protection and economic development. We have pledged to phase-out single-use plastics by 2023 and look forward to working with the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance to combat marine plastic pollution.  

 

 

Our unity gives us the strength to overcome unforeseen challenges.  In this regard, the Maldives expresses solidarity with our Indian Ocean neighbour, Mauritius. The recent oil spill disaster which had befallen them is a stark reminder of our vulnerabilities to incidents beyond our control. We commend their response and stand strongly with them in ensuring the conservation and protection of our ocean.

 

Excellencies,

 

We face many challenges. But this is an organisation that has met the challenges together as a family. We are unshakeable in our quest to work towards gender equality and the empowerment of women. Today, in our organisation where the Secretary-General is a woman, I am proud to share that Maldives has achieved gender parity among Heads of diplomatic missions.

 

Excellencies,

 

It was unfortunate that CHOGM had to be postponed. COVID-19 has proven to be quite the obstacle for the international community. The Maldives looks forward to next year’s CHOGM in Rwanda where we hope to further discuss the issues at hand.

 

Upon re-joining the Commonwealth, President Solih said that the Commonwealth is a great avenue for “capacity building and the exchange of experiences”. May our shared experiences, unity and solidarity propel us towards a brighter and more prosperous future.

 

Thank you.