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'Climate change threatens to undercut all progress': Minister Shahid at Raisina Dialogue 2020

Ahmed Aiham
15 January 2020, MVT 22:03
Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid during his keynote address at the Raisina Dialogue 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Ahmed Aiham
15 January 2020, MVT 22:03

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid on Wednesday, addressed the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, India, with his keynote speech on climate change and maritime nations.

"Looking out from where we stand in the Maldives, the waves of the Indian Ocean looks massive. The vastness of the ocean spreads as far as the eye can see"

"The reality is that these waves, these waters of the Indian ocean, have always had the potential, always had the ferocity to engulf us", a reality seen "all too clearly" during the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, noted the Minister.

"Yet for over 2500 years, my people have lived with this reality, primarily by respecting the ocean and the marine ecosystem for what is and the power it represents".

Shahid stated that Maldivians adapted and learned to live in harmony by harnessing the ocean in a sustainable manner to their benefit, adding that people protected their resources without misusing it to their own detriment.

"We are the children of the ocean, our entire livelihood is reaped from the abundant resources of the vast ocean that surrounds our tiny isles". The Minister noted the relationship of "mutual dependency" as an important lesson for the world.

"Today we are witnessing a high level of conflict and chaos, rising hatred and fear, persistent inequality - One in every nine person is hungry and undernourished. Over two billion people live in conflict zones, the resulting instability leading to hunger, poverty, displacement, the destruction of homes, economies, livelihoods and the natural environment."

Furthermore, Shahid said that 4.7 to 12.8 million metric tonnes of plastic are floating around in the ocean, effectively choking marine life, impacting food systems and the health of human lives.

"Climate Change threatens to undercut all progress, presenting a clear and highly possible danger, especially for the maritime countries of the world"

To face these challenges, Minister Shahid stated that individuals must adapt to the situation by adjusting human consumption and production, learn to live in harmony through respect and tolerance, embracing the many differences and striving to manage resources in a sustainable fashion.

"Our mission here at the Raisina Dialogue is simple - to focus on the most pressing challenges of our time, to discuss solutions, exchange ideas, figure out linkages we might have missed, identify how we can work together, ensure that those solutions work and make sure they are sustainable".

"Like I said - simple".

Highlighting the significance of the multilateral gathering in New Delhi, Shahid said that India is one of the fastest-growing large economies of the world, projecting India's rise as the most populous country in the world.

"Quite simply, what happens in India is going to affect every country across the world".

"Standing here in India, we are surrounded by the vast vistas of the Indian Ocean. This ocean that is fast becoming, or one would argue has already become, the new arena of global geopolitics"

For the Maldives, the ocean has been an undeniable part of our domestic and foreign policy. We recognize the important position we occupy in the Indian Ocean. The major sea lines of communication go through the Maldives.

Over 90,000 vessels pass through the Indian ocean every year, equalling almost 10 billion tons of cargo, including 36 million barrels of oil per day, which constitutes more than 65 percent of the global oil trade.

"This undoubtedly makes the Maldives an important link in global trade, in addressing global challenges such as the trafficking of narcotics and people in organized crime, where continuous stability in the Indian Ocean is fundamental for the security of the Maldives. And indeed, a stronger, prosperous, democratic and a politically stable Maldives is necessary for the security of the Indian ocean", said Shahid.

The Minister also underscored the need to foster "national resilience" through development at a household, island, atoll and national level and by focusing on sustainability, principles of democracy, good governance, the employment of people and respect for human rights in seeking economic development and political stability.

"The best plans to deliver economic development or political stability in the Maldives will never become reality without building our resilience towards the imminent threats of climate change".

In Maldives, climate change is causing large-scale beach erosion, coral bleaching and the disruption of weather patterns. Moreover, an increase in global sea surface temperatures, as well as ocean acidification, gravely impacts the marine ecosystem.

"For a country that depends on fisheries and tourism for its foreign currency receipts, which are then used to import almost everything from food to soap, this poses a difficult problem."

Shahid stressed the importance of decisive action in combating climate change, adding the need to meet the ambition for a "1.5-degree world"

"A problem well stated is a problem half solved, such is the case with climate change", said the Minister.

"Often we hear climate change defined as an environmental challenge, others describe it as an economic challenge, but more importantly for the Maldives and for the world over, climate change can best be described as a security and a human rights challenge".

"We are already seeing how scarcity of resoruces and intensity of weather events exacerbated by climate change can cause devastation, social disharmony and in many cases, chaos, instability and conflict".

Shahid described the belief that certain countries will remain unaffected by climate change as a "red herring".

"Climate change will and is already affective all nations of the world and the sooner we join together to address this overwhelming challenge in a meaningful way, the sooner we can mitigate and the sooner we can adapt to the rapidly occurring dangers".

"Such challenges require a convergence of opinion and close alignment of policy perspectives"

He argued that this close alignment of policies provide invaluable opportunities for countries within the Indian Ocean region, and the world, to cooperate and deliver impactful changes in fostering national resilience and enhancing the ability of every state, be it small or large, "to contribute meaningfully to bring lasting peace and strategic stability to our region and beyond".

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has met various foreign dignitaries during the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue.

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