Maldives Ambassador Discusses Climate Change Challenges for Small Island Developing States in the GFDD Global Roundtables

March 4, 2014

For the low lying island nation of the Maldives, climate change represents a growing threat to its population, as rising sea levels destroy the local biodiversity, reduce freshwater reserves and encroach on land. In this second 2014 edition of the “GFDD Global Roundtables,” His Excellency Ahmed Sareer, Ambassador of Maldives to the United Nations explains to us how vulnerable the Maldives are to the effects of climate change, and
why Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are actively campaigning for the importance of oceans to be integrated in United Nations (UN) policy discussions on sustainable development.

Natasha Despotovic, GFDD Executive Director, warmly welcomed the honored guest to participate
in this Global Roundtable discussion which was primarily focused on one of the most current topics at the United Nations – the importance of oceans within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, one of the main outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio, Brazil in June 2012 (Rio+20).

Pointing to the particular geography of his country,
Ambassador Sareer highlighted that the Maldives suffers from a lack of land, representing only 1% of its total territory and therefore making it an “ocean country.” He explained that this particular situation had recently become a problem for the governance of the country, as “the [Maldivian] people are seeing the effects of climate change on a daily basis” through beach erosion, ocean acidification and increasing
issues with access to water. With flooding now occurring “almost every second week,” Ambassador Sareer stated that the Republic of Maldives was the first country to raise the problems it was experiencing as a result of climate change on the international stage.

Ambassador Sareer stressed that the Maldives require the help of the international community in order to implement effective adaptation policies. He noted
that, due to climate change induced sea level rise, freshwater reserves have become increasingly polluted and water is therefore no longer drinkable. Ambassador Sareer warned that given the inability of the country’s largest desalination plant to contend with the rising demand for freshwater across the nation’s 1190 islands, it was now resorting to a very costly process of transporting water by boat to those islands most in need during the dry season.

Turning the discussion to the recent campaign by SIDS for Oceans to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals Process as a standalone goal,  Ambassador Sareer gave some information on recent policy achievement in this field, including the outcome of the Rio+20 conference which first acknowledged “the
importance of the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and of their resources for sustainable development.”
 He also turned to the recent meeting of the Third UN Conference on SIDS, which met in Barbados in August 2013, to further emphasize that “oceans are a thematic priority.

On national sustainable
development challenges, the Ambassador explained how the country had reconciled an economic agenda that is predominantly dependent on the exploitation of fishing and tourism with an environment agenda that seeks to turn the country into the world’s biggest marine reserve by 2017. Ambassador Sareer explained that as an
“ocean based economy” the Maldives had entirely banned shark fishing and finning, having been using the “sustainable “poll and line” fishing method for time immemorial.” As for the tourism industry, he explained that
sustainable tourism regulations and policies were introduced in 1972 to help control the location and the type of structures that could be built by hotel groups without damaging the local environment.

About Ahmed Sareer
An accomplished diplomat, Ambassador Sareer was appointed to the Maldives Mission as Ambassador/chargé d’affaires in February 2012. A career foreign service officer, Ambassador Sareer joined the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in February in 1986 and served as a desk officer until February 1988. From there his career has taken him to many countries. In Colombo, Sri Lanka he served as third secretary and later counselor and deputy high commissioner at the Maldives embassy. In Kathmandu, Nepal he was appointed director of the Secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). In Brussels, he occupied the post of chargé d’affaires at the Maldives
Mission to the European Union and in London as deputy high commissioner at the Maldives. Finally, from December 2009 until his recent appointment, Ambassador Sareer served as the high commissioner of Maldives to Bangladesh.

About the GFDD Global Roundtables
The regular series, GFDD Global Roundtables is also a part of GFDD’s program
to support the work of the United Nations and, as a non-governmental institution affiliated to it, contribute to the visibility and understanding of its work.

H.E. Mr. Sareer – Transcript >

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