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Remarks by UNFPA Country Director for Maldives Mr. Alain Sibenaler

10th December 2016, Dharubaaruge, 20:15 – 22:00 hrs

Honourable Chief Justice, Usthaaz Abdulla Saeed, Minister of Economic Development, Mr Mohamed Saeed, Attorney General, Usthaz Mohamed Anil, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen. Asalaam Alaikum and a very Good Evening to all of you!

It’s an honour to be present at this function to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the Human Rights Day. Let us remind ourselves the fundamental principle: “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This principle is the pillar of the United Nation’s work in the Maldives and throughout the world.

The Maldives have fared relatively well in terms of its participation and engagement in international human rights fora. The Maldives is currently serving its second term as a member of the Human Rights Council, has ratified 7 of the 9 core UN Human Rights Treaties and five optional protocols, and is the one of the three countries in the region to extend a standing invitation to special procedures mechanism.

Within the Human Rights Council, the Maldives continue to play a crucial role in representing the voices of Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and have led and contributed to initiatives on supporting SIDs participation in the Council, establishing new special procedures mandates and introducing a third optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on a communications procedure.

The country was also reviewed at the UPR Working Group for a second time in May 2015, where the country accepted 198 of the 258 recommendations made by States. The Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed the Maldives in January 2016, and the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women reviewed the Maldives in February 2015.

All of this is impressive for a small country like the Maldives. However, what is also clear is that like many other countries, translating the commitment to human rights expressed in international fora, to action on the ground, where it matters the most, has remained a challenge for the country. I am very happy that the Maldives, through the National Human Rights Action Plan will be taking steps to address this challenge and to make the rights spelled out in its international obligations a reality for all living in the country.

I am delighted to be part of the unveiling of the National Human Rights Framework, which is the cornerstone for the National Human Rights Action Plan. The development of the Human Rights Action Plan reflects a strengthened commitment to work towards promoting and protecting human rights.

The development of the Human Rights Action Plan is both an outcome and a process. Therefore, the manner in which the Plan is developed is equally important as the Plan itself.

Even though the Attorney General’s Office is spearheading the effort to develop the Plan; ownership across the spectrum, of both the process of developing the Plan as well as the Plan itself, is important for its successful implementation and monitoring.

I applaud the government for convening a National Steering Committee, composed of key line ministries, the Human Rights Commission, as well as Civil Society Organizations to guide the process of developing this Plan. Moreover, opening the Framework and the Plan for public consultations is a key step towards making the process transparent and inclusive.

Maldives recently conducted the Census in 2014. We do not have a homogeneous population.  A large majority of the people are under 25 years of age. Almost half the population is women. A large cohort of the population is foreign. Some people are unemployed, others cannot access services due to social or geographic barriers.

That is why, as we embark on our journey of implementing Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development which stresses on leaving no one behind, addressing the structural barriers of discrimination, including challenging discriminatory laws, social norms and stigma that perpetuate inequality and disparities, will remain at the center of the UN’s work.

I am happy to see these core issues mainstreamed in the Action Plan as achievable public policy goals. This requires translating realization of human rights into practical goals and devising programmes that will ensure the fulfilment of these goals. Business as usual may not work for the excluded groups. We need to inculcate human rights-based approach to policy formulation, which will advance the process of development by reducing inequalities and ensuring social cohesion.

The successful implementation and monitoring of this Plan will not be possible without the help of a broad range of stakeholders. Line ministries, independent institutions, other state bodies, civil society actors and the private sector need to mainstream the intentions and objectives of the plan into their respective sectoral plans. Furthermore, allocation of financial resources to the Plan is also extremely important. I hope that stakeholders engaged in finalizing the Action Plan will intensify their efforts to ensure these two crucial elements of a successful National Human Rights Action Plan.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation for all organizations and individuals who have contributed to this process so far. I hope tonight’s launching of the National Human Rights Framework renews our commitment towards implementation of the Action Plan. The success of achieving the outcomes will depend on allocation of resources and inclusive partnerships.

The theme of the Human Rights Day is “Stand up for Someone’s Rights Today”.

As I conclude, I would like to reiterate the message from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, as part of this year’s Human Rights Day campaign ‘Stand up for Someone's Rights’: “It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights. There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference. Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity.” We must stand up together for those people facing discrimination, stigmatization, and marginalization and ensure that no one is left behind.

Thank you Usthaz Anil for inviting me to this auspicious function.

Let’s make human rights our inherent principle not just today, but every day. Thank you and Wassalam Alaikum!