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Maldives News Bulletin, 08-06-2008
Issue No: No.1155

Maldives Chairs Key International Meeting on Human Rights and Climate Change in Geneva

02 June: The Maldives today hosted and chaired a Second Meeting of the Friends of Human Rights and its Implications for the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights in Geneva. The meeting was convened as a follow-up to the adoption, during March’s UN Human Rights Council, of a UN Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change - a resolution initiated by the Maldives and co-sponsored by 79 other UN Member States. Today’s meeting allowed for an exchange of views on the relationship between climate change and the enjoyment of human rights between States, NGOs and academia. The event was attended by over 100 participants. In addition to around 50 State representatives, and around 20 NGOs, all major UN bodies involved with questions of climate change, environmental protection and development were present. The meeting began with a welcome address by H.E. Mr. Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Maldives Permanent Representative in Geneva, who thanked all those present for their role in helping to achieve the adoption of the UN Resolution in March. He noted that this was a key moment for climate change advocacy – the first time that an international resolution has acknowledged that climate change has immediate implications for the full enjoyment of human rights. The gathering then heard presentations from representatives from the International Council of Human Rights Policy, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva, Oxford University, and the Center for International Environmental Law. In the ensuing debate and dialogue, around twenty States and NGOs took the floor. All participants recognized that a rights-based approach to climate change, as pioneered by the Maldives, is likely to grow in importance over the next two years and form a key tool in worldwide efforts to combat global warming. At the end of the meeting, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provided participants with an overview of the process it is following in order to draft a major Study into human rights and climate change – as requested under the March 2008 Resolution. This Study will then form the basis of a Human Rights Council debate on the subject in March 2009. The results of the Study and the debate will be fed into the UNFCCC’s Bali Process of climate change negotiations.


The President inaugurates the “Green School Award” and “Environmental Champions Award”

02 June: The President inaugurated the “Green School Award” and the “Environmental Champions Award” last night. The “Green School Award” is given to the school with the most active environment club. The “Environmental Champions Award” is given to Scouts or Girl Guides who provides a constructive service in collaboration with a committee or society or the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water in a project related to environmental preservation. The President presented the “Environmental Champions Award” to 23 scouts who participated in the “Return of the Flowers” program. Speaking at the ceremony, the President said that the introduction of these two awards would greatly encourage Schools, Students, Scouts and Girl Guides to work harder to safeguard the environment. He further said that protection and preservation of the environment and raising awareness of the impending threats would pave the way for rapid progress. The President also urged the people to plant a new tree in replacement for each one which is cut down. He said that this would be a positive step towards combating climate change and said that such a program should be run on a permanent basis. The Minister of Environment, Energy and Water, Mr. Ahmed Abdulla presented the book, “The Pace of Development – Development of Maldives’ Environment” to the President. The welcome address was delivered by the Environment Minister, Mr. Ahmed Abdulla. The vote of thanks was delivered by the Deputy Minister of Environment, Mr. Abdulla Majeed. An introduction of the Green School Award was given by the Director General of the Environment Ministry, Mr. Mohamed Zahir. 


The President inaugurates the new deluxe wing of Hulhule Island Hotel

02 June: The President today inaugurated the new deluxe wing of hulhule Island Hotel. Speaking at the ceremony, the President said that following the inauguration of the Hotel in 2001, over the past seven years, the Hotel has become a key member of the travel and trade business in the Maldives. He also said that the Hotel has become well-known for its excellent services and the hospitality offered to tourists. Further, the President noted that the rapid rise in prominence of the Hotel and the inauguration of its new deluxe wing today is the result of the good management of the Hotel and the high standard of service offered by its staff. In his speech, the President noted that the Hotel is vital both to the Male’ International Airport and to the tourism industry as it increases the conveniences offered to travelers, being the only transit style hotel on the airport. The President also said that the future of tourism in the Maldives is bright and that the growth of tourism sector offers a vast number of job opportunities for Maldivians. In today’s ceremony, the President was presented with a commemorative gift. The presentation was made by the Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Airport Terminal Services, Mr. Clement Woon. The Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Airport Terminal Services, Mr. Clement Woon, Chairman of Maldives In-flight Catering, Mr. Ali Hussain Didi and the General Manager of Hulhule Island Hotel, Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar, also spoke at the ceremony. After the inauguration ceremony, the President toured the new deluxe wing of Hulhule Island Hotel.


Maldives applauds UN High Commissioner on Human Rights for her contribution to the Reform Agenda 

03 June: H.E. Mr. Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office at Geneva today made a statement to the Eighth Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He praised the outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Ms. Louise Arbour for her “tireless efforts to strengthen the enjoyment of human rights in the world”, and thanked her for her “invaluable contribution to the current democratic and human rights Reform Agenda of the Maldives”.  Responding to the High Commissioner’s last statement to the Human Rights Council, Ambassador congratulated Ms. Arbour “for her many significant achievements while in Office and noted that Ms. Arbour has been “a great friend to the Maldives”.  Ms. Louise Arbour was appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights as of 1 July 2004, and had steered the Human Rights Council from its former institution, the Human Rights Commission.


UN Expert Notes Maldives Legal Reforms

03 June: The United Nation’s senior expert on human rights and judicial independence, Dr. Leandro Despouy, today used a Statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to note that the draft Maldives Constitution reflects many of the recommendations contained in his Report on judicial independence in the Maldives, adopted following his visit to the country in February 2007.  Among the keynote recommendations made by Dr. Despouy, the United Nations Special Reporter on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, were the establishment of a Supreme Court as the apex court of the country; the establishment of an independent Judicial Services Commission tasked with the hiring, dismissal and remuneration of judges; and the creation of a post of Prosecutor-General. All these points are reflected in the new Constitution which significantly strengthens the judiciary by more clearly separating it from the executive branch of government and by improving the institutional balance of powers.  Beyond the constitutional reform program, the Government is also implementing other important recommendations from Dr. Despouy through secondary legislation and through cooperation with international bodies. For example, the Government is currently in discussions with the International Bar Association regarding the feasibility of establishing a Bar in the Maldives, while the recent designation of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives as the official National Preventative Mechanism under the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture is designed to improve conditions in prisons and other places of detention through a program of regular unannounced monitoring visits. The recent strengthening of Sentencing Guidelines to better tackle crimes against women and children also reflects, inter alia, concerns raised by the Special Reporter.  Responding to Dr. Despouy’s comments, the Maldives Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E. Mr. Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, noted that “the Government is committed to implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur after his visit to the Maldives in February 2007”.


The President urges the people of Maldives to pay special attention to environmental issues. The President presents the “Green Leaf” Award for outstanding service to the environment

05 June: The President urges the people of Maldives to pay special attention to environmental issues. Speaking at the ceremony to mark the Environment Day, the President highlighted the importance of sustainable development to the main economic industries, tourism and fisheries. In his speech, the President spoke about the theme for Environment Day, “CO2, Kick the Habit, Towards a Low Carbon Economy”. He said that the Government and Industries should attach a high priority to comply with this theme and discourage activities which are damaging to the environment. He proudly noted that it was the Maldives which had set the agenda against climate change on the map and said that most countries accept that Maldives as a leading advocate of the environment. The President said that the biggest environmental challenge that we face today is the increasing amount of garbage and noted that the Government is working hard to find a solution for this problem. He said that the other most pressing problem was that of beach erosion and highlighted the importance of planting trees as a preventive measure. The coveted “President of Maldives Green Leaf Award for Environmental Excellence” was also presented at today’s meeting. The recipients of the Award include Sonevafushi Tourist Resort, R. Ungoofaaru School, Ghiyasuddin School, Centre for Higher Secondary Education, Scout Association of Maldives, Villa Foundation, Maldives Gas Pvt.Ltd and State Trading Organization Public Ltd and Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company. The President congratulated and thanked them for their effort in protecting and preserving the environment. A special commemorative plaque was presented to the President by the people of South Maalhosmadulu Atoll in appreciation of his endeavors to save the environment. The Atoll Chief, Mr. Mohamed Mahir presented the plaque on behalf of the people. A plaque was also presented to the people of HDh. Nolhivaranfaru by the Government for the dedication they have shown to ecological and environmental preservation. The Island Chief of Nolhivaranfaru, Mr. Hussain Abdulla accepted the plaque on behalf of the island. Prizes were also presented to the winners of the activities held to mark the World Environment Day for the schools of South Maalhosmadulu Atoll. These prizes were presented by the Minister of Environment, Energy and Water, Mr. Ahmed Abdulla. A special plaque was also presented to the people of Eydhafushi in appreciation of the excellence with which they had organized the Environment Day 2008 celebrations on the island. This presentation was also made by the Minister Mr. Ahmed Abdulla. Minister Ahmed Abdulla and North Maalhosmadulu Atoll Chief, Mr. Mohamed Mahir also spoke at the ceremony. From the recipients of the “Green Leaf” Award, the Managing Director of MIFCO, Mr. Mohamed Adil Saleem also spoke at the meeting.
 

Foreign Minister accompanies the President to the Commonwealth Representative Group of Heads of Government Meeting

08 June: The Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid is scheduled to accompany His Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, President of the Maldives to the Representative Group of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, convened to reform the current architecture of international institutions. The Meeting is scheduled to be held from 9-10 June 2008. The Representative Group was established following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala last year. At the meeting, the Heads of Government expressed concern that the current architecture of most international institutions, largely convened in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War,  does not reflect the challenges presented by 21st century geopolitics and as such, member states requested the Secretary-General to establish a small representative group of their number that would build on the considerable work that has already  been done to undertake advocacy and lobbying in support of wide-ranging reforms of international institutions. This Group is scheduled to report back to the next Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. The invitation was extended on behalf of the Commonwealth by Secretary General Mr. Kamlesh Sharma in a letter addressed to President Gayyoom in April this year.  In his invitation Secretary General Sharma cited President Gayyoom as an individual “who can lead, shape and add value to the outcome of international debate” and highlighted that the Group posed an excellent opportunity for “the voice of the Maldives to be heard in the Commonwealth in its own right, and on behalf of Asia, developing countries, small states and an equitable world order”.  In his letter accepting the invitation, President Gayyoom expressed his pleasure in having received an invitation and stated that the “Maldives, as a small island developing state on the verge of graduation from LDC status, could provide an important perspective to discussions within the Commonwealth regarding the reform of international institutions”. Further, President Gayyoom highlighted that the Maldives has had a “long-standing role in pursuing advocacy in environmental protection to curb climate change” and thus, looked forward to contributing to the debate on environmental governance within the Maldives. The first meeting of the Group is scheduled to focus on the reform of international financial institutions, particularly the IMF and World Bank; environmental governance; and, implementation of the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Environment. The Meeting will be chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Other countries in the Group are; Ghana, Guyana, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. The President and his delegation departed Male' yesterday for London.

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