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Maldives News Bulletin, 27-04-2008
Issue No: No.1159

The President departs for Singapore to attend the Business for the Environment Global Summit

20 April: The President has departed for Singapore to attend the second Business for the Environment Global Summit, organized by the United Nations Environment Program, (UNEP).
The President will deliver an Address at the Opening Session of the Summit, which will be held from 22 to 24 of this month.
The delegation accompanying the President on this visit includes, Minister of Environment, Energy and Water, Mr. Ahmed Abdulla, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mr. Mohamed Jaleel and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Hussein.
 


Special Majlis Adopts Transitional Chapter; Launches New Democratic Era for the Maldives

21 April: In a historic day for democracy, rule of law and human rights in the Maldives, the Special Majlis (constitutional assembly) adopted the Chapter of the draft new Constitution dealing with transitional arrangements and in-so-doing agreed on the creation of a range of independent oversight bodies and judicial institutions - a move that has major implications for the political and judicial landscape of the country.
The final Transitional Chapter clarifies that the first Presidential election under the new Constitution will take place before 10 October 2008 (exact date to be decided by the independent Interim Elections Commission). This will be the first multi-party Presidential election in the history of the Maldives. The first Parliamentary elections under the new Constitution must take place before 31 March 2009. Elections for all city, island and atoll councils shall be held before July 2009. The current President, Cabinet, Parliament and other persons elected or appointed under the existing Constitution will remain in place until their successors are elected or appointed under the new Constitution.
In order to guarantee that these vital first elections in a new democratic era for the Maldives are both free and fair and, importantly, are seen to be free and fair by all domestic and international stakeholders; the Transitional Chapter creates a range of independent bodies to operate during the transitional phase. It also stipulates timeframes to eventually establish permanent versions of these bodies under the new Constitution.
Crucially, an Interim Election Commission will be created within 30 days of introducing the new constitution; and, in order to ensure the body's independence and impartiality and to build confidence in the electoral process; its members will be proposed by all registered political parties and adopted by Parliament. An Interim Judicial Service Commission will also be created within 30 days of introducing the new constitution; while an Interim Supreme Court will be created within 45 days of introducing the new constitution.
Justices of the Interim Supreme Court will be proposed by the Interim Judicial
Service Commission and adopted by Parliament. Members of the interim Supreme Court would appoint a Chief Justice for the interim period from among themselves. All other justices, judges, and magistrates will remain in Office for a period of two years from the date of the new constitution until they are approved according to the process envisaged under the new constitution.
Finally, the Transitional Chapter states that an Anti Corruption Commission shall be created within 60 days of the new constitution coming into being; while a Prosecutor General (in addition to the existing Attorney General post or director of public prosecutions), proper Judicial Service Commission, and proper Elections Commission must be created within 60 days from the first meeting of the newly elected parliament.
With the adoption of the Transitional Chapter, the Special Majlis will now turn its attention to completing the final Chapter on Definition (of the new constitution).
This is expected to be completed shortly. The completed draft Constitutional text will then be sent to the President of the Maldives for ratification.



President Gayoom calls on the global business community to support and assist local entrepreneurs’ eco-initiatives

22 April: President Gayoom today called on the global business community to support and assist local entrepreneurs’ eco-initiatives, by sharing their experiences and expertise, as well as offering them financial incentives to undertake green ventures.  He made the statement in his Keynote Address at the Business for the Environment 2008 Global Summit in Singapore. In his address, the President noted that the business community had an important role to play in climate diplomacy, science and economics. 
Emphasizing that the chosen theme for the Summit – Business and Markets in a Climate of Change – highlighted the important and intrinsic link between business and climate change, the President said that the two main economic sectors of the Maldives – tourism and fishing – attached a very high importance to environmental protection and preservation. 
“Many resort islands are today utilizing model technology and techniques for energy conservation and waste management”, he noted.
“As for our fishery sector, the absence of all forms of netting except for bait fishery ensures a high degree of environment friendliness and sustainability. Needless to say, the pole and line technique of our fishermen is also dolphin-friendly”, he added.  
He also highlighted such initiatives in other key sectors such as transport.
Noting that the Maldives relied almost entirely on imported petroleum-based fuels for all its energy needs, the President pointed out that the extremely vulnerable of the country’s economy to rising world oil prices and the high dependence on fossil fuels had been a major hurdle in efforts to mitigate against climate change.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to increase the contribution of renewable energy in meeting the country’s energy needs”, he said.
Speaking on the launching in January of this year of a Hybrid Renewable Energy Pilot Project in the north of the country, he said that the Maldives had “embarked on an exciting journey of energy transformation”. 
Speaking before an audience that included the Minister for National Development of Singapore, Mr. Mah Bow Tan, the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact, Mr. Georg Kell and Prince Albert II of Monaco, the President noted that, during the past quarter century, the dedication and hard work of our people and the development planning and policies of the Government have ushered in a new era of modernization and social, economic and human development in the Maldives.
“We have gone from being one of the world’s poorest countries, with a per capita income of less than 300 US Dollars, to the brink of graduation from the UN’s list of Least-Developed Countries. With almost a ten-fold increase in our GDP per capita, the Maldives today enjoys the highest standards of living in the entire South Asian region.  In fact, the compound economic growth rate of the Maldives over the past two decades at 7.5% per annum has been among the fastest in the world”, he said.
In his address, the President said that the beauty and the serenity of the islands of the Maldives masked the vulnerability and fragility of the country. 
“The 1,192 tropical islands that make up the Maldives are among the lowest-lying in the world, with three-quarters of the land area of the islands rising no higher than one and a half metres above mean sea level, with a highest natural point of just 6 metres”, he emphasized.
“This reality alone warrants our deep concern over the warming planet and associated rising seas”, he added.
He recalled that, for over twenty years, the Maldives had been taking its plea for help before global decision-makers, in the hope of injecting urgency into international efforts to find an effective solution to this impending global environmental catastrophe.  
He noted that climate change was a global environmental problem that could only be addressed on a global scale, and that its effects too would be felt on a global level. 
“The contribution of the Maldives to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible at less than 0.01%. However, the irony is that the Maldives is predicted to be among the first and possibly the biggest victims of global warming”, he noted with deep concern. 
“To compound the problem, with limited natural, financial, technical and human resources, we are unable to appropriately mitigate against, or adapt to, the rapid climatic changes that are occurring before our very eyes”, he added. 
He went on to note the high priority attached by the Government to achieve high standards in environmental preservation and protection. 
He noted that the Safer Islands Programme was one of the most important adaptation measures that the Maldives had introduced following the Asian Tsunami of 2004.  “We hope to establish at least ten such safer islands by 2010”, he announced.
The President said that the world was today at an important crossroad in its endeavour to find a speedy solution to climate change. 
“History was made in Bali last December, and the roadmap that we adopted at Bali can lead to a meaningful post-Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen.  However, in order to achieve this important objective, the international community must be more willing to listen to the voice of its smallest and most vulnerable members”, he said. 



President Gayoom Calls on the Global Business Community to Support Eco-Initiatives

 22 April: H. E. Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives has called on the global business community to support eco-initiatives, by sharing their experiences and expertise, as well as offering them financial incentives to undertake green ventures. The President made the statement in his keynote address at the Business for Environment (B4E) Global Summit that opened in Singapore today.
The President outlined the threats faced by the Maldives in the face of climate change and particularly noted the vulnerability and fragility of the country. “the 1192tropical islands that make up the Maldives are among the lowest-lying in the world, with three-quarters of the land area of the islands rising no higher than one and a half meters above mean sea level, with a highest natural point of just 6 meters”, the President said. In his Address, President Gayoom went on to highlight that climate change had already become a part of the daily lives of Maldivians with unseasonal stormy seas and increasingly prevalent high waves amongst others.
As such, the President emphasized that global climate change required a global response.
“History was made in Bali last December”, said the President, “and the roadmap that we adopted at Bali can lead to a meaningful post-Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen. However, in order to achieve this important objective, the international community must be willing to listen to the voice of its smallest and most vulnerable members”. President Gayoom drew attention to the Maldives’ leadership in creating global awareness on the threats posed by climate change to vulnerable small island states. Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted, by consensus, a Resolution titled Human Rights and Climate Change that called for a study by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the interconnectivity of the effects of climate change and the enjoyment of human rights. The Resolution was initiated by the Maldives and received a co-sponsorship of over 75 countries.
Concluding his Address the President noted the significant role that could be assumed by the global business community is assisting the Maldives and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in adaptation measures as well as measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. The President expressed confidence that the strong partnership between government and the private sector, the international community could achieve the goal of a comprehensive post-Kyoto accord that adequately addresses the concerns of Small Island States such as the Maldives.
B4E, the Global Business Summit for the Environment, is the leading international conference focusing on business and the environment. B4E 2008 will highlight the most urgent environmental challenges facing the world today and discuss business-driven solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The Maldives’ Delegation at the Summit is headed by President Gayoom.
During the afternoon session of the Summit, the President spoke as one of the panelists, along with the former President of Sweden, on the topic of “Advancing the Climate Agenda through Policy, Mitigation and Adaption”. In his remarks at the panel discussion the President noted the adaption measures undertaken by the Maldives and explained the resource constraints faced by small island nations.
Today’s programme also included the launching of the book “Paradise Drowning” which is a collection of the speeches delivered by President Gayoom on environment over the last two decades. The book was launched by Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Under Secretary General of the United Nations. At the launch ceremony Mr. Steiner applauded President Gayoom for his untiring efforts over the years to bring climate change and its impact on Maldivians to the attention of the world. The ceremony was well attended by visiting dignitaries to the Conference including Singapore’s Minister for National Development, H. E. Mr. Mah Bow Tan and His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco.
 


President Gayoom unveils his new anthology of speeches on environmental security, titled “Paradise Drowning”

22 April: President Gayoom unveiled his new anthology of speeches on environmental security.  The book, titled “Paradise Drowning”, was launched by the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Under-Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Achim Steiner.
At the press launch of the book, held in the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, the President said:
“To many people across the world, our shores have indeed become an earthly paradise. This paradise, though, is endangered!”
He noted the extreme vulnerability of the Maldives to global warming, and the dangers that they posed to the lives and livelihoods of the people.
He recalled that it was in the mid-1980s that had he first come across the twin phenomena of global warming and sea-level rise. 
“I can, in fact, still vividly remember my first couple of speeches on climate change and sea-level rise, the first being at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Vancouver on the 15th of October 1987 and the second just four days later at the UN General Assembly in New York.”
Elaborating on the book, which also includes quotes from a number of his hard-hitting interviews to the international media, the President said:
“The choice of a name for this book was not made lightly.  I opted for “Paradise Drowning” as, in my mind, it evokes an image fraught with great danger.  That, in my opinion, most clearly encapsulates the threat of climate change and sea-level rise to my people.”
“While this book is a collection of 23 of my speeches at various gatherings, I sincerely hope that “Paradise Drowning” will not to be taken simply as an archive of my work over the years, but rather as a further step in a continuous effort to save an imperilled people. I hope this book will be of help in crossing further boundaries and generating further interest.”
“Ultimately, what it signals is hope; hope that humankind will find consensus and a clear will to act. I am confident that we, the peoples of the world, will not allow this paradise to drown.”
Speaking at the launch, Mr. Steiner said that President Gayoom’s work to alert the world on the plight of his people had earned him global respect and the admiration of environmentalists.
“In fact, President Gayoom as a fan base back at UNEP!  They follow his work and admire his courage in taking up the challenge.  Very few politicians across the world do so”, he said.
He noted that the problem outlined by President Gayoom mirrored the fate of other low-lying territories worldwide.
"The challenge they are facing is one of continued existence," Steiner told AFP on the sidelines of the conference.
"In the Maldives, it is possibly losing many of its islands and even one day... losing a whole nation," Steiner said, adding that many other coastal areas are in the same predicament.
Steiner also criticized those who argue the threat is being exaggerated.
"If you want to know what the consequences are, take a look at what the tsunami did in a few seconds and you get an idea of what destruction will arise from sea-level rise," he said, referring to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The press launch was also attended by Prince Albert II of Monaco and Singapore’ Minister for National Development, Mr. Mah Bow Tan.
After the launch, the President signed the book for audience, which included journalists from the top newswires and media organizations in the world.
 


The priority is to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions urgently; adaptation is a secondary objective: President Gayoom


22 April : President Gayoom this afternoon appealed to the international community to maintain its focus on the important priority of achieving major cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking before an audience of top policymakers and environmentalists at the ongoing Business for the Environment 2008 Global Summit in Singapore, the President said:
“The priority is to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions urgently.  Adaptation is important but it is a secondary objective.”
The President made the appeal at a Round Table Discussion and Audience Q&A on the topic ““Advancing the Climate Agenda through Policy, Mitigation and Adaptation”.  The President was a member of the panel that included Prince Albert II of Monaco, Mr. Goran Persson, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr. Abdul-Qader Ba-Jamaal, the former Prime Minister of Yemen, Senetor Liz Thompson, the former Minister of Energy and Environment of Barbados, Dr. Balgis Osman-Elasha, Senior Scientist and IPCC Lead Author from Sudan and Dr. Atiq Rahman, the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.  The panel was chaired by the Executive Director of UNEP and Under-Secretary of the UN, Mr. Achim Steiner.
President Gayoom spoke on the adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Maldives, and highlighted the need to forge closer partnerships with the corporate sector in finding pragmatic solutions.  He expressed concern over the country’s high dependence on fossil fuels for its energy needs, and the Government’s quest to introduce renewable energy alternatives.
“We need financial and technical support, and the existing global funds are inadequate and difficult to access”, he noted.
He also spoke on the importance of tourism for the country’s economy, and the high importance attached to promoting eco-tourism.
“Although our contribution to the accumulation of global greenhouse gas emissions is a negligible 0.01%, we are nevertheless committed to substantially reducing our own carbon footprint”, he said.
The President’s passionate statement was followed by generous applause by the audience. 
The panel’s Chair, Mr. Steiner also highlighted his long-standing dedicated efforts to find a speedy solution to climate change. 
“President Gayoom is one of a select few world leaders who have taken up environmental matters with a strong personal commitment”, the UNEP Head said.



President Gayoom Receives Invitation to Participate in the Representative Group of Commonwealth Heads of Government

24 April:  His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives has been invited to join the Representative Group of Commonwealth Heads of Government convened to reform the current architecture of international institutions.
The invitation was extended on behalf of the Commonwealth by Secretary General Mr.Kamlesh Sharma in a letter addressed to President Gayoom.
In his invitation Secretary General Sharma cited President Gayoom as an individual “who can lead, shape and add value to the outcome of international debate” and noted how the Group would provide an excellent opportunity to reform international institutions in a manner that reflects “the way in which the world has changed and globalised” so as to harmonise such institutions with the “full global spectrum of interests and needs.”
Secretary General Sharma further highlighted the importance of the Commonwealth’s stance on reform of international institutions to be representative and added 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”. 
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 first meeting of this group will convene in London in June 2008 and 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.



Maldives and the Commonwealth discuss continued close partnership and collaboration

26 April: H. E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs met with H. E. Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, the new Secretary General of the Commonwealth in London yesterday.
Discussions at the meeting, which took place at the Commonwealth Secretariat, focused mainly on the progress of the ongoing reform agenda, particularly on the achievements made in drafting of the new constitution. In this regard, the Secretary General congratulated President Gayoom for the achievements attained under the Reform Agenda to date and expressed hope that the drafting process of the new Constitution of the Maldives would be completed in the near future. The Commonwealth’s Secretary General also assured the government of continued support to the reform process particularly towards strengthening legal framework required under the new Constitution. Secretary General Sharma added that the Commonwealth would send in a monitoring mission for the upcoming Presidential election 2008 as requested by the Government of Maldives. 
At the meeting the Foreign Minister congratulated the Secretary General for his appointment and expressed gratitude to the Commonwealth for its long standing collaboration and engagement with the Maldives in various spheres. He expressed his hope for continued close partnership between the Commonwealth and the Maldives in the democratization process and particularly in preparation to and conduction of first multi-party elections.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by the High Commissioner of the Maldives to the United Kingdom, Dr. Mohamed Asim, Director Political Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Mr. Mathew Neuhaus, Head of Europe/Asia Desk of the Commonwealth Mr. Pavan Kapoor, Chargé d’Affairs of the Maldives Mission to the European Union Mr. Ahmed Sareer and First Secretary of the Maldives High Commission in London Mr. Ahmed Shiaan.
 

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