Maldivian diplomats have embarked on an international charm offensive as the country lobbies for a seat on the United Nations Security Council — to little fanfare at home.
While the foreign ministry announced the country’s candidacy back in 2016, a new website, animated video and three hashtags have been launched to support the campaign.
The video shows a dhoni (boat) easing into a lagoon, while the hashtags include #MV4UNSC.
The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
It is the first time the Maldives, which has a population of 400,000, has put itself forward for a seat on the body.
“We do not believe that might or size determines destiny; our ability, our motivation, our will to work, and our ideas do,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim told top diplomats gathered for the UN General Assembly last year.
Maldivian envoys were instructed to advocate for their homeland and argue its strengths: a small island nation from South Asia vying for a spot in the big league.
But the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Maldives Mission to the UN in Geneva, Jeffrey Salim Waheed, warns it will be a tough race.
“[We are contesting] against a better resourced, experienced country.
“Indonesia has sat on the UNSC three times before. They have over a hundred missions across the world, mobilized to lobby for them in the capitals across the globe.”
He remains optimistic, saying developments in recent years have bolstered the country’s position.
“We have demonstrated our ability to lead global discourse. As Chair of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) we led negotiations on behalf of more than a fifth of the UN membership on climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity and many more issues.
“In an organ where it is ‘one country, one vote’ the Maldives showed the world the power and unity of Small Island Developing States.”
The vote for the UN Security Council is June 2018 and the timing has left some foreign ministry officials wondering whether they will receive enough support or resources from the government to win.
Several officials who spoke to the Maldives Independent noted that priorities were elsewhere “given that the 2018 presidential elections are close” – referring to the crucial vote expected to take place around September.
In a message on the Maldives UNSC website, President Abdulla Yameen appealed for support from international partners.
“The Maldives will take to the Security Council, its experience as a norm entrepreneur, that helps to shape solutions through consensus.
“As a bridge builder, and a trustworthy mediator that can bring people together. It is a conscientious player and a reliable friend. As a small state, we will always listen, and we are aware of when to propose, and where to compromise.”
The ratcheting up of the Security Council campaign comes as the Maldives completes two consecutive terms on the UN Human Rights Council, with the last term running out this year. Plans for a UNHRC re-run were scrapped in favour of the Security Council bid.
Although the Maldives deferred its candidacy for the HRC seat, the country received four votes at the UNGA that elected Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and Qatar to HRC seats representing Asia Pacific states.
Foreign ministry officials who spoke to the Maldives Independent on condition of anonymity believes it was a mistake.
“Look, countries voted for us even though we had decided not to run,” said one. “This is what a lot of top officials thought will happen. Which is that it was a mistake to scrap the HRC candidacy because it would have been an easy win.”
— MFA Maldives (@MDVForeign) September 26, 2017
— MDV Embassy SriLanka (@MDVembLanka) October 10, 2017
— MDV Embassy SriLanka (@MDVembLanka) October 11, 2017