Citing under-representation of small states in the UN’s main bodies, Foreign Minister Dr Mohamed Asim announced Saturday the Maldives’ candidacy to the UN Security Council for the term 2019-2020.
In his statement at the UN General Assembly in New York, Asim said small states are under-represented because of its small delegations and limited capacities.
“[But] every member of this organisation must have the opportunity to serve, must have an equal chance to be part of everybody, especially the Security Council, to make the decisions that affect us all,” he said.
“We do not believe that might or size determines destiny; our ability, our motivation, our will to work, and our ideas do.”
The Maldives “boldly put forward its candidature” because intent, resolve, fairness, and the principle of representation should decide the opportunities available to member states, he added.
One of the UN’s six main organs, the powerful 15-member UNSC is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. It can impose sanctions and authorise the use of military force.
The council is made up of five permanent members with veto power – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – and 10 non-permanent members elected by the General Assembly on a rotating basis by geographic region.
To secure election for a two-year term, a member state must receive at least two-thirds of all votes cast for that seat. Five new members are elected each year.
Voting for the 2019-2020 term will take place in mid-2018. Indonesia has also announced its candidacy for the Asia-Pacific seat.
Asim said the Maldives is seeking election to the UNSC for the first time since joining the UN shortly after gaining independence 51 years ago.
However, according to local media, the Maldives had announced its intention contest for a seat in 2008, the final year of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign, and canvassed for the support of South Asian neighbours.
Under the current administration, the Maldives has meanwhile faced widespread international condemnation after the imprisonment of opposition leaders in early 2015 triggered a political crisis.
On Friday, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the inter-governmental body’s democracy watchdog, placed the Maldives on its formal agenda over the lack of progress in resolving the crisis.
In his speech yesterday, Asim reiterated the government’s appeal to allow space for the country’s “adapting and changing” democratic institutions to grow.
“They need to develop organically, evolving with the needs and priorities of the society,” he said.
“While a healthy amount of scrutiny is necessary and welcomed, institutions cannot build resilience under a constant microscope. The Maldives will remain engaged with the international community.”
He also urged the international community to value the Maldives “by our abilities, not our vulnerabilities” and to “evaluate our progress relatively, not against inapt benchmarks.”
He argued that using GDP per capita as a measure of development disadvantages small island states, calling for a re-evaluation of how development is assessed.
“There needs to be concerted effort to integrate the economic vulnerability of countries into these assessments, without which, our approach to development will never be holistic,” he said.
“The fact that we graduated from [least-developed country] status, does not mean that we have overcome our challenges overnight. Large-scale infrastructure – ports, hospitals, harbours – is still required across the entire Maldives.
“Yet, the large-scale financing needed for these projects is not readily available: because the preferential and concessional arrangements for financing are lost after graduation. These limitations make it harder to maintain and sustain the development gains that enabled us to graduate in the first place.”
Asim also noted that climate change is an existential threat to the Maldives with “the potential to erode decades of development gains.”
While the Maldives in previous decades was unable to go far “as a lone voice in a sea of sceptics,” it can now “go many more miles” with the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States, he said.