Posted by: islandsfirst | July 10, 2008

Right to Life

While the G8’s failed leadership on climate change held steady in Hokkaido, the UN General Assembly held another informal climate change meeting on Tuesday.

Entitled “Climate Change and the Most Vulnerable Countries – the Imperative to Act“, it seemed an ideal occasion at which to bring attention to the draft resolution recently circulated by the Pacific Small Island Developing States.

Indeed, the GA President specifically mentioned the draft resolution in his opening remarks:

As an Assembly there is more we can do to recognize the needs of the most vulnerable. Reflecting their legitimate concerns, the Pacific Small Island Developing States have proposed a draft resolution entitled “The threat of climate change to international peace and security”, which would send an important signal to the world that we have to get serious about the security threats posed by climate change too.

Considerably more outspoken, however, were the subsequently televised remarks of H.E. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of the Maldives:

I invite everyone in this Assembly Hall to look around you. When you do, you will most likely see some 38 Small Island States that are members of the United Nations.

Now look into the not-too-distant-future, and imagine a General Assembly Hall in which some of those Small Island States are no longer present. Name plates are gone. Seats are empty.

Such a future is not only possible; it is entirely probable, unless each and every country represented in this Assembly Hall works together to transform the global debate on climate change, from one characterized by failed promises, to one based on concrete measures that will save those peoples and communities most vulnerable to global warming.

The President’s speech (a transcript of which can be found here, along with a webcast and other remarks from the meeting) is certainly worth reading. In it, he alluded to specific threats, the young speakers from the recent Global Humanitarian Forum, and, most adamantly, to a rights-based approach to the issue:

The Maldives believes that a key way in which Small Island States and other vulnerable communities can promote climate JUSTICE and thereby remind other, especially more developed countries around the world about the responsibility they bear for climate change and their corresponding duty to protect and assist; is to adopt a rights-based approach to global warming.

In particular, it is my firm conviction that the United Nations should consider the adoption of a new universal right – namely, the right to live in a safe, secure and sustainable environment. The Declaration of sucha right would promote climate JUSTICE, especially for small vulnerable States, by providing a source and focus for that justice.

His message concluded in the same vein as it began:

In the final analysis, the future of the Maldives and other vulnerable countries is in the hands of our brothers and sisters in the United Nations family. The Maldives REFUSES to believe that the countries represented in this Hall, especially rich developed countries, will allow small vulnerable members of the United Nations to suffer, when the solutions to climate change appear to be within their reach.

Mr. President, we REFUSE to accept a future in which ANY seat in this Assembly Hall would fall empty. Thank you, Mr. President.

Unfortunately, the panel discussion that followed did not maintain his direct and sobering tone, focusing instead upon power-point presentations detailing adaptation finances. A representative speaking on behalf of the Kingdom of Tonga did, however, have a chance to make a statement in regard to the draft resolution:

The PSIDS have drafted a resolution titled “the threat of climate change to international peace and security”. The draft resolution was made available in June to all UN Member States, and the resolution will be discussed during the current 62nd session of the General Assembly. We have consistently spoken about thte security implications of cliamte change; and now we are seeking the support of the full UN Membership to recognize climate change as a threat to international peace and security by adopting the resolution at the 62nd session of the GA.

Consultations on behalf of the draft resolution are currently underway.


  1. […] – President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Republic of Maldives at the July 8, 2008, UN General Assembly informal debate on “Climate Change and the Most Vulnerable Countries – The Imperative to Act“ […]

  2. Very nice!!

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