Speech by Enrico Gaveglia, UN Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives
World Environment Day
July 4, 2022
4 June 2022, Fuvahmulah City
• Your Excellency Vice-President, Faisal Naseem
• Your Excellency Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Aminath Shauna
• Honourable Mayor of Fuvahmulah City Council, Ismail Rafeeq
• Their Excellencies, Ministers of States for Environment, and the National Centre for Information Technology
• Dignitaries and special invitees gracing this ceremony
• People of Fuvahmulah City
Assalaam Alaikum, a very Good Evening to you all.
I am very honored to be here with you in the South of the Maldives, in the beautiful city of Fuvahmulah, as we as celebrate World Environment Day. We are joining millions of people across the world on the largest global platform for environmental public outreach.
Indeed, there is no better place to talk about the environment, than from the Maldives. Ours is a clarion call from the frontlines of climate change, as Earth sends us the “code red” signal. Climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution, and waste - the evidence around us keeps growing more ominous as we speak.
The way out of this dilemma is to transform our economies and societies to make them inclusive, fair, and more connected with nature. We must shift from harming our environment to healing it.
Because there is Only One Earth. This is our only home, and that is worth standing up for.
“Only One Earth” was also the slogan for the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. This put sustainable development on the global agenda and led to the establishment of World Environment Day. Sweden just hosted the Stockholm+50 conference, reflecting on 50 years of climate action.
Her Excellency Minister Shauna has just returned from Stockholm in fact. She is possibly still reeling from jet lag, but I am certain the concerned voices from around the world must be reverberating as a matter of urgency in her mind. Voices that echo those of your own people.
I myself have had the privilege of talking with some of the local communities as part of the series of Stockholm +50 consultations. The people I had conversations with are very aware of the state of their environment, and the impacts of climate change. This is a lived reality for you. There is a deep cognizance of your relationship and dependance on nature, and all around you.
The voices of the people are as clear as the waters here: the call for collective, transformative action on the ground and on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our environment in a mutually beneficial pact of care.
Indeed, Maldives has made a lot of progress in terms of championing the environment within and beyond these shores.
Moving in sync through the decades, supported by development partners, we, the UN/UNDP are proud to stand alongside the government and other stakeholders, including civil society, as we continue our work together for the people and our environment.
We phased out ozone depleting substances from the Maldives 10 years ahead of schedule.
We have restored and conserved hundreds of hectares of land and marine ecosystems, and protected hundreds of species, through the efforts of citizen scientists led by passionate NGO’s. One example that springs to mind is the wetlands of Haa Alif Kelaa, where establishing a baseline of ecological significance led to it being designated as a protected area.
We are bringing in greener, bluer practices for livelihoods generation and food security through sustainable and inclusive agricultural and fishery practices.
We are defining what sustainable tourism can mean for the Maldives.
We have banned dangerous pollutants, such as Persistent Organic Pollutants, and are working to completely extract them from our islands.
In fact, the new project signed just now to the tune of 1.8 million dollars through the generous funding from the Global Environment Facility, between the Ministry of Environment and UNDP, will build upon our ongoing efforts to reduce the risk of POPs and hazardous chemicals on human health and the environment. By the end of the projects, we will have ensured the sound management of over 500 tonnes of hazardous wastes.
This is just the tip of the ‘melting icebergs’. There is STILL a lot more to be done of course.
And here today, is an opportune moment for us, as we’ve come together in the care of our environment. We have the stalwarts of the environment with us. Excellencies Mr. Vice President, and Minister Shauna among them – who carry the mantle on the environment. We look to your guidance as we further our agenda for nature, and to bring those left furthest behind in the climate fight to the center.
Such as the elderly, children, persons with disabilities and the women. There is mounting evidence that women especially are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Women’s role and voices should be central to any decisions made on the climate. Their contributions to a sustainable economy and a sustainable planet are irrefutable.
Change happens from the ground up. Environmental action springs from both national and sub-national efforts. This was evident during my recent visit to Fuvahmulah. My sincere thanks go out to the Mayor and the Council once again for being wonderful hosts. Our team was invigorated by your strategic plan, which encompasses a deep foresight on the sustainability of your environment - a wisdom already demonstrated on the ground through concrete results, such as the Nature Park, an absolute delight for us, the UNDP team, to visit.
To contribute to your vision, and on our partnership towards a circular economy, we are pleased to announce a plastic innovation grant that would be made available to Fuvahmulah City through the Global Environment Facility - GEF Small Grants Programme, implemented by UNDP.
GEF SGP and UNDP support was also extended to two of the NGOs in Fuvahmulah. One is AWARE Society – who are creating an online catalogue about the biological diversity of plants in Fuvahmulah, including the city's indigenous plants, which will act as a guide to locals and visitors alike. The catalogue will help conserve this information for future generations.
The other is Fuvahmulak Surfing Association who are working to prevent land degradation and restore the natural beach and loss of life through coral gardening. It was a delight for me and the UNDP team to accompany the NGO on a mini survey of the site, when we went for a dip in the sea on my recent visit here.
I reiterate. The way forward is to transform our economies and societies to make them inclusive, fair, and more connected with nature. The good news is the solutions and the technology exist and are increasingly affordable. We must continue to invest in community-led action, nature-based solutions, and in sustainable, blended financing mechanisms.
You can count on the continued support of the UN system, and the renewed commitment of UNDP, as we ignite more action towards a world where we are once again at peace with nature.
I thank you all for your kind attention. Shukriya.