Excellencies, Hon. Ministers, Mdm. Chikako Takase, Director of the UN Centre and
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies & Gentlemen:
Assalaam Alaikum and a very good morning to you all.
I am honoured and privileged to welcome you all, to my beautiful country. It is a great pleasure to host this Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific, during this special year as we celebrate 50 years of our independence.
I am especially honoured to organize this meeting jointly with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development and the government of Japan. I am pleased to note that we have a long history of excellent cooperation with Japan- that we highly value. Indeed, Japan has been a key partner of the Maldives, in many areas of our development.
I appreciate and sincerely thank all the local and international donors who are generously supporting us in hosting this event.
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates:
Resource efficiency is a matter of utmost importance to the Maldivian government. One of His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s key pledges is to embark on an ambitious agenda to transform the economy of Maldives, to ensure a more resilient and prosperous future for the Maldivian people. Hence, the sustainable use of our resources is vital to achieve this goal, as we rely heavily on our natural environment for economic growth.
Here in the Maldives, tourism and fisheries are the mainstays of our economy. The natural beauty of our coral reefs, their unmatched marine biodiversity combined with the turquoise crystal clear lagoons encircling coral islands form a premium product sold to tourists. It is essential for us to maintain this beauty. As such, this year’s focus on sustainable tourism development is a theme close to the hearts of all Maldivians. Our nation has more sea than land, and marine ecosystems form the very essence of Maldivian culture and livelihoods.
Adequate waste management is essential to maintain the health of our environment, and changing lifestyles as a result of economic development is resulting in waste management becoming increasingly challenging for us.
I am pleased that I have the support of our largest economic sector, the tourism industry, in addressing the challenge of waste management in the Maldives. Yesterday, delegates from 99 tourist resorts gathered here and signed a declaration to pledge their commitment to strive towards 3R and resource efficiency. Indeed, making this resolution a reality is not going to be an easy task, due to our very nature as small island states.
Our islands are small in size and geographically dispersed. Our population of 340,000 people are scattered across 188 islands, making investment in waste management extremely hard to attract. To overcome this challenge, we have recently developed a national policy on waste management based on principles that are internationally agreed. We have made special arrangements within our policy, which is to create regional facilities rather than creating atoll level systems. This is particularly important to make it economically feasible, environmentally sustainable and locally appropriate.
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates:
We are determined to demonstrate ourselves as a leader and an example to other small island developing states. This year we have assumed the Chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States-a critical year for global sustainable development. Next month, we will be meeting in New York to agree on the Post 2015 development agenda. In December, we will be adopting a new agreement to tackle climate change. Maldives is proud to have taken on the leadership on behalf of small island states to ensure that our concerns are addressed in these critical - issues that would shape our future.
Maldives strives to lead by example to other SIDS at the national level as well. We have almost concluded an ambitious mission to develop a model of regional waste management facility that could be replicated in other small island states like ours. Our model waste management facility will cover all the inhabited islands, tourist resorts and industrial islands in four atolls in the northern region of Maldives. The facility is designed to be financially sustainable, utilizing state of the art technology that would address waste management in the region at all levels. With the support of our partners, we hope to replicate this model throughout the Maldives. We are also undertaking programmes to institutionalize community based waste management systems.
The challenge of waste management is not unique to the Maldives or small island states alone. The Asia Pacific region is undergoing previously unprecedented levels of development. Within a decade from now, more than half of the world’s almost 8 billion people  are expected to live in Asia alone. Within just five years, there will be more middle class consumers in Asia than America and Europe combined. These changes are going to put enormous strain on our natural resource to keep up with the needs of our rapidly growing  and increasingly affluent populations.
I am heartened that technology has taken great strides to make resource efficiency possible to overcome these new challenges that we face. I am informed that a number of countries in our region are investing to integrate 3Rs and resource efficiency into their national development plans. This is what we need: the commitment at political level to explore new possibilities opened up by technological advances  a reality at the national level, for the benefit and prosperity of our peoples.
Indeed, with adequate planning, waste management has the potential to transform itself into a valuable resource to bring in economic rewards. Here in the Maldives we are exploring the potential within our scale to benefit from such opportunities, such as through pilot programmes to transform waste to energy.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom for his leadership and his commitment towards the provision of sustainable waste management services to all peoples of Maldives.
I am confident that through this forum, participants will be enlightened on the various efforts and successes throughout the region for innovative, effective and smart solutions in achieving resource efficiency. Let us use the next three days to inspire each other.
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates:
With these words, I have the pleasure to declare the Sixth Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific open.
I wish you every success.
Thank you.
Wassalaam Alaikum Warahmathullah Wabarakaathuh