President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has concluded his official trip to New York City to attend the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The President was joined by First Lady Fazna Ahmed and a high-level Maldivian delegation.
In a historic moment for the Maldives, President Solih delivered his UNGA address in Dhivehi. President Solih delivered his remarks on the third speaking slot on the first day of the high-level General Debate on September 21, 2021, a privilege rarely granted to smaller states. In his address, the President recalled how the UN had initially debated the merits of admitting a small island state like the Maldives, and stated that the fact that he could address the President of the General Assembly (PGA), Abdullah Shahid, in their mother tongue validated Maldives' progress in expanding global recognition.
In his speech, President Solih also addressed the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that it had proven, in stark terms, how interconnected we are in today's world and emphasized the importance of collaboration. He stated that a concerted effort is required to ensure that such a disaster does not occur again. As a country that is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, President Solih has made critical statements outlining the crisis and emphasizing how the Maldives will not sit back and wait. He cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, noting how the climate emergency would be catastrophic to humanity, and warned that bigger nations would soon catch up with the state of "environmental ruin" that small countries are in if current trends continue. In his speech, the President also underscored the growing threat of terrorism and reaffirmed his commitment to working with the international community to combat its threats. President Solih also reaffirmed the Maldives' position on the Palestine issue, advocating that Palestine should be recognized as a sovereign state.
President Solih participated in a number of events on the sidelines of the GA during his visit. The President attended the Climate Moment, a meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG), His Excellency Antonio Guterres, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, The Right Honourable Boris Johnson, the day before delivering his address at the General Debate. President Solih was among a select group of state leaders invited, and in his remarks at the event, he urged world leaders to ensure that multilateral banks and international financial institutions are well-positioned to provide low-cost capital for smaller nations to implement climate change policies.
Other high-level events attended by the President on the margins of the 76th UNGA include the panel on Transformative Action for Nature and People, which met to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the online session of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Leaders' Summit 2021.
President Solih also held official meetings with a number of world leaders at the United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ) in New York City. President Solih met with the President of the Portuguese Republic His Excellency Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of the Swiss Confederation, His Excellency Guy Parmelin, the President of the Republic of Cabo Verde His Excellency Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfan Ali, the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, the President of the Republic of Palau His Excellency Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. and the Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
President Solih also met with UN Secretary-General Gutteres and PGA Shahid. The President congratulated PGA Shahid on his election and wished him success in achieving the PGA's Five Rays of Hope (list). The President invited PGA Shahid to visit Maldives in his capacity as PGA and expressed gratitude for his success in implementing foreign policy thus far.
During the visit, First Lady Fazna also had a number of important engagements. She took part in some of the side events at the United Nations General Assembly's 76th session, including the youth-focused virtual event "Unlock the Future." She also met with H.E. Marco Suazo, Head of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) New York Office, Ms Lucia J. Guo, Executive Director of the Global Foundation for the Performing Arts (GFPA), and Mr Byron Zhou, pianist on the GFPA's artist roster, to discuss collaboration on music art therapy in the Maldives. The First Lady also met with Judith Batty, Interim CEO of Girl Guides USA, and Adwoa Aidoo, Director of Global Girl Scouting, Girl Guides USA. First Lady Fazna had attended the book launch ceremony for "My Travels to Africa," hosted by the First Lady of the Republic of Turkey, Her Excellency Mrs. Emine Erdogan, at the Turkish House in New York City, along with state leaders' spouses, and had visited the Carter Burden/Leonard Covello Senior Program in the city.
The 76th Session of the UNGA was a watershed moment for the Maldives, with a Maldivian serving as President of the UNGA for the first time in our country's history. Abdullah Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs, was elected with an overwhelming majority of votes. This is also President Solih's second address to the UNGA; his first was at the 74th Session of the UNGA in 2019. The President will return to the Maldives on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.