Maldives democracy must prove it can guarantee liberty: European Commission report

Democracy in the Maldives is in a crucial phase and needs to prove to the people that it is able to guarantee liberty, according an independent evaluation of the European Commission’s €26.3 million (US$36.6 million) assistance package to the Maldives over the last 10 years.

“The political, administrative, and judicial system needs reforming in order to implement constitutional guarantees and requirements,” the report found.

“The passing of an important number of bills has been delayed in parliament, which is composed predominately of newcomers to politics and in which the opposition coalition has the majority – resulting in the problem of consensus having to be reached between the government and its parliamentary opposition.”

As a consequence, the country was under pressure to provide a functioning political, judicial and local governance system, the EC report noted, identifying two major areas of reform: the judicial sector (including police and prisons), “and the decentralisation reform, beginning with the local [council] elections.”

The independent evaluation was commissioned by the EC to critique its funding of programs between 1999 to 2009, which have included support for the empowerment of women, over €15 million in tsunami-related assistance, technical support for the presidential and parliamentary elections, island waste management centres and more recently, pledges off €6.5 million for climate change adaption and mitigation support, as well as €1.3 million earmarked for combating drug abuse.

The report was presented at Holiday Inn yesterday to a cross section of stakeholders including government officials, civil society, international donor organisations and the press.

Overall achievement of executives was described as “mixed”. The strategic planning of many programmes was “too ambitious given the level of available funding”, the report noted, with gaps between planning and implementation.

“The environmental support program was too ambitiously planned and had to be scaled down to solid waste management only,” the report stated. “Constructed island waste management systems are, with few exceptions, not operational, and waste management centres are unequipped.”

The failings of this project were due in part to “technical” problems, including design weaknesses and missing equipment, “and insufficient involvement of communities in general, notably the Island Women Development committees.”

“Women on the islands are quite well organised and are often the main actors in terms of environmental issues and social and economic life. Many households are managed by women, as men are often working in the tourist resorts, in the fisheries industry, or abroad,” the report observed.

“However the present local governance structures generally do not sufficiently allow women to play an effective role in the local decision-making process.”

Equipment for the island waste management systems, purchased with the project’s remaining funding, remains stored in Male’, the report noted.

Economic vulnerability

The EC had identified the Maldives’ reliance on a single export commodity as a fundamental weakness in its commodity, but plans to diversify these exports “were too ambitious an objective for EC support.”

The problem was going to exacerbate when the Maldives graduates from Less Developed Country (LDC) status in January 2011, the report noted, when it will lose preferential market access and technical and financial support from multilateral and regional sources. This will have particular impact on the country’s trade with Sri Lanka and Thailand.

“Maldives exports can be built up and diversified only if action is taken to resolve serious supply-side issues in the economy, including access to investment finance, improvement of production procedures and standards, training of the workforce, development of modern marketing principles, and improvement of transport infrastructure.”

Programmes identified as successful by the EC report included that allocated to the presidential and parliamentary elections, which produced “a positive perception of the EC as a recognised political partner in the democratisation process.”

Looking ahead, the report suggested ensuring that projects had clearer objectives and were realistically planned, and preferably managed from within the country rather than outside.

It also recommended greater strategic focus on no more than two areas of priority, “such as environment/climate change and the good governance/decentralisation sector”.

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Bernard Savage, observed that programmes run in cooperation with other donors such as the World Bank and UN Agencies had been the most successful.

“Programmes carried out under this collaboration have been reviewed as both effective and efficient in general,” he said.


EU confirms €6 million grant to boost governance

The EU will provide a €6 million grant to boost governance on top of an existing €4 million for areas including climate change and the fight against drug abuse.

“Additional contributions include a further €3.8 million from the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance Funds which has also been allocated towards the on-going climate change project,” the EU said in a statement.

The objective of the new funding for 2011-2013 was “to fight poverty and help the Maldives follow a sustainable growth path, in line with Maldives’ policy priorities,” the EU said.

“Thus, under the single focal sector of governance, in consultation with the Government of Maldives and other stakeholders, EU assistance may be directed towards the areas of environment, combat drug use or public administration (not excluding trade or economic regulations).”


EU’s Commissioner for Climate Action departs Maldives

Before her departure yesterday, European Union’s first Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, said doubters of climate change should come to the Maldives to see the true effects of climate change.

“It is very different to come to a place like here to see with your own eyes what climate change is all about,” she said.

She said it was necessary to find ways to improve sustainable development, and said President Mohamed Nasheed is “one of the leading voices” in the efforts to raise awareness on climate change.

President Nasheed said their visit to Sh. Komandoo was “very fruitful” and him and Hedegaard discussed issues of climate change on vulnerable countries like the Maldives.


EU donates EUR 6.5 million to Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund

The European Union has contributed EU€6.5 million (US$8.8 million) to the newly created Climate Change Trust Fund which aims to help the government of the Maldives in its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2020.

Minister of Finance Ali Hashim signed the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the Maldivian government at a “little ceremony” held at the President’s Office this morning.

World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Naoko Ishii, signed on behalf of the World Bank, and Ambassador of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Bernard Savage, on behalf of the EU.

The ceremony was attended by President Mohamed Nasheed, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem, Minister of Health and Family Dr Aminath Jameel, members of the Danish delegation and other senior members of government.

Climate change trust fund

The trust fund will be administered by the World Bank for a period of three and a half years, with the majority of resources being used by the government to conduct their projects relating to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The World Bank will offer security for donors and hopes more countries will add to the fund to help the Maldives break its dependency on fossil fuels.

The government intends to use the trust fund to “strengthen knowledge and leadership” in the government, build “adaptive capacity” through pilot programmes, develop renewable energy through low-carbon options and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and “improve policy and institutional capacities” in both public and private sectors to deal with adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

The trust fund will also be used to strengthen coastal protection, biodiversity conservation, tourism, fisheries industry, solid waste management and energy solution.

A Climate Change Advisory Council will be established and will include members from the government and will “provide strategic direction to the climate change activities under the trust fund.”

There will also be a Technical Committee composed of experts from the government, private sector and civil society. This committee will be responsible for reviewing and recommending project proposals for financing and monitoring the progress of the trust fund programme.

EU on climate change and the Copenhagen Accord

The European Union is the first to donate to the Maldives’ Climate Change Trust Fund and is paving the way for other countries and financial institutions to do the same.

president + connie
President Nasheed and Connie Hedegaard

After the last international climate change summit in Copenhagen last year, President Nasheed proved himself to be an influential figure in the fight against climate change.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the Maldives has the 174th largest population in the world out of 237 countries, but despite its small population and current status as a Least Developed Country (LDC), it has shown unmatched initiative in combating climate change.

Conversely, China and India, who are the two largest populations in the world and according to the New York Times are “among the largest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world,” had not agreed to join the Copenhagen Accord until March 2010.

President Nasheed’s urge to “move into the Green Age” has made the Maldives a global voice on the issue.

The creation of the trust fund coincides with the EU’s newly appointed Commissioner of Climate Action, Danish national Connie Hedegaard, who is in the Maldives for two days to see the impacts of climate change in the country and oversee climate change adaptation programmes.

Hedegaard is currently running the EU’s climate change policy and will be departing for India after her visit to the Maldives.

Signing ceremony

Minister Hashim said this MoU showed the government is “making progress” on climate change adaptation, and noted that this was one of the promises the government made before they came to power and one of the “key elements…that we will deliver to the people.”

Ambassador Savage noted he was the very first European commissioner to visit the Maldives and found it “very appropriate” that he is the commissioner in charge for climate change action, “the very subject of the MoU that were are signing here today.”

He said climate change mitigation “demands urgent, cooperative and shared responsibility” and the “EU welcomes the opportunity to assist the government of the Maldives” to fulfil their pledge of carbon neutrality.

“The EU is and has always been a real friend of the Maldives,” Savage said, “so this MoU is a further indication of that friendship and also a recognition by the EU of the priorities set for the country’s development as it moves through this democratic change and into the future.”

He said the EU “recognises, shares and participates in the priorities set by the government of the Maldives and we wish to further cement that partnership as we move forward.”

Savage added that signing the MoU “in such distinguished company” showed the importance of climate change to both the Maldives and the EU.

Naoko Ishii said the World Bank thought the government’s bid to be carbon-neutral by 2020 was “a very ambitious goal but it’s not impossible to achieve.”

She said the World Bank was inspired by the government’s way of dealing with this challenge and hoped the trust fund “will really help you achieve your vision.”

“It’s crucial for Maldives to build a climate resilient economy and society through adaptation,” she said.

Ishii said “this could be a real opportunity for other donors to come in and help the government,” and was “so pleased to see there is an actual instrument to realise [the] dream [of carbon neutrality].”


Ban on blue fin tuna could put pressure on Maldivian waters

Minister for State Economic Development Adhil Saleem has told Miadhu that the EU’s decision to back the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on blue fin tuna would increase pressure on Maldivian waters.

Saleem warned Coastguards needed to be careful in monitoring illegal foreign fishing vessels that might enter Maldivian waters to catch the blue fin tuna.

He said some fish which are common in the Maldives could face extinction if outer seas were not patrolled carefully.

Bunyaameen, Chairman of the Maldives Sea Product Processors Association, told Miadhu that the decrease in blue fin tuna would increase the value of Maldivian yellow fin tuna.

CITES has proposed a temporary ban on international sale of Atlantic blue fin tuna due to over-fishing and the low numbers of this species. The USA has also backed the ban, but Japan, where most blue fin tuna is eaten according to the BBC, is opposing the ban.

The motion needs a two-thirds majority to pass.


New license will help stop illegal fishing

The ministry of fisheries and agriculture will introduce a new fishing licence aimed at reducing the amount of illegal fishing activity.

The new licenses are necessary to comply with European export legislation, said Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr Ibrahim Didi.

Under this regulation, only vessels holding a license issued by that country’s fishing governing body may export fish to the EU.

“The new license is only required for those needing to export fish to Europe. Fishing for the local market does not require you to have this,” he said.

Illegal fishing methods, such as drag net fishing, was a major problem for the Maldives said State Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr Hussain Rasheed.

“When the new regulation is passed, all exporters must have a paper trail of where their fish came from and who caught them,” he said.

“Without a license illegal fishing groups can’t sell, and once you take the market away they will stop,” predicted Rasheed.

Didi also said that it was important to stay ahead of the game by maintaining standards set by the EU.

“The EU will stop the export of fish into their borders if they feel countries are not complying with their regulations, as was the case with Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.

Didi also addressed the issue of vessels operating with a expired safety certificates.

“The maximum fine a vessel can incur at the moment is Rf2000,” he said. “So there is a window for vessels to renew their certificates and operate under the regulations set by the ministry.”

Regulations set by the EU would only help local fishermen, he added, by preventing resources from being over-harvested.

The new regulation will take effect from 1 January 2010. In addition to the new license, all vessels will be required to have up to date health and safety certificates available from all atolls.