Governance, socio-economic and political issues within the Maldives are reducing the ability of local, atoll and national management to address threats to coral reefs nationwide, according to a recently published study.
“Given the severity of the initial catastrophic bleaching [in 1998], there has been a moderate to good recovery of corals in the central Maldives atolls… [however] most coral communities in the central reefs are still recovering from the massive bleaching event,” the study found.
Furthermore, human activities causing local environmental pollution and global climate change impacts are “suppressing recovery” from coral bleaching incidents for reefs nearer to “more heavily populated centres” as well as threatening sustainable “maintenance of the very corals on which the Maldives exist,” the report noted.
“[However] the potential for a full recovery of Maldives corals in many sites is good,” it continued.
The report identified numerous government and management shortcomings that exacerbate the threats impeding reef recovery in the Maldives, despite ongoing government efforts to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as well as reduce carbon emissions nationally and internationally.
Governance problems must be addressed if the Maldives is to achieve UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for the entire island nation, the study emphasised.
Governance shortcomings harm reef resilience
Political instability and the recent economic downturn in the Maldives have shifted immediate priorities away from marine conservation, according to the report.
“Unfortunately, the monitoring budget for the [Maldives] Marine Research Centre (MRC) appears to have been drastically cut in the recent past, with little information coming out of the MRC in terms of reef conditions,” noted the study.
There is also “inadequate investment in enforcing” environmental conservation laws, particularly in MPAs.
“Enforcement has been undervalued as a net contributor to the nation’s wealth, because economic returns from such an investment are not easily apparent or quickly attainable,” the study explained.
Inadequate reporting of rapid environmental degradation was a key concern highlighted in the study, because this destruction has “degraded the natural capital of the islands and the reefs that support local and tourist islands.”
Reefs have been “heavily modified” over the past 30 years – due to the lack of “concurrent precautionary management” – as “resource exploitation has expanded to meet the demands of an increased human / tourist population,” the report added.
Education and awareness regarding sustainable reef management is lacking, as balancing environmental resource extraction with protection is not included in the national curriculum, according to the report.
Meanwhile, business and tourism remain heavily dependent on a carbon-based economy due to the Maldives’ geographic remoteness, the study noted.
Given that the “Maldives’ islands are entirely, naturally made from the fine coral sand washed up onto the very shallowest coral platforms, with the highest point reaching approximately 2.4 meters above sea level” the study emphasised the importance of correcting these governance issues for reef protection.
Reef destruction threatens Maldives’ survival
Coral reefs play an unrivalled role in the Maldivian culture, lifestyle, and for fisheries relative to most other Indian Ocean states, in addition to supporting an expanding tourism and recreation industry, noted the study.
Human activities such as “tourism, reef fishing, coral mining, dredging, reclamation and the construction of maritime structures and pollution represent most impacts on coral reefs,” the study identified.
Overfishing of keystone species that are important for keeping reef predators in check, as well as inappropriate atoll development, sedimentation, and pollution were also identified as key threats.
Climate change induced impacts including sea surface temperature increases and seawater acidification from increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are, respectively, leading to coral bleaching as well as decreased coral skeletal strength, growth rates, and reproductive outputs. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere need to be reduced to less than 350 parts per million, the report noted.
The mutually reinforcing combination of these threats will have “detrimental consequences” for the Maldives unless national and local government, tourism, and local island groups manage the local and global impacts threatening reefs, the report emphasised.
“Only with the development of capacity-building, training and resources committed to conservation at the local atoll and island level will mitigating measures be implemented,” stated the study.
Proactive island level sustainable environmental management is essential for coral reef health and recovery from previous “catastrophic, massive bleaching”, the report recommended.
This includes establishing and promoting sustainable fisheries that protect species from overfishing, including enforcing and expanding “no-take zones” for one in every three reefs, particularly around grouper spawning locations.
“Pollution must [also] be tackled” to prevent algal growth, which harms reef health.
The study concluded that “local islands, their political administrators and resorts should adhere and enforce these environmental standards, where possible, in order to stave off the most severe detrimental effects of climate-driven change to the health of the reefs.”
“The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.”
– inscription on the Supreme Court building of New York
Simple and fundamental as it is, this inscription, totally captures the idea that I am trying to convey. That is, good governance is impossible without a strong, independent and fair judiciary. Hence, we need to pay serious attention to this for future development of our country.
Examples around the globe abound, supporting the profound words in the inscription.
First, let us look at the fashionable phrase “good governance”, introduced by a World Bank study in 1989, linking governance with development. Despite different, closely-related definitions, most believe that good governance should encompass certain characteristics such as people’s participation in the governing, consensus, equity, transparency, efficiency, accountability, responsiveness and judiciary.
Of all these characteristics, this article will concentrate on the importance of the judiciary in good governance: the inter-relations and the effects on each other.
One of the important features of the judiciary is its independence. An independent judiciary is of utmost importance for good governance rule. A case in point is the classic example of Somalia, which is categorised as a “failed state.” At the centre of this failure lies governance.
The failure of governance in Somalia is closely tied to the relationship between the judiciary and government. For example, in 2004, the then-President had the power to appoint and dismiss judges as he pleased. This signifies a non-independent judiciary, which is over-powered by the executive. Another crucial factor that contributed to the collapse of the state was the government’s failure to uphold the constitution. It merely paid lip-service to the constitution.
The process works the other way too. For example, research on Africa shows that corruption and weak administrations weaken the regime. This, in turn, weakens all the laws, whether good or bad. In short, the absence of good governance gives way to weak laws. If laws and regulations do not exist or are weak, the three powers start running the government with their “thumb”. This means authoritarian rule, which could hinder development.
Corruption within the judiciary can be seen in the Peoples’ Republic of China where it is a serious threat to good governance as it leads to courts being unresponsive to the country’s complex society and undermine the legitimacy of the law and government. The problem in China is the deeply-rooted concept that laws must be used to strengthen state capacity and fulfill political ends.
Another case where judicial corruption prevails is Indonesia, where the Supreme Court’s integrity value has ranked amongst the lowest. The result is that the public does not see the Supreme Court as the provider of justice, and instead, the public perceives it as part of the rule of law problem which provides a serious drawback to good governance.
In Pakistan, governance failure, among others, is at the heart of the country’s constraints to growth. This is, partly, due to the less independent nature of the judiciary in which the courts do not protect the lender against the loan-defaults who do not pay their loan, or from ambiguous land titles constraining mortgage financing and construction activity.
Nepal is a case where constitutional structures are not sufficient to create an independent, impartial and accountable judiciary. Some scholars believe that planning and visionary leadership are instrumental for meaningful and lasting changes to take hold. Simply taking action against a few judges is not adequate.
In Mexico, the confused state of the judiciary effects the government in a negative way. Here, the problem is the existence of suspicion between legal thinking and politics.
Now, what lessons can we learn from the very limited examples given above, and from some others?
Lesson 1. The judiciary should be independent of the executive and the legislature. It should not be influenced or over-powered by the executive or the legislature; or even a former executive and his/her cronies. However, this does not mean that the judiciary is above the law or outside the law.
Lesson 2: We should have a judiciary in which people have trust and faith, as in the case of our “Big Brother” India whose Supreme Court is said to be “one of the most powerful institutions of its kind” in the world. The importance of this is that the judiciary has performed well, sustaining the trust of the people in its independence.
Lesson 3: We should use democracy to fight judicial corruption and not judicial corruption to undermine democracy, as in Chile where, after the military dictatorship, the role of democracy was used as a punishment and a preventive mechanism to hinder exceptional emergence of judicial corruption.
Lesson 4: Corruption in the judiciary should be gotten rid of before its roots dig even deeper into our behavior, making it the accepted norm.
The way forward: Let’s fight to reorganise the judiciary to pave the way for good governance, without which there is no hope for our country. We might as well sink into the beautiful, deep blue Indian Ocean.
All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]
A lack of consolidated institutions for climate governance poses key challenges to the Maldives’ effort to save the country from dangers of climate change.
One of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level, the Maldives is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.
In international climate negotiations, as a developing country and a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Maldives has been a vocal advocate for strong mitigation and adaptation strategies against climate change.
The country has also been a recipient of large amounts of funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, under both bilateral and multilateral funding schemes.
According to a preliminary report on Climate Governance Integrity by Transparency Maldives, approximately US$160.5 million dollars is currently being spent on various projects through externally funded grants and loans.
However, the report stated that according to the Government, management of mitigation and adaptation projects has proven to be a difficult task as a result of limitations in human resources, institutional capacity, and local expertise in the field.
According to the report, the Maldives “lacks a comprehensible overall institutional framework and comprehensive policy for addressing climate change”.
The report stated that institutional rivalry and unclear mandates have resulted in confusion within institutions, in situations where one project is dealt with by two or more different institutions.
As as example, Transparency Maldives highlighted the Scaling up of Renewable Energy Projects (SREP). The project was initially planned and formulated by the Ministry of Housing and Environment (MHE) but was later handed over to the newly established Renewable Energy Investment Office (REIO) at the Ministry of Economic Development.
Challenges to climate governance include institutional mandates being in a “constant flux” in a transitional democracy, according to the report.
It noted that the former government appointed two presidential advisors – Mike Mason, an expert on renewable energy, carbon finance, and offsetting, and Mark Lynus, an environment activist and journalist – on climate change related policies, “both of whom resigned following the change of power on February 7. No new advisors have been appointed to date.”
The National Planning Council (NPC) under the Department of National Planning (DNP), one of the main bodies overseeing climate change projects, had ceased functioning following February 7 and was awaiting reform, the report noted.
The other major body providing expert advice on adaptation and mitigation efforts, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2020, was the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), a 15 member body chaired by President Mohamed Waheed while he was Vice President. The report noted that in 2011 the CCAC only met twice, “even though they initially planned to meet every fortnight according to the government press statement [at the time].”
Speaking to Minivan News, Senior Project Coordinator at Transparency Maldives Azim Zahir said, “New institutions have being created and the mandates are constantly changing. The change of administration in February is likely to affect consolidation as well.”
Another major challenge to climate governance is the absense of a comprehensive database on climate change projects in the Maldives, Zahir said.
“There is not a single institution that has a complete database on climate projects. It is very difficult to gather information and this makes it harder to incorporate anti-corruption safeguards,” Zahir added.
Last year, the NGO stated that it was vital to strengthen the governance structure of the country to properly manage climate change funding in order to meet mitigation and adaptation targets.
The Maldives rose slightly to rank 134 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2011, a mild improvement on 2010 when the Maldives was ranked 143th – below Zimbabwe.
Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, said at the time that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).
“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”
The country scored 2.5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), placing it alongside Lebanon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.
The score however is a mild improvement on 2010, when the Maldives was ranked 143th and below Zimbabwe. The Maldives still rated as having higher perceived corruption than many regional neighbours, including Sri Lanka (86), Bangladesh (120) and India (95).
Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, warned that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).
“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”
Faced with such endemic and high-level corruption, it was “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, he said.
Addressing corruption would have political ramifications for the 2013 presidential election, Rasheed agreed, especially for young voters – 40 percent of the population is aged 15-24, resulting in thousands of new youth voters every year.
“Young people are hugely disillusioned by corruption in the Maldives. They have a vision of the type of country they would like to live in,” he said.
New Zealand, Denmark and Finland ranked as having the least perceived corruption, while North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan and Burma ranked last.
Andrew Cox is the newly-appointed UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for the Maldives. Before arriving in the Maldives, Cox was based in New York as the Chief of Staff for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York.
Prior to this he held several positions in Sudan where he worked on comprehensive peace agreements between warring factions, and in Afghanistan. Before his UN career Cox worked as Field Director for Concern Universal in Sierra Leone and had assignments with various companies and NGOs in the UK, Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.
JJ Robinson: How does your experience in development and within the UN system benefit your new role in the Maldives?
Andrew Cox: I’ve worked for the UN since 1999 and NGOs before that. I come from a development background, but I just seem to have ended up in a lot of conflict, post-conflict and post disaster-places.
During my three years in Sudan I spent a lot of time working on a comprehensive peace agreement, and I spent time in Afghanistan in 2002 just as the situation there was changing – I was very sorry to leave, actually. I have also spent some working in Sierra Leone, which oscillated between conflict and post-conflict.
I think the process of transition in [such places] is very interesting – it’s about how people behave when their basic assumptions are changing and the bedrock is shifting under them. People act in extreme ways and sometimes it’s very difficult to get institutions in these countries to change.
What is especially difficult [about countries in transition] is the need for urgency. You don’t have luxury of 10 years to see if something might work. You just have to try things at high speed and discard them if they don’t.
One of the interesting things about coming to Maldives is that I find this transition happening. There is a tremendous amount of dialogue, although sometimes a little above the level of dialogue in terms of intensity and rhetoric.
What the Maldives is going through is not unusual and is to be expected in such circumstances. What I hope I can bring from my past is help and advice, and assistance from the UN system in managing this transition.
JJ: The Maldives has made a major transition to democracy, and the next major transition is the transition from less developed country (LDC) status to middle income. What does this mean and what are the key challenges for the country?
AC: On the surface there are some things the Maldives will lose along with its LDC status, such as access to concessional credit, which is probably one of the more important things. It will also lose a certain amount of grant income from donors.
But the point is to look at it as an opportunity; OK it may hurt in certain areas at the beginning, but in the end the Maldives has got itself where it needs to be and now has more to offer the world than it might have had before – it’s not just about offering beaches to tourists coming in.
When I saw the President I asked him if he had thought about having the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) serve in UN peacekeeping operations – it’s one way in which Maldivian experience can be sent out there to benefit the rest of the world, and of course it’s a learning experience for those who participate.
Similarly, the Maldives was a victim of a major natural disaster in the tsunami, and in my view it would make a lot of sense for the country to join the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which sends in disaster coordination experts to a country whenever there a natural disaster. The Maldives should be able to contribute to that.
I also think, and the President said this and I fully agree with him, that the Maldives should not be about dependency on aid. It should be about development, trade, and punching greater and greater weight in the region.
What everyone seems to be doing at the moment is focusing on the future. The loss of income from donors, if things go well, will be replaced by greater trade and economic growth. But there are some structural issues making that difficult, no doubt about it.
JJ: What kind of structural issues?
AC: The budget deficit is the major one. I’m not completely up-to-date with the figures, but last time I looked it the deficit was 33 percent of GDP, which everyone – the government as well as international institutions – has said the Maldives has got to address.
The deficit in Greece is 12 percent of GDP. Obviously Greece is a very different place [to the Maldives], but everybody needs to be serious about the problem. It’s a huge challenge and until it is solved it is going to be difficult to change other things.
The UN’s position is to help the government find ways dealing with this. There’s various things you can do but in the end the gap between income and expenditure has to change, because it is simply not sustainable at the moment.
JJ: How does the UN navigate the polarised politics here? How do you find the middle-path and involve the opposition?
AC: There have been many changes here over the last few years, and the UN has been here throughout that entire period. I think we played quite a positive role – although you can’t get everything right. But by sticking to its principles, the UN tries navigate its way through. For example, during the change to democracy the UN worked closely with then-president and his party, as well as the opposition.
What we tried to do was help them manage the process [of transition]. It’s very clear what the UN stands for – our principles are out there. There’s no hidden agenda and the approach is consistent across the UN. There are many different levels of support the UN can bring.
I’m not trying to be naive or idealistic – but it’s [an approach] that works just as well if you’re dealing with rebels in the middle of a conflict or if you’re dealing with development challenges – you help those who are there to make the right choices, and sometimes provide an enabling environment for that to happen.
The UN is also here to try and improve the lot of ordinary Maldivians. One of our principles is that we work with all parts of society and we do that in an open way, and that can sometimes be difficult to explain. But in the end it is our job to work with everybody who can be a positive force for change, and to try and advise those who are less convinced for the need to change to change their approach. That’s consistent across all the countries we work in.
JJ: What are some of your experiences from the programs you have worked on in the past that you think would also work in the Maldives?
AC: I worked on the last stages of the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan, which is a mostly Muslim country. The key in Sudan was doing everything you could to get the parties to sit together. Obviously we don’t have the same kind of situation in the Maldives, but the principles are still the same.
A facilitating role sounds a little bit ‘wishy washy’, until you realise what happens when you don’t have that. It doesn’t have to be the UN – in Darfur the African Union had the lead on the political side, and the UN helped them to do their job.
As a newcomer to the Maldives, it is very obvious that there is a certain amount of heat in the political discourse, to say the least. A lot of this is a very natural outcome of the change everyone has gone through. I think the trick is to find areas where there can be cooperation, and not to allow bigger disagreements to pollute the water where consensus might be possible.
For example, I think the cross-party effort to deal with domestic violence is very interesting right now. Everyone agrees domestic violence is a problem, and although there may be disagreement over how that problem should be addressed, this is absolutely one of those areas for mature political dialogue. We will try and help that process along, but it needs to be the parties in parliament to figure out how they want to deal with domestic violence issues.
JJ: To what extent should be UN be a leader of civil society in a country, in terms of supporting NGOs and helping them work properly and efficiently?
AC: I don’t think leader is the right word. If we were, then if we withdrew our support the whole thing would collapse and that’s not the way it should be. The real strength of civil society in most countries, to use an overused phrase, is ‘grassroots.’
Civil society is only powerful if it comes into being organically. I think most people on either side of the political divide recognise that civil society is very weak in the Maldives, and that much more needs to be done to support its growth.
I think the UN can play a major enabling role. There are an awful lot of people around the world who have [grown civil society], and one thing we can do is to bring some of them in to explain how they did it. That process of sharing information and knowledge is very important.
JJ: What do you mean when you say civil society is weak in the Maldives? There are a great many NGOs and it does seem to be a sought-after profession.
AC: Yes exactly – I think across all parts of society, and obviously it varies area to area, from human rights to gender to drug prevention, there are a number of things you look for, such as sustainability of funding and resources. In the end civil society will only be strong if Maldivians embrace their own civil society and start paying for it.
Some of that is about government funding, but much more of it is local philanthropy and gift giving – and earning the organisation that you’re associated with.
The UN can give out a grant of US$20,000 [to an NGO], and what they’ll do is buy a computer, pay for some travel and training and so on, then it’s gone and that’s it. What happens then?
This is a very important question that a lot of civil society organisation managers are thinking about – or at least I hope they are. Because in the end, international funding can’t be assured for anybody over time.
I think the whole point is to use that external support as a way to building up a civil society organisation so it can have links with the community and an income stream, and a sufficiently strong volunteer network to get done what they think needs to get done.
How do we help them through that process? Definitely we have supported NGOs in the past, and there has been a proliferation in the last year or two, but now they need to move beyond that start up phase and become a bit more secure. You really need a strong civil society because it gives you a way to get important things done that is separated from politics.
JJ: The Maldives recently beat Iran to the UN Human Rights Council – what kind of an achievement does that represent?
AC: I think it’s a remarkable achievement. The Maldives ran a good election campaign on its own merit and got the support, which was a very big deal.
The Human Rights Council is in organisation in flux, and I think both [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki Moon and the High Commissioner of Human Rights [Navi Pillay] see it as a long term project – and many of its members see it in the same way.
For the Maldives it represents a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate it can be a world leader, as it already is in the area of climate change. For a country to progress so far on the human rights side allows it to go out there with a very honest position and say ‘we’re not perfect yet, but this is what we’ve done.’
Another part of the Human Rights Council is that you have support from your peers to deal with human rights issues, so when it works well is when there is an atmosphere of cooperation and people get down to business away from the heated rhetoric you also sometimes hear on human rights issues.
But I would also say that because the Maldives has a somewhat exalted position on this council, this is also a challenge. The Maldives can’t stop its progress on human rights, because the eyes of the world are on the Maldives as much as eyes of the Maldives are on the world in the human rights sense. I think it is very important that this election provokes a renewed investment in human rights in the Maldives, and if it doesn’t happen then the Maldives’ position on the Human Rights Council could invite unwelcome attention.
It just the way we seen these things work over the years. I sincerely hope – and everything I’ve heard suggests this will continue to happen – that the Maldives will continue to strengthen human rights in the country, especially now.
JJ: How would you describe the level of human rights in the Maldives, from the perspective of a newcomer?
AC: I would probably describe it again as a situation of change. There have been tremendous advances made, but obvious areas that need strengthening – areas like access to justice.
I think there are important bills pending on the judiciary, things like access to legal aid. The Maldives needs to invest in the judiciary and its ability to do its work, and there needs to be investment in corrections – I think the problems are self-evident. Then there’s right to information, and of course the police, who now have themselves been changing and adapting to new challenges. I think there’s a raft of institutional legal framework measures that are needed to strengthen human rights in the Maldives.
I think the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) needs to continue to be supported, for obvious reasons. It’s important to have a strong home-grown human rights commission to encourage the government to take the steps it needs to take, and I think it is absolutely important to have strong human rights organisations on the civil society side. This is a priority for UNDP, and we’ll be scaling up our support to human rights NGOs. If you get them right, there’s a knock on effect to other NGOs.
JJ: Human rights issues such as freedom of expression and gender equality appear to sometimes conflict with stricter interpretations of Islam. Is it possible for human rights to be fully realised in a 100% Islamic country?
AC: I think there is a very strong human rights tradition in Islam, and I think it’s absolutely possible. I know there are many different legal systems under the Islamic system, and what I think is quite important is to learn from other experiences around the world and shamelessly steal the best parts. I see absolutely no contradiction between Islam and human rights.
JJ: The Maldives has established itself as an international leader on climate change based on its vulnerability to rising sea levels, but at the same time it’s trying to attract long term business investment. Is there room for these to exist side by side?
AC: I think it’s an interesting dilemma, and if it’s going to get solved anywhere it be here. Obviously I’m not a climate change scientist, but speaking as the manager of UNDP I think there’s interesting opportunities in the Maldives over how to cope with climate change.
We still don’t know how bad it’s going be, so yes, risk inherent in every situation. But let’s not forget that the Maldives is not alone in this – the Maldives may have problem with rising sea levels, but there are many other countries with problems related to climate change – you just have to look at sub-Saharan Africa, and see how climate change is affecting water and food production there.
Certainly from the Maldives side, the country has to press on with mitigation and creating a low-carbon economy. There are thousands of different possibilities, and money to be made off successful models of technology that can be proven to reduce carbon. On the adaptation side there’s a lot we don’t know how about how reefs will react to changing water temperatures, and new technologies which can be looked at in terms of sea defenses. And things like if you’ve mangroves that you look after, you got a much greater change of withstanding rising sea levels and weather events than if you don’t have them. It’s a matter looking at these things and the impact of communities that live in these areas.
With all that in mind, the Maldives is a good place to invest in from the point of view of climate change-related industries. Businessmen and women are not stupid – they evaluate situations and make decisions accordingly. One of the things the government has committed to is loosening the trade environment and having clear regulatory frameworks, and I suspect if they successful pushing that through then that will also encourage investment.
So don’t think the two messages are contradictory. You have to do an awful lot because of climate change, but you can continue to build the economy as well.
I think adaptation is also very important – people need to be able to manage risk more than they can at the moment. Generally speaking we estimate that for every dollar spent on disaster risk mitigation you save $10 in losses when a natural disaster strikes – the economics are quite obvious.
We have quite some interest in the Maldives’ obvious vulnerabilities to climate change and major weather events, and it’s useful to use different communities around the Maldives to test ways of strengthening people’s ability to withstand natural disasters. If we get that right, then that is also something the Maldives can export – knowledge and know-how about how to deal with vulnerability in the face of climate change.
What we are going to be doing over the next year or two is looking along with the government at creating a global climate change centre in the Maldives. We are working on the details at the moment.
Another priority area is to look at governance programs and see how we can help. A major step forward of the last few months was the government getting together its strategic action plan – it’s a great document but it’s very thick, and it’s not much use unless it gets implemented. We all feel it is quite important to have a results framework, and if the government is able to do that, Maldives stock will go up in eyes of donors.